The Free Radio
The Prophet’s Hair
Harmony of Spheres
Chekov and Zulu
The Prophet’s Hair
The story is set in Srinigar. Where is Srinigar and why does Rushdie write that the valley where it is located “was once closer than any other place on earth to Paradise” (p. 57)? What has happened (in the real world) to take it further away from Paradise?
- Why does Atta come to Srinagar and what happens to him there?
- Who is Huma and what is the reason for her visit to the city? What precautions has she taken?
- What is unusual about the thief?
- Explain Hashim’s remark: “…if my plans succeed, I shall put myself out of business.”
- What reasons does Hashim have for congratulating himself?
- To what extent does Hashim bear the responsibility for the changes that come upon him and his family?
- How do things change drastically for Hashim’s family?
- Why does Atta experience “a feeling of profound relief”?
- What, according to Huma is the only solution to the family’s problems? How will her plan be carried out?
- Why does the old criminal agree to carry out Huma’s instructions?
- What happens just as Sín is about to remove the vial?
- What ghastly spectacle confronts Hashim when he turns on the light in the corridor?
- List the deaths which result from the curse of the Prophet’s hair and explain the circumstances of each death.
Does the story suggest that the Prophet’s hair really does have mystical properties?
What do you think Rushdie is saying about religious fundamentalism in this story?
Read “The Bottle Imp” R.L. Stevenson.
To what extent do you feel that Salman Rushdie was influenced by Stevenson’s short story “The Bottle Imp” when he wrote “The Prophet’s Hair”?
Write a police report by the Deputy Commissioner on the events of the story leading up to the shooting of Sheikh Sin, including the deaths of Hashim, Atta and Huma. See here for instructions on how to write a police report.
Rushdie writes the story in the third person. Try rewriting a section of the story in the first person. Choose one of the characters involved in that section and narrate the section from his or her point of view.
Rushdie creates an unusual situation for the story by having a character approach a thief to ask to have something stolen from her own house. Try coming up with your own twist on a tale of theft: write a short story that involves a theft, but try to undermine the expectations of the reader in some way.
Write a letter from Hashim to his insurance broker, giving news of his discovery and communicating his motivations to keep the vial. He seeks advice about the value of the object and demands that his request remain confidential. He writes the letter on the afternoon of the discovery, (p.45) and the letter will need to shift in tone as Hashim reflects the profound impact that this chance finding has on his character.
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