Some books are like enjoying the calmness of a harsh summer daybreak. You’ve to sit back and let the characters enthrall you like apparitions. They are there but you know they are not real or might be. They are just like the shadow that leave a long shadow on the thought process of ours, the readers.
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children is like this. This repeated Booker Prize-winning book is the story of Saleem Sinai who was born on the stroke of midnight or exactly at the moment India become an independent country. He was telling the story (read writing down) to his fiancee Padma to keep it documented for his son Aadam Sinai.
The book has been divided into three books like three parts. This division can be considered as the epic Ramayana or Mahabharata had been divided. The first book is thirty years or more than that before the birth of Saleem (or the birth of a nation). This portion deals with how was India before Saleem’s birth. The main character of this part is mostly grandfather Aadam Aziz and his family–a wife and three daughters. It concludes with the birth of Saleem and his switch.
The second book is growing up of Saleem along with India. His life from toddler to teen. This part is minced with his discovery of the extra sense of telepathic he had been infused for taking birth at that auspicious moment. And his discovery of the MIdnights Children spread over the nation. It ends with the 1965 Indian army attack on West Pakistan and wiping away his entire family except him and his alleged sister Jamila Sinai or Jamia Singer or the Brass Monkey. This part also saw Saleem losing his power of telepathy while gaining the extra-ordinary olfactory sense. The revelation of switch mystery had happened in this part.
The third book is after a gap of six years. The time is of Bangladesh Liberation War. Saleem had a memory loss and regain his memory after being lost in the forest of Sundarban. The story then flows into Emergency Period. Saleem and most of the Midnight’s Children lost their power after some operation or annihilation process carried under the order of the Widow or the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The story ends with the marriage of Saleem. This part also introduces Aadam Sinai, the illegitimate son of another midnight’s children Shiva with whom Saleem was switched at the birth.
The 600+ pages book is an exhausting read as it had been minced with all sorts of peculiarity one can think of. And that where the power of the book lies. There is no perfect way of defined writing techniques in usage to tell the story of Saleem. At the same time, there are.
The most prevalent one is self-reflexive. At one sentence, and in one paragraph also, in many instances, “I” turned to Saleem and vice versa making me think I’m not reading of the storyteller Saleem but another person known as Saleem.
Another theme that prevails is the magic realism. This starts in a low tone in the second part and gains the momentum in the third part. In other words, the third part is actually written following the magic realism approaches. Like Saleem and his companions rowing into the Sunderban and the description of the harshness a jungle can carry was depicted through some of the surrealistic descriptions.
The alternative history was also used as one of the technique. The Nanavati event, the arrest of Sheikh Mujibar Rahman and few more were retold to show Saleem had played a pivotal role in them. Like in the arrest he was used as a dog would sniff out the leader after he was sniffed an old shirt of the leader. Even Jalianwala Bagh Massacre was retold and depict Aadam Aziz witnessing the event.
Salman Rushdie has also used the approach of a listener or creating a reader in his this book in form of Padma Mangroli, lover and later fiancee of Saleem. The mixing of self-reflexive and soliloquy of Saleem sometimes and often slow down the pace of the telling of the story spanning over sixty years, and as a reader, I was feeling disinterested and disturbed for the slowness. Rushdie vision this and depicted through Padma’s annoyance and dialogues. Though it was frequent in the first two parts and not so much in the third part. But, it had formed an integral part to the travail of Saleem Sinai because in the third part I never felt disinterested or want to disturbed Saleem to tell his story as Padma does.
Salman Rushdie through his Midnight’s Children had proven one thing. If you have got a story tell it as you want to in any manner. And as toward the end he had (read Saleem) said the story at the end is not what you thought at the beginning, this is a lesson because many to match the conceived thought from the beginning, write to match it in the conclusion. So, writing shall be like a river; let it flow and take the shape in the due course of writing down.