Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a 1981 magical realism novel. A novel which could have been a tremendous failure,and a piece overworked by extreme exaggerations and dramatic devices ( rather excessively dramatic) inspired by the jocund fecund genius and folly of the widely renowned Bollywood which is the film industry lead by Indian people or rather a film industry which leads them; fortuitously it was created by a literary master which makes it a triumph.This Bollywood pastiche succeeds on almost every level imaginable viable in creating a spectacularly humorous, allegorical, satirical, wildly original and ultimately very moving story of Saleem Sinai (Protagonist).
A few days have passed, since I acquainted myself with the introductory and enlightening ‘Imaginary Homelands’ – a text written by Salman Rushdie which conveys volumes about the ideological atmosphere that compelled him to write Midnight’s Children and further work. ‘Imaginary Homelands’ And ‘Midnight’s Children’ share a deep and profound intertextual relationship which proves that ‘Midnight’s Children’ is the child born out of ‘Imaginary Homelands’ in astonishing ways. ‘ Imaginary Homelands’ begins an account of Salman Rushdie’s journey when he revisited Bombay (Now Mumbai) which is his lost city and he stood,after finding the address, in front of his irretrievable home filled with irretrievable memories and events, lost in the hum drum of the city, contemplating and didn’t dare to go inside as to evade the possibility of seeing the new residents and how they had ruined the nostalgic interior, consumed by the desire to restore the past, not in the gloomy snapshots, but whole, in all its beauty and colour.
It may be that when the Indian writer who writes from outside India tries to reflect that the world, he is obliged to deal in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost.
-Imaginary Homelands by Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children, as Saleem Sinai , is a product of history, even though imaginary and intangible but nonetheless powerful, exceptionally wrought along with sharp commentary and analysis of the multifaceted, dynamic and heroic India, Salman Rushdie has emerged victorious in successfully printing India through the lens of Saleem in a canvas of total 675 pages along with its idiosyncrasies, men and women,the others, colours, religions,and especially the Widow.
Midnight’s Children, If stripped of its whimsical writing style, marvellously imagined imagery and symbolism, reveals a broken relationship with India of a man who was perhaps not recognised to the magnitude and depth in and by India as much as he felt a sense of belonging towards it. The novel can be seen as a search of one’s identity, it poses difficult and uncomfortable questions which might surprise you from the point of view of an Indian such as: Who are we? Where have we come from and where are we going? Is our beloved nation slowly being dispossessed of its voice and identity?
On a positive note, the novel, apart from being creative and unique, is differentiated from the fact, that there is a sense of discovery in finding beauty and horrifying ugliness in the smallest parts of India, which is absent in The God Of Small Things and A Suitable Boy, notwithstanding the fact that they are great novels in the literal sense but they look at India with a native’s instinct which makes them vulnerable to take certain things for granted and that is where, Salman Rushdie, with a foreigner’s view succeeds in his portrayal of India more than other great Indian storytellers of our time, for instance, Bombay (Now Mumbai) has been compiled and typed into this magnum opus of 675 pages represented by every visually wrought and effective imagery apposite to the city, and so is Agra,New Delhi, Kashmir, Aligarh and Pakistan.
The first page of this semi-autobiographical , magical realist , allegorical , absurdist comedy, satire, bollywood pastiche ( trust me, it is all of the genres stated and is limited to none of them) welcomes you to the heart of the story with The Perforated Sheetwhich beats around the bushes and continues for the first two hundred pages or more or less revolving around Saleem’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother ,Naseem Ghani (REVEREND MOTHER)-her witches nipples and the special Aadam Aziz with his Lord Ganesha Elephant -like -nose spiraled with the crazy story of Boatman Tai who exists for a little period but his shadow lingers like a phantom throughout the novel, further,Mumtaz Aziz’s sensational and courageous love for Nadir Khan,Shri Ramram Seth and his portentous prophecies, Puroshottam-the saint under the garden tap sitting in a mood for contemplation and Dr. Schaapsteker – with his deep infatuation with snakes,the legendary Saleem- the head of the midnight’s Children conference which connects him to 1,001 children born in the hour of midnight with special powers and are mentally connected with each other,Shiva-the alter ego of saleem with his exceptional pair of mighty knees and finally, the Widow- I must leave her without any description-it would be a venial sin to expose her in this short piece of trivial thought. Slowly revealing the true heart of India which mirrors ‘Saleem or the Snotnose, Stainface , Baldy , Sniffer , Piece of the moon , Creator of fathers and the lovely nupital Buddha’ , we move on to the Mercurochrome and Hit- the- spittoonwith A public Announcement and Many-headed monsters which fill venom and politics into this tale and finally the Tick, Tock : the unnerving , ear bursting, deafening, depressing and ominous Tick, Tock which goes through Revelations leading to How Saleem achieved purity as The Buddha In the Sundarbans to A wedding till Midnight and finally makes and breaks the world in Abracadabra.
Every sentence is crafted with difficult confusing creative words which are astoundingly unique and frustrating in equal measures. A first glimpse on the first few pages of this self ( INDIA)- reflexive novel emits a strong stench of self pretentious writing ; a pickle consisting of multiple fascinating spices and juices which showcase high culinary talent albeit an exclusive one. This novel envelops aromas and flavours of a thousand jars of pickles. In the words of the great Saleem who admits that to understand him, you need to swallow a world ; as a matter of fact , when you would be rushing to reach the last heartbreaking word of this superbly funny and satirical tragedy,you would feel drained- drained of energy, perseverance, emotions and above all- drained of hope.
Saleem Sinai is preserved in literary history, now as one of the most effective characters ever written. A character as multifaceted as India, dynamic and wholly fictional- but seems to be real enough to connect with not only people of India but individuals of all cultures in a certain sense-there is something oddly humanistic and true about him-he could be accurately described as a ‘Magical Realist’.
This is a work of patience and discovery- of achieving lost territories and purification of the polluted and the corrupted- it is a story which portrays India more than any other historian can do-a piece of imagination set to recover that lost India from the shambles of our colonial history,of our enmities and misfortune in the hope of resonating the voice subdued in the miseries by the way history has treated us.A work which aims to fix broken individuals, relationships, and territories.