What do I know of India? Only that I love the Indian students who have been in my class: Akhil, Dhiti, Sanjay, Amritha, and Saani come first to mind. That I love Indian food such as samosas, tandoori chicken, naan and that wonderful mango ice the name of which I don’t even know. That books by Indian authors, such as The God of Small Things (which won the Booker prize in 1997), strike a chord in me that resonates deeply. That is why I had to read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. The Booker of the Bookers? Read with friends? It was an opportunity not to be passed up.
“What was it the spittoon-hitters said about Naseem Aziz? ‘She eavesdropped on her daughters’ dreams, just to know what they were up to.’ Yes, there’s no other explanation, stranger things have been known to happen in this country of ours, just pick up any newspaper and see the daily titbits recounting miracles in this village or that – Reverend Mother began to dream her daughters’ dreams.”“There was no proof. The invasion of dreams – or a mother’s knowledge, or a woman’s intuition, call it what you like – is not something that will stand up in court…”
“Reverend Mother was forced to dig deep into her pantry, which thickened her rage like heat under a sauce. Hairs began to grow out of the moles on her face. Mumtaz noticed with concern that her mother was swelling, month by month. The unspoken words inside her were blowing her up…Mumtaz had the impression that her mother’s skin was becoming dangerously stretched.”
“And there was a sheet in a gloomy room. On that day, my inheritance began to form – the blue of Kashmiri sky which dripped into my grandfather’s eyes; the long sufferings of my great-grandmother which would become the forbearance of my own mother and the late steeliness of Naseem Aziz; my great-grandfather’s gift of conversing with birds which would descend through meandering bloodlines into the veins of my sister the Brass