Books

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: A Book Review

 

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Book Cover Description:

Born at the Stroke of Midnight on August 15, 1947, At the precise moment of India’s Independence, the infant Saleem Sinai is celebrated by the press and is welcomed by the Prime Minister Nehru Himself. But this coincidence of Birth has consequences Saleem is not prepared for; telepathic powers that connect him with 1,000 other midnight’s children – All born in the initial hour of India’s Independence and the uncanny sense of smell that allows him to sniff out dangers that others cannot perceive.

Inextricably linked with his nation, Saleem’s biography is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of Modern India at its most impossible and glorious.

My Take:

This book was hard to start. I must confess after buying this, I tried to read it twice and failed to go beyond some hundred pages.

But this time, I managed to continue, and contrary to all my expectations, this turned out to be one excellent book!

I guess the slow repetitive start was kind of acclimatization for the reader, as the storyline is extremely complex. The author expertly weaves the complex National issues with the minor details of his day-to-day life.

Rushdie chooses to start Saleem’s biography in he year 1915, thirty-two years before his birth. All the details of how Saleem’s grandfather Adam Aziz, whose parents had a jewel shop in Kashmir, who had a foreign education which resulted him in possessing ‘Modern’ thoughts. The young doctor examined his patient and future wife Naseem through a perforated sheet a bit at a time, under the close supervision of her cautious father. When at last she complained of a headache, he finally could see her face, “on the day the World War ended.” It’s pure humor.

After their marriage, he tries to change the traditional thinking of his wife and desperately wants her to adapt to modern values. This causes the constant friction in their marriage. Much like the struggle India was going through, or should I say, is still going through, Traditional or modern?

Saleem’s mother was a ‘dark girl’, which was why she was the least favourite of her mother. But, well respected by her father for her character. This shows how traditionally only fair-skinned girls were worthy of being valued. Why? Because their skin got them husbands.

So, when Saleem’s mother, falls in love with a pot-bellied fellow who is hiding in their basement, her parents readily agrees for their marriage. She was truly happy with Nadir but an illness caused Adam Aziz to find out that she was still a virgin. A marriage without children is no marriage at all, this leads to Nadir ‘doing the right thing’ and giving a divorce. And this in turn leads her to marry her elder sister’s love interest and change her name to ‘Amina Sinai’.

Thus, at the stroke of Midnight Saleem is born to a staff member of Sinai household. But, the midwife, for the reasons best known to her, changes the name tag, and Shiva, the legitimate son, becomes a poor man’s son and Salim becomes the prince.

Rushdie’s views on religion can be clearly seen in  his characters. Adam Aziz, Adam a christian name is mixed with Aziz a muslim name, while Parvati and Shiva’s son is Ahmed, Ahmed with big ears!

The book is filled with a LOT of details. The horrible Jalianwala Baugh Incident was narrated in a sentence or two. But in complete synchrony with the plot.

It was intellectually challenging to read this book, which made it a lot more fun to read.

NOT a book for a casual reader. but for a bibliophile it is a must read one!

My rating: 5 out of 5 

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