Reading Room

Book Review: Midnight’s Children


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Yes. The clock has stricken. The countdown has ended. And finally I am not me anymore. I am two. The one before and the one after.

“Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as , all in good time , they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it’s the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace.”

Many ‘times’ stolen out from hundreds of over packed schedules over the past one year had been used in trying to read and comprehend the whole idea called “Midnight’s Children”. It is only then I realized that the above last lines come closer than anything to describing for real the many multitudes of the book.

I started it as a fantasy novel (at least that was the impression of the first few chapters), of a story being narrated back in the timeline, of a story that begins one morning by the side of a lake in Kashmir. There was no getting away from the time and date, the date of Saleem’s birth: The stroke of Midnight, 15th of August 1947. Even then, Rushdie’s magic forces you to concentrate on things and events that so seamlessly swing back and forth in reference, in importance to everything going on.

Towards the middle, slowly the realistic, historical side to the story begins to unfold. I recall here the movie “The Butterfly Effect”, where everything, even the flutter of a wing, is said to have profound consequences. Every little move, or thought in Saleem’s soul is tied to the story of India. India is Saleem and Saleem is India. How the author manages, in spite of weaving fiction, reality, history-all into India’s path breaking events in the Timeline, adding to that his own take and views on every situation is beyond comprehension. It’s like walking on a tightrope with a fire beneath. Pure mastery!

It was only when I was into my last few chapters did I realize (from another source though) that “Midnight’s Children” is also a loose albeit fantastical biography of some events in Rushdie’s life. A total full circle.

I had to admit. “Midnight’s Children” is THE book to read. A surreal magic realism. A total tangent to everything that is India and everything that it is not. All through the eyes of a young man’s life.

“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past,

the more concrete and plausible it seems-but as you approach the present,

It inevitably seems more and more incredible.”

Author: Palash Sharma, India

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