Some background... Based on the short story of "Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies" in Salman Rushdie's collection East, West. Basically, Miss Rehana purposefully ruins her chances of moving to England where her husband is, by failing the interview at the Britsh Consulate in India. More info at: https://owlcation.com/humanities/Plot-Summary-and-Analysis-of-Good-Advice-Is-Rarer-Than-Rubies-by-Salman-Rushdie

In the short story, there is only a reference to the meeting between Miss Rehana and the interviewers. No actual situation. My task was to write that part of the story.

Please critique it. Explanation of some things are put in curly brackets. Indian words have been used as they were used in the original short story. Do not count the words in the curly brackets as part of the story.

Entering the marbled interior of the Consulate building, Miss Rehana met beauty rivaling her own. The glassy pearl-like sheen imprinted her immaculate features on the Consulate walls in harmonious fashion. {The consulate building represents her perceived life in England} {The building’s glamour connects with the beauty of Miss Rehana, showing the audience that her entering a life in England will improve her living conditions and afford her more luxury} {The text also states that the luxury suits her, “the young lady’s persona fused into her latest backdrop (of the marble Consulate building)”} Two bureau guards stood motionless as the young lady’s persona fused into her latest backdrop. Inching to a wood-furnished bench placed on the far side of the room, Miss Rehana heard an ominous crackle, “Ayther aoo bati, haum bathata hea tona ka jana hea” (meaning “come here young girl we will tell you where you should go”). The older of the two guards had spoken, covering quick ground to Miss Rehana’s side, clutching viciously at her bare arms. {This shows that although Miss Rehana may receive financial freedom when entering a life in England, she is likely to lose her freedom of expression, and free will} {the Consulate building is symbolized as Miss Rehana’s potential life in England} {Lack of respect for Miss Rehana is also shown} {The guards also believe that anyone coming in to receive approval is at the mercy of them until they are called up.} Moments later, a booming voice echoed around the reception hall. “Next!” The clammy unwelcome hands of the guard ripped off the young lady’s arm, mounting themselves instinctually to the side of his body. His grotesque grin transformed into a disappointed dismal. He operationally directed Miss Rehana into the oval-shaped office of the head bureaucrat. Miss Rehana faced a similar change in backdrop as her first. This time, she was greeted by gold plated ornaments, intricately carved marble sculptures and a wall-long tapestry embroidered with the most enchanting visual appeal. A large framed man stood at the foot of a polished wooden desk unacknowledging his newest apparition for torment. He pointed rigidly at a crooked wooden stool at the far side of the room, motioning Miss Rehana to sit. She stared confused at the chair opposite of the bureaucrat’s table but decided not to question his lack of hospitability. She sat silently, waiting patiently for the towering figure to begin her interview. {The bureaucrat makes Miss Rehana feel out of place in the room’s dynamic and also assures his height, and therefore dominance over the situation} {the people working here believe that only they can provide happiness to the people who come to the Consulate and therefore expect Miss Rehana to almost treat them like royalty and beg to be approved} “Do you agree to tell the truth and only the complete truth?” questioned the bureaucrat. “Yes”, Miss Rehana responded.
“What is your husband’s middle name?” the bureaucrat fired. Her eyes sparkled of knowing, but did she want to? She felt drifted, unable to choose a path of answering. Her breath caught roughly in her throat. After a long dense pause, she replied, “My memory fades me sahib, please do not miss-take me, question me again…” Miss Rehana’s questioning continued, each time she deflected the question or misused Mr Ali’s advice. Her breath slowly calmed after each question was fired. The bureaucrat felt played, how could she be so calm after mis-answering so many questions. He had expected her to use her waning position to beg, to cry, but she sat straight, more poised than how she had entered. The bureaucrat finally burst, “You are wasting my time, it is clear you know nothing of the sort.” “Indeed” she replied calmly, raised herself off the wooden stool and exited the room, leaving the fool in his air of luxury.

