Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a story that takes you back in time and brings out the relevance of every ticking second.
“Perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.”
Oh, where do I begin about this lovely, lengthy book? Honestly, I took my sweet time with this one, taking long breaks in between at times, and cosing through chapters at a stretch at other. But Salman Rushdie’s signature novel is something I’ll hold close to my heart.
Midnight’s Children meanders at a pace that suits Rushdie’s choice. Slowing down time sometimes or simply pacing things up with: “No, I must finish the story.” The story revolves around the life of Saleem Sinai, a child born at the stroke of midnight just as India declared her freedom from the British rule and called herself a sovereign state. But even before Saleem is born, his fate is intertwined with a family, not by blood, but simply because destiny intervened.
Rushdie takes us to Kashmir, painting a beautiful picture of the valley in colors of emerald and sapphire. He takes his reader to Lucknow to join the freedom movement; he then takes us to Mumbai, where we embark the transformation of childhood and early adolescence with Saleem; we then move to Pakistan and all the way to Bangladesh, and back to Bengal to lose yourself in the Sundarbans (and also to find yourself), and to finally back to Mumbai, where the story ends, only to continue again linking the country’s history with the proceedings of its own.
As I said, Saleem’s birth is interwoven with the destiny of India’s journey as a sovereign, democratic nation. Circumstances lead to Saleem’s acquisition of superpowers, allowing him to listen to people’s thoughts and connect to other children born at midnight.
“Does one error invalidate the entire fabric? Am I so far gone, in my desperate need for meaning, that I’m prepared to distort everything – to rewrite the whole history of my times purely in order to place myself in a central role?” he questions in the story. “But if small things go, will large things be close behind?” he questions once again, leaving me pondering for answers that were beyond me.
By the end of the novel, Rushdie had me laughing, crying, nail-biting, and more importantly, filled me with hope like some sort of opium. “Then as now, there is hunger. But of a different kind: not, now, the then-hunger of being denied my dinner, but that of having lost my cook,” he says – fueling the reader’s hunger to know more.
But more importantly, my birth date and Saleem’s birth moment is something that had me gripped throughout (yes, I was born on August 15 too!). Then, like Saleem, do I also have my destiny interwoven with my beloved nation’s? “I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose bring-in-the-world affected was affected by mine,” is the answer he gives me.
He also talks about the final end of all, death itself, explaining it as, “A death makes the living see themselves too clearly; after they have been in its presence, they become exaggerated.”
“If Rama himself were alive, would we send him to prison for slaying the abductor off Sita?” We know Rushdie as one of the controversial writers, especially for his book Satanic Verses. Although Midnight’s Children isn’t controversial some lines had me wondering if it calls for some, especially considering the times we live in.
I would recommend everyone to read this wonderful novel that beautifully infuses reality and imagination, history and realism. “This is not what I had planned; but perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin,” he concludes, confirming that our lives are indeed something more than what we imagine.
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