Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Book Two (Part A)

CLICK HERE to read my Movie Review of Midnight’s Children

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While Part One of the book is a macro view of historical background and family genealogy dating back a few generations, Part Two is what we’re all waiting for, the emergence of Midnight’s Children, in particular, our young hero Saleem Sinai. This present section of our Read-Along is the first part of Book Two, ending with the chapter ‘Alpha And Omega’.

We see Saleem Sinai growing up from a protected infant doted on by mom Amina and maid Mary to a thinking, mature, yet mildly timid and clumsy ten year-old. He shares his childhood in the family with his sister Brass Monkey, one year younger, ‘untamed, unfeminine’. Faced with the ambivalence of sibling rivalry and camaraderie, he learns in time the axiom that blood is thicker than water.

By all standards, Saleem’s first ten years (so far) have been eventful. Not long after his birth, Ghandi is assassinated. Saleem’s father Ahmed’s assets are frozen but later rescinded by the court. He spies on his mother and follows her secretly as she meets her ex-husband, now the Communist Party leader.

Saleem’s great sense of imagination is nurtured by various cultural traditions, a generous share of fairy tales, super heroes and the cinema.

Hatim Tai and Batman, Superman and Sinbad helped to get me through the nearlynine years… I became Aladdin, voyaging in a fabulous cave… I imagined Ali Baba’s forty thieves hiding in the dusted urns… I turned into the genie of the lamp… I was mild-mannered Clark Kent protecting my secret identity…

Other memorable episodes include a first taste of unrequited love from his crush on Evie Burn. As for school, colonial traditions stay. Saleem goes to a Christian mission school where he gets his multi-cultural exposure. Some learning is hard, that’s expected. But he gets more than his fair share as he tastes the ultimate in corporal punishment and humiliation as a clump of his hair is pulled out by his Peruvian geography teacher. Later in the school dance, in front of his new crush Masha Moviac, he shows her he is a man after all as he knees his insulters. Mayhem ensues that ends with a mutilated finger in the emergency room.  I can see lots of movie moments, hilarious yet endearing.

But above all, growing up in Methwold’s Estate and his part of Bombay is a close encounter with multiplicity. And to a young boy tossed in the net of a myriad of interwoven cultural strands, Saleem is preoccupied with the search for an identity. Further, with his secret, supernatural gift of tuning into other people’s mind, he eagerly looks for a purpose and meaning to his life. And here is how Rushdie so brilliantly parallels Saleem’s birth to that of a nation.

On my tenth birthday, everyone at Methwold’s Estate tried hard to be cheerful, but beneath this thin veneer everyone was possessed by the same thought: “Ten years, my God! Where have they gone? What have we done?

Saleem holds a Midnight’s Children Conference right in his mind, he himself the self-imposed leader of the 581 surviving Midnight’s Children, all born with unusual gifts. His leadership is challenged by none other than his changeling, Shiva, born at the stroke of midnight with him. While Saleem ponders on the purpose and reason for his supernatural power, his counterpart Shiva, coming from the slums, opposes him with the facts of life:

Rich kid,” Shiva yelled, “you don’t know one damn thing! What purpose, man? What thing in the whole sister-sleeping world got reason, yara? For what reason you’re rich and I’m poor? Where’s the reason in starving, man? God knows how many millions of damn fools living in this country, man, and you think there’s a purpose! Man, I’ll tell you–you got to get what you can, do what you can with it, and then you got to die. That’s reason, rich boy. Everything else is only mother-sleeping wind!

Crisp and simple. Existential pondering a luxury to many… ?

How I look forward to the rest of the book, and the movie. BTW, it has been shown to selective previewers, who were told not to write any reviews as yet. They sure know how to build up expectations and curiosity.

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CLICK HERE to BOOK TWO: Part B
CLICK HERE to BOOK THREE CONCLUSION

Read-Along Participants’ Posts for Book Two (Part A):

Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza 

Gavin of Page247

Janell of An Everyday Life

Jerika at averydisorientedreader

ds at third-storey window

If you’ve written a post on this section, do let us know in a comment. I’ll add your link on the list.

Next section: Book Two, Part B. From ‘The Kolynos Kid’ to the end of Book Two. Share your view May 31st. You still have time to catch up if you like to start the book now.

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Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

16 thoughts on “Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Book Two (Part A)”

  1. “And here is how Rushdie so brilliantly parallels Saleem’s birth to that of a nation.” Wonderful, eloquent point!

    I love how we’re reading the same novel and yet focusing on different aspects. With my current dismay at America, I can’t help but compare the flaws Rushdie describes as applicable to our own here in the U.S.

    It’s also interesting to compare the childhood of Saleem’s with my own. In many ways (play and bullying) they are so similar.

    I love your insights, Arti. It’s great to read this with you.

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    1. I’ve appreciated your post and heartfelt sharing of your thoughts about America when you read about Saleem’s India. It’s interesting how Rushdie’s descriptions can conjure up association in your mind of two seemingly different countries despite being miles and decades apart.

