BOOK: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
SYNOPSIS (goodreads): Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked. But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden.
"...to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world."
Born at the stroke of the midnight hour, while the world slept, and India awoke to life and freedom, Saleem is the mirror of the life of India. In a sense, all Indians are, even though not all of us were born at the dawn of India's Independence. Why? Because midnight's children or not, we are all destined to break into as many pieces as there are citizens in India. We are not individuals. We are India. We're meant to "be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes." Every single Indian is born with such a wild profusion of inheritance that it is only inevitable that he embody this diverse nation, that he encapsulate this entire country within himself.
Saleem struggles to contain the whole of India within himself only to disintegrate and collapse in the end. But we Indians do have this disease,"this urge to encapsulate the whole of reality" I don't think we can help it. I'm the most lonesome person I know and even I cannot resist it at times. It's just who we are. Even though there are so many religious riots in this country, there are also so many people who regardless of their caste, creed, religion, language, love each other. Because we're all Indians. And we might end up crashing but we still won't ever stop trying to connect in some way all the plurality we're made of. And I love Salman Rushdie for putting all of this in words more beautiful and poignant than the ones I would ever be able to sputter out.
I also loved the way Rushdie chose to write this history. There can be so many perspectives to history that it's not fair to let one be heralded as the truth. There's no truth. There's only the perspective that memory preserves. And Saleem's perspective of his history and India's history is full of flaws, and yet it is one that I loved reading. It doesn't matter that he muddled dates or that he doesn't filter through other inaccuracies, because that's the way he remembers it, and I can be satisfied with that. This is the version of history that he believes in, and isn't that what history really is - a version of the past that you believe in?
And then there is snakes-and-ladders, Saleem-and-Shiva, creation-and-destruction. There's no clear-cut line between them; there's only ambiguity. They are inextricably related. Two sides of India that will probably always go hand in hand.
The fragmentation of the story itself and the cracks that keep appearing on Saleem's body are so very heartbreaking. It's been so long since the Partition but we'll never completely be over it, I reckon. We are a little cracked. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like Saleem's leaking nose, the past would never stop leaking into the present, but at one point you have to let go. It doesn't matter. We will all turn into specks of dust that is both Indian and Pakistani. We were family once. We're not anymore. But most people would agree that we will always be...something, because in all our pluralities there are so many singularities too.
To conclude: I loved this book. I finally have one more book to call a favourite, and that's the most I can say considering the fact that I find it terribly difficult to decide which book should be given entry into the pile of favourites.
I recommend this to everyone who wants to read Indian Literature; you'll love this one!
Leave a comment if you've read this book or are planning to!
Published by Mahima Kapoor