I read this book Midnight’s Children late, very late. How do you review a book that has been read by millions already? Have formed strong opinions already and something that is already a cult classic. The fact remains that this was probably my time to read this book. And as I always say a book chooses me to read it when it thinks I am ready for it.
Author’s note in the beginning of the edition that I have talked about how people have come to perceive the book. People in India tend to think of it as real history. While the west thinks of it as a fantasy. He talks about the real-life characters who came as fictional characters in his story. And this is what he says about his father: ‘My father was so angry about the character of Ahmed Sinai that he refused to speak to me for many months. Then he decided to forgive me. Which annoyed me so much that for several months I refused to speak to him.’ First-person narration of the story makes it look a lot biographical. And the author was not born too far apart from his protagonist midnight in the city of Bombay.
Told in back-flash, the story begins in Kashmir with Saleem Sinai – the Midnight’s child and the protagonist’s maternal doctor grandfather. It moves to Amritsar, Agra till his mother is born. And then to Delhi and Bombay till he is born and raised there for few years. Turn of events takes him to Karachi and Rawalpindi to Sunderbans and Dacca. Before bringing him back to Delhi where he was conceived. And finally back to Mumbai – his city of birth. Each place has a role to play in the story. Just like the vividly described places. At times the historical events are mentioned to provide a timeline for the story. And other times the story provides events to the timeline.
The magical and mystical events that happen through the stories around the Saleem Sinai’s family or the mid night’s children can be interpreted in many ways. Sometimes it feels that the author has but a mythical wrapper for the flow of events as they actually happened in reality. And sometimes it feels that author has this knack of linking the important events to his actions. And he can really stretch his imagination any far to do that. The truth remains that life does move in more or less the same way on different planes. On the surface, we know the big events in the world around us impact us directly or indirectly. But below the surface, we are contributing to the events as they happen. Most of the time without realizing it ever.
In this story, the author takes you to these different planes. And brings out the interplay of karma and destiny if I can call it so.
The language of the book Midnight’s Children is extremely conversational. As if Saleem Sinai is telling the story sitting in front of you as if you are the Padma he is narrating the story to. He breaks the rules of grammar and follows all the rules of a conversation. With all ….s and stopping to check the expressions of the listener, sometimes changing the pace as he senses the impatience in the listener and sometimes lingering on. He does realize that the story is long and full of characters. And the listener can lose track of them. So there are these paragraphs that sound like a revision of the story till now or the relevant part of the story till now. And these frequencies of these paragraphs increase as the story moves.
There are many metaphors in the story. And if I start explaining them I may end up writing a small book. But I must talk about the one I simply loved. The metaphor of emotions or feeling passing through things like pickles and chutneys from one person to another, or through the air or through other acts is something that makes the sublime come alive in a visual manner. The element of surprise has been kept alive throughout with sudden twists in the story that by the end of the story you start expecting.
I enjoyed reading the book Midnight’s Children, and if you have not already read it – Read it.
You may buy this book – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie at Amazon.
Review of other books by Salman Rushdie