Book: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?
For one, I’m not going to tell you the story or the detailed premise for sure. This is one of those books that is (almost) singularly balanced upon the brilliance of the structure and the manner in which the story line is woven; the narrative, if you must. The second thing that makes this book a gigantic and a monumental success is its execution. The manner of its telling is the single most profound aspect of this book. It single-handedly carries the 650 pages+ novel to glory.
Although I wouldn’t give the characterisations more than a strictly cursory glance, it is a telling point that the massively painted universe is kind of concise when it comes to the part that pertains to it. Saleem Sinai’s character, in the garb of the narrator, is wearing the costume of India and the flowing shimmering fabric dazzles and amazes the reader with every move and swish of its erudite past. After all, Rushdie has created this masterpiece as a parallel and fictional allegory to the potential of the Indian nation and uses The Midnight’s Children as the paving stones to tell the story of his lifetime!
The book’s plot development and imagery is a winner through and through.
It begins with the birth of Saleem Sinai alongside the birth of India. As midnight strikes, many are brought into this world. The magical hour is, well, magical and it anoints the children born as the proverbial gong resonated and Jawaharlal Nehru welcomed India into being. Saleem, along with another 1000 ‘magical’ kids plan to get together and use their powers for the good. Saleem’s power of Telepathy is seconded by his abnormally large and dripping nose. The former ability helps him to arrange for a conference in his head with all the other magical children while his nose, apart from being a grand sniffer, plays the role of one of the most beautiful metaphors that I have read in a long long time.
The ‘leaking nose’ is a strong as well as a very apt replication of the narrative as well as the vicissitude of the Indian history. One aspect of the story ‘leaks’ into another; the past and the present ‘leaks’ into the bosom of the future, making it or breaking it in the form of its making. The political situation of India ‘leaks’ into the personal strife of Saleem Sinai and makes him at one with the facets and ramifications that change the expected sculpted perfection of the personality of India into the ruggedness of confusion and of temperamental divide based on race and religion and class.
Saleem, the docile and innocent leader of The Midnight’s Children, who vies to fight a war with the evils and to do justice to his ‘powers’ is thwarted by Shiva of the knees! Shiva of the knees is the nemesis of Saleem and is born at the same moment as him. This is not the only birth time anchor that gives the ripple to the entire story; Shiva and Saleem are exchanged at birth and live each other’s potential lives. As another example of the writer’s flair for metaphor, Rushdie likens the sad birth time drama into the commentary to suggest how the past can pave the path to the future and that the repercussions can make or break history as it creates itself.
Midnight’s Children is a colossal book and it takes a lot of courage to get through the magnificently written ‘history’ of India. I use the word history loosely, but if one were to zoom out and see things in perspective, Rushdie has done exactly that. I can actually imagine him sitting with a huge and detailed map of the Indian subcontinent and making tiny circles at each historical juncture that India has gone through and then sitting back and doing his thinking on the all too important question of How.
How to create a book that travels through time and speaks to the reader without losing the touch of the genre?
How to execute the story of India speaking through the voice and body of Saleem Sinai and making history a personal as well as a political endeavor?
How to write this masterpiece encircling as many important historical milestones, weaving it into a metaphor, unraveling it one spool at a time and ending it with a sad melancholy that resonates and vibes with the vibrations that would make, or could make, a nation great?
How to tell a story of India?
Rushdie has written a masterpiece and, ignoring the personal hatred I have for him for his Satanic Verses, I would say that he is one of the most gifted writers that I have read in a long time.