Book: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
#94 on the 100 novels everyone should read
What is the story about?
The story follows the life of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the same time of new India. Saleem, and a thousand others, were born alondside the birth of a nation. Because of the significant time of their birth, all 1001 “midnight children” acquired magical powers. The story unfolds and changes as the path of their new found nation changes as well.
This is the exact reason why I started this journey, following this list of 100 books. I would’ve never picked up this book browsing in a book store. Not really a fan of fantasy or anything whimsical, I would never choose to read a book that follows the life of a person who can sniff out people’s thoughts and emotions.
But I loved it and was greatly moved by it (thank you list for making me read this book).
Turns out, Saleem is a very good story teller. I don’t really know why some say it’s a hard read (maybe I’m comparing it to previous reads from this list which were mostly a struggle to read) as I found it flowed very nicely.
It’s like being told a bedtime story by your grandmother: yes sometimes she gets a bit off track, yes sometimes she skips events and gets back to them later, yes sometimes things she says can’t possibly be true; but you know you are completely mesmerized and can’t wait till the next day for her to finish off her fascinating story.
But the thing about this story that really touched me is the history. Saleem’s grandfather was from Kashmir, he was born in Bombay, moved with his family to Karachi where the India-Pakistan war happened, then later the Pakistan-Bangladesh war took place.
Why is history so violent and sad? And why does it keep happening over and over?
Saleem, fighting with his adopted country, found his childhood friends fighting on the other side. Why were friends and families fighting so visciously against one another? Yes I realize I don’t know all the history behind the conflict, but it just hits you hard when reading the book.
Fighting with Pakistani troops, they shunned their opponent’s as the “others”; the Hindus; the vegeteranians. “Vegetables always lose to meat”, they said.
When labeling them as “others”, us against them, it is easy to dehumanize them and forget they once were childhood friends and family.
Then, Saleem Sinai and his Pakistani troops found they were not assigned to fight the Hindus anymore, they wouldn’t “kapow the vegeteranians”, they were ordered to kill their “brothers”, the Muslim region of East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh.
And they didn’t only kill. Ten million refugees fled from the war to India.. 10 million. As Rushdie explains, 10 million … is a number that refuses to be understood. 10 million of mothers, fathers, and children. 10 million of grandpaernts and grandkids who were all originally brothers and sisters from one country.
Shahhed and I saw many things which were not true, which were not possible, because our boys would not could not have behaved so badly; … but it was not true because it could not have been true, the Tiger was a decent chap, after all, and our jiwans were worth ten babus…”
Shaheed, when he saw all the devestation the war caused, said:
No buddha – what a thing, Allah you can’t believe your eyes – no, not true, how can it – buddha, tell, what’s got into my eyes?
Saleem (buddha) replied:
A person must sometimes choose what he will see and what he will not; look away, look away from there now.
But we shouldn’t look away. When will it stop? When we stop labeling people as “the other.”
So the next time you see someone different, something you don’t understand, a Hindu or a Muslim, Turban wearing or Hijab, black or white or yellow .. whatever the “other” is, stop focusin on what makes them different and just remember, we are all humans, with mothers and fathers praying for us, and children waiting for us; no matter what our religion or color is.
Yes, this book really moved me, not just because Rushdies is an amazing writer, not just because of the magical world created, but because, to me, it was a strong political statement.
Stop the hate .. Spread the love!
The only thing that was a bit dissapointing is that book 3 (the novel is divided into 3 books) was not as good as the ones before it. I understand Rushdies used this scection to tie up loose ends, to bring the book to a definite closure, but it wasn’t as powerful as the previous books. Also, the recurring 1001 number and even Shahrazads name reminds me of ‘that’ book, the only book I ever started and refused to finish
All in all, amazing read! I recommend it to everyone really.
Next book: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. A British spy novel .. like James Bond hopefully .. will find out as soon as my Amazon package arrives.
Happy reading everyone!