Midnight’s Children Read-Along: Book Two (Part B)

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

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From the best exotic Marigold Hotel of today we go back to 1960’s India and Pakistan…

Here in this part, we see our protagonist Saleem Sinai’s changeling status finally revealed to his parents. The ‘Alpha and Omega’ chapter in our last section has let out Saleem’s blood type being neither A nor O, throwing question on his origin. Mary Pereira finally confesses to the crime of switching the two babies at birth.

This is where I find most true and moving. Saleem talking about his parents Ahmed and Amina:

Never once, to my knowledge, never once in all the time since Mary Pereira’s revelations, did they set out to look for the true son of their blood… maybe, despite everything, despite cucumber-nose stainface chinlessness horn-temples bandy-legs finger-loss monk’s-tonsure… my parents loved me. I withdrew from them into my secret world; fearing their hatred, I did not admit the possibility that their love was stronger than ugliness, stronger even than blood.

And from here, Saleem experiences two important moves of his life. One is being sent to temporarily live with his filmmaker uncle Hanif and his wife Pia Aziz, and has enjoyed a fun and pampered time in their home.

Later, in the sixteenth year of Saleem’s life and India’s independence, his father Ahmed makes the resolute decision: there is no future for them as a Muslim family in India. They are moving to Pakistan.

I’m afraid Mr. Rushdie begins to lose me here. As one not familiar with Indian/Pakistani political history, I can only follow his narratives on the surface regarding the war between the two countries. I must have lost the deeper meaning and parallels as he depicts the political turmoils there, or the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965.

While in Pakistan, Saleem’s sister Brass Monkey has changed her name to Jamila and turned into a singer of patriotic songs. Saleem is ambivalent about this… he is excited about Monkey finding her voice, but is apprehensive about her fanaticism. With his ultra sensitive Snotnose, Saleem can distinguish the different kinds of smells that pass through it, one of them being “the hard unchanging stink of my fellow-students’ closed minds.”

Despite being an outsider and not understanding the political parallels of the narratives, I can grasp Rushdie’s meaning about political ‘truths’ declared by the government. Saleem has gleaned some insights into his short life growing up in both India and Pakistan:

… and maybe this was the difference between my Indian childhood and Pakistani adolescence–that in the first I was beset by an infinity of alternative realities, while in the second I was adrift, disorientated, amid an equally infinite number of falsenesses, unrealities and lies.

And a little sardonic humour as he concludes:

A little bird whispers in my ear: “Be fair! Nobody, no country, has a monopoly of untruth.” I accept the criticism: I know, I know…

An outsider can still enjoy Rushdie’s stylish surprises.

It is also in this section that I’m a bit disappointed to read that along with the move to Pakistan, Saleem loses his supernatural power to tune into the minds of all other Midnight’s Children, thus terminating any more Conferences. I hope this is temporary though, for I relish the confrontations between Saleem and the others he calls to congregate in his mind, in particular, the opposing sides represented by Saleem and Shiva: idealism and pragmatism, thoughts and things.

I look forward to the last section, Book Three, and see how the story concludes. Hope you’re still with me…

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CLICK HERE to BOOK THREE CONCLUSION

Do go visit other reviews in the Group Read:

Gavin of Page247

Janell of An Everyday Life

Jerika of averydisorientedreader

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CLICK HERE to watch Salman Rushdie and Deepa Mehta talk about the film adaptation of Midnight’s Children at TIFF last year.

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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.

10 thoughts on “Midnight’s Children Read-Along: Book Two (Part B)”

  1. Here is a bit of remarkable synchronicity. Last night after Diane and I watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” at dinner I was trying to recall the name of a book, I thought it was by Rushdie, and I explained the story to her. I was going to look it up today, and here it is with your review! So thanks a bunch. 🙂

    Like

    1. Ruth,

      I’m not surprised anymore of synchronicity that we’ve encountered from virtual to real life. Thanks for sharing this one… it’s always exciting to find something you’re looking for. 😉

      Like

  2. Yes. I also felt lost in the references to outbreaks between India and Pakistan.

    I tried to fill in knowledge gaps with internet research but soon realized it was beyond my understanding — quick or otherwise. However I did enjoy Rushdie’s observations of how the “Voice of Pakistan announced the destruction of more aircraft than India had ever possessed” — and how, in 8 days, “All-India Radio massacred the Pakistan Army down to, and considerably beyond, the last man.” This second outbreak didn’t gain either side much ground, did it? Though the narrative did help double underline Rushdie’s question posed back at the beginning of Book Two: “What is truth?”

    I enjoyed your concise comments. How I wish I could have been just so. But on to Book Three — and thanks for the link to the movie discussion!

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    1. Janell,

      Yes… he intertwines serious queries, historical events, fantasy and sardonic humour all at the same time, and that’s quite amazing. But for the reader, distinguishing which is which is a challenge, esp. for me as an ‘outsider’.

      Like

  3. Love the quotes you chose! I am constantly amazed at the inter-twining of Saleem’s life and the political life of the world around him. Thanks for the film link.

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    1. Gavin,

      yes,I was saying a similar thing in my reply to Janell. It’s distinguishing between reality and imaginary that makes it hard for me. Are you excited about the film adaptation? Or are you more a ‘literary’ person who’s quite contented with your own mental images of the happenings in the book?

      Like

  4. This is a book I never thought of reading, yet after following such a thoughtful discussion, I may well have to add it to the continually growing pile! Thanks. I think!

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    1. Jeanie,

      It’s a new experience for me, the read-along. For a complex and multi-layered book like MC, I really need and have enjoyed the support and camaraderie of other readers. Maybe we can do another group read together after this one with you joining us. 😉

      Like

  5. Hi Arti! I too found it hard to make a connection in the areas where the history between the two nations were concerned. But it was still an interesting read. The last few chapters were intriguing and I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

    Anyway, here is my post for the readalong:
    http://averydisorientedreader.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/midnights-children-group-read-book-two-part-b/

    .
    jerika,

    Thanks for the review. I’ll add your link in the list now. Will definitely stop by and read it more carefully later. 😉

    Arti

    Like

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