  • 1
    This is not really something that should be posted on the Writing Stack Exchange. This place is more for individual questions. On a side note, I did notice that you go back and forth between past and present tense quite often. – Cherriey Feb 22 '19 at 13:44
  • "The clammy unwelcome hands of the guard ripped off the young lady’s arm" That's gotta hurt. – Chris Hunt Feb 22 '19 at 13:56
  • Ripped off in the sense that they stopped holding the young lady's arm in a quick matter. Good spot though. – Prof.AI Feb 22 '19 at 14:10
  • By the way, my response was entirely to the body of your question. The title has nothing to do with the text, I do not understand what is "confusing" about your story except that I think it can be improved to make it more engaging and stylistically better. Maybe consider changing the title to "Can you give me some advice on this story?" or something like this. You do not give any details as to how your assessor was confused, so that information is not helpful. – PoorYorick Feb 22 '19 at 15:35
  • Unfortunately, that was literally the only comment I got from my assessor. "I found this confusing." No other comments. And thanks @Spectrosaurus really appreciate your advice. – Prof.AI Feb 22 '19 at 22:20

"Miss Rehana met beauty rivaling her own" implies that this is what she is thinking as she is entering the room, i.e. she thinks she is very beautiful, and that the room rivals her own beauty. The reason for that is that you are writing the story from her point of view, and details the narrator is describing come off as being something that goes through the head of the protagonist. So that sentence makes her look extremely narcisstic and arrogant, when what you are trying to do is something entirely different. However, I would generally argue that you don't need a connection between Miss Rehana's beauty and that of the consulate. What you want to get across is that Britain stands for luxuries that she has never known, which are seductive to her. It does not matter that she herself is beautiful in this context. I would write something like this:

Miss Rehana entered the consulate. As she looked around, she unwittingly halted in her step and her mouth fell open. She had never seen such luxury in one place. Everything was marble and mahagony. On the opposing wall, the flag of the British Empire was proudly displayed for every visitor to see.

Here the connection between the luxury and the British Empire is made and it is clear that it does have an effect on her, which is not clear in your text.

I do like that you show the other side of the coin next, with the men who treat her unkindly. It does show that the luxury comes at the cost of her freedom. However, I think you overdo it, there is way too much focus on it. The real focus should be on the interview, as per your task. However, the interview is the shortest part of your story, almost as short as her retelling of the interview in the original story. Have the guards be unkind to her, then get her into the room with the officials and prepare the big scene there.

The next thing I dislike is that the British official is evil and looking to torment the people. He should be strict, stiff upper lip and everything, and largely ignorant of Indian culture and life. But not evil. Also, should he really be tall and imposing, or should his authority be based on visible insignia, a uniform etc.? I feel that would be more appropriate, I typically picture British officials in India as bureaucrats who would not have any physical power and are only mighty because of their rank. (By the way, you should not call him "bureaucrat" as if that was his job title. Bureaucrat is a dismissive term. Use "consul", "British official", "diplomat", whatever's appropriate (I don't know what the correct job title should be).

Also, is he really in control here? The original short story heavily implied that she is the one that is in control, and I feel that you should really start the interview with her being in full control, instead of "drifting" and unsure of what to do. Have her revel in the fact that the official thinks she wants the complete opposite of what she is actually trying to achieve. The interview should be an exciting mind game of sorts, instead of the lackluster couple of sentences that you spend on it. If you mostly write it as a dialogue, it will be exciting for the reader to see how it plays out, because they do not know exactly what is going on in the heads of the two characters.


"Priya Rehana."

"And the name of your husband, Miss Rehana?"

"Mustafa Dar. He is living in London."

"Ah yes, Mr. Dar. Strange, he does not have the same surname as you."

"Oh, well, that is because we are not yet married."

"But when I asked you the name of your husband, you did not correct me."

"I am sorry, please forgive me, the detail has escaped me. My English is not so good."

"So you are not actually married. Well, you are here today because you want to request a passport so that you can join him in London, is that correct?"


"Can you tell me why he has moved to London in the first place?"

"Oh, I could not say, he would never share these details. He told me he was leaving, and that I am to follow as soon as possible."

... and so on, have her slowly add in more and more details that seem like she does not know him as well as she should. I also do not think that it should end with the official bursting out in anger. He is not the antagonist. But I do like her having the last word. I would try to bring it back to the luxuries that she has seen in the consulate, and which she has just denied herself by playing the officials this way. Maybe she could say something like "This Consulate, it is very beautiful. London must be a marvelous place. I am sad that I do not get to see it, but at least I am home. You, however, must miss it terribly, no?" (Just a quick idea. Something along those lines would be nice, I think.)

Also there are way too many adjectives. Try to write the text nearly completely without adjectives and only add them if they are vital. If you want to describe something, phrase it as a sentence. "His clammy unwelcome hands [...]" is really just bad style, I would rather write something like "She did not want to be touched by this man, and she felt relief as he abruptly let go of her arm." This is basically true for the whole text.

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