Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.
- Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children
A deluge of emotions, of past eras, of destined ends, of old knots, of shared hopes, of what is remembered and forgotten, of the less and the more, Midnight’s Children is a fantastically chronicled piece of magnificent writing. It’s indeed like swallowing a whole world, with all its shades very much alive, which then settles and dwells within.
Nothing is left unnoticed, not even the dust, which covers everything, every surface, smooth or quiet, elegant or wasted; a glance that speaks volumes in seconds, a sweet fragrance that reminds of childhood holidays, a dream that knows no boundaries, a feeling of connection with history, with past present and future, an immortal bond, no, nothing is missed out.
Or is there? If it is then this makes it nothing but more human. From the very beginning, it’s not a book, but Saleem Sinai, the person that you get to know closely, brazenly, truly.
Midnight’s Children is as magical as reality is and as real as history tells magic is and historical in a magically real manner that truly shows the reality as magically as possible keeping in mind and yet breaking the rules of history.
Indian folklores, the oral tradition allow one to fully believe in this midnight’s magical tale. Born in a momentous time period, Saleem’s future gets tied to his country, to history. And right here, we get ready for, by default, a dramatic turn of events – it is all implausible, but nothing that our Mahabharata/Ramayana aware mind cannot follow. An epic journey heightened by allegorical twits and unprecedented turns is delightfully accepted by us.
Midnight’s Children is surely a unique experience that could be matched only if you meet Rani of Cooch Naheen holding a silver spittoon, inlaid with lapis lazuli, who then asks you to try the paan-eating and spittoon hittery or if you get a chance to talk to any of the midnight’s children or if you hear Jamila Singer singing or of course, if lucky, you meet the Buddha.
I have a second hand print of Midnight’s Children that my brother bought in Kolkata; it has the appearance of a lone traveller, with a green tin trunk, that now wants to tell the tale of its travels. I’ll keep returning to it, for it is magical.
With Midnight’s Children, the Booker of Bookers’ prize winner (1993), said the critic VS Pritchett in the New Yorker, “India has produced a great novelist… a master of perpetual storytelling.” Absolutely true.
On this Independence Day I think of the magnificent Salman Rushdie and the wonderful Midnight’s Children and that why Salman Rushdie faced life threats and had to leave India and settle abroad. For how long will the celebrations of Independence go on? After the freedom from British Raj, what about the freedom from inequality? Inequality, thanks to the establishment, has been established everywhere in the world – the black versus the white, the book versus the idol, the rich versus the poor with the middle ones playing seesaw – still it doesn’t mean that it should continue.
Respected Salman Rushdie Sir, you, writing in a foreign land is far better than you in India in doubt. The fantasy and the macabre lovers that we earthlings are, stories will alone survive and is definitely the most needed in every century. Your stories, much awaited, have and will cross boundaries that you physically might not be able to.
Thank you in general. And if you happen to meet the Midnight’s Children anytime soon, please ask them to do some abracadabra.
(Photo courtesy - Google)