      I too have noted Rushdie’s mention of certain items, bringing back vivid memories… like Saleem’s mission school, the prefects we used to have. And, I know exactly what he was saying when he mentioned Bubble Up (similar to Mountain Dew), 555 cigarettes, not that I smoked, but I remember they were packaged in a nice golden tin can. I bought one and gave away all the cigs. so I could have the tin can to keep stamps and other mementos… oh, my own colonial childhood days…

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  2. Just reaching out to say first, how glad I am to be reading this book and second, how glad I am to be reading it with you and others. As soon as I posted, I rushed over here to see what you’d written, then hopped over to Bellezza’s and Gavin’s. It was reward for posting my thoughts on this wonderful novel, when not ready or ripe to speak them into existence.

    I’ll come back to you tomorrow to respond to your post — after a good night’s sleep — which will come after a brand spanking new chapter in the life of Saleem and company.

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    1. Janell,

      The pleasure is all mine to first have the reading experience, and then write about it, and last but not least, visit each other’s post to compare our thoughts. I’ve enjoyed your review. And yes, this pond is always waiting for those who want to throw a few pebbles in to make some ripples… anytime.

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  3. Hi. I really enjoyed the chapters from Book Two. I loved how funny it was and I also loved how Salman Rushdie integrates real life events into the novel. I loved reading about it as you also get a history lesson in return. 🙂

    I’m very excited to continue on with reading more as “The Alpha and Omega” was a cliffhanger with the narration stopping at the discovery that Saleem is not a Sinai.

    Here’s my post: http://averydisorientedreader.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/midnights-children-group-read-book-two-part-a/

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    1. Thanks for posting a detailed recap of this section on your blog. You’re right, it’s very funny and many parts ready for movie adaptation. Thanks for pointing out the Alpha and Omega chapter, with its layered meaning and pun. The beginning and the end, the blood type A and O… Thanks for joining us and I look forward to your future sharing as we read along.

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  4. To borrow your words, this post of yours feels ‘crisp and simple’ — but having tried to do similarly — and failing — I know it couldn’t have been simple at all to write!

    I. too, considered incorporating the last two excerpts (you chose to include above) in my write-up of April’s reading. Rushdie does so much with so few words, doesn’t he? But funny — how even reading the story twice — I had completely forgotten what I’ll call the “fantasy excerpt” — your first one about Aladdin and Clark Kent and protecting hidden identities. Little asides like this become so perfect with hindsight.

    And I would have completely missed it had you not pointed it out! Oh, the wonder and beauty of having a second and third and fourth set of eyes on the same something — each inviting me to pause — and behold.

    Thanks again for hosting.

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    1. Janell, you should see my book now with numerous yellow strips of post-it’s sticking out from its pages… That’s how I mark the pages and passages I want to touch on. But of course, there are so many of them I’ve a hard time selecting. Thanks to everyone’s recap, it’s our collective memory and input that make this such an enjoyable reading experience. 😉

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  5. To answer your questions on my blog: no, they did not show the movie on the Titanic on the QM2 or the Queen Victoria – I don’t think that would have been wise. I was in Nova Scotia and aware of the cemetery but for some reason we did not go to visit it. I saw the original movie on the Titanic when it came out, so it has been a while. I think it was close to the facts, apart from the steerage section where I don’t believe they kept the people closed in, the people just did not know how to get out.

    We just come back from several days in New Orleans, so I am behind again. I did find some second-hand books in French – by Colette, so that made me quite happy. I have not listen to a book reading in years – we use to listen to books while in the car on long drives, but now we listen to music. My daughter gave me a Kindle for my birthday. I saw that on Amazon The Importance of Being Earnest was free to download, so I did, but I have not read it yet. I enjoyed reading your account on your last two books – they look interesting but for now I am reading my books in French.

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    1. I’m sure you’d had a wonderful trip in New Orleans. I must hop over to read your travel post. Glad too that you could find some French books. What a privilege it must be to be able to read bilingually. I hope you’ll write reviews on the book you’ve read, yes the French ones… reviewed in English. Having read half of Midnight’s Children, I’m all familiar with multiplicity now. 😉

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  6. One of the things I love most about Salman Rushdie’s writing is its seamlessness. Details–even the seemingly insignificant–are all important and all interconnected. I found it nearly impossible to pull out one or two episodes for fear of giving everything away, and I’m excited to discover just how Saleem and Shiva work out the story of their births. (and now I’m due somewhere so will have to return later)
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    1. ds,

      I find Rushdie’s writing to be so dense that I don’t think he writes anything that’s not needed… they all tie in nicely, or echo back and forth, or, as you said, join up ‘seamlessly’. Thank YOU for participating in the read-along. I know this is a reread for you, so I particularly thank you for your insight and bearing with us as we slowly plow through, albeit with delight. 😉

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  7. I think you know I am not much of a reader of novels, but when I read what you write, I wish I were. I have enjoyed reading your reflections here, and ds’s as well.

    Like

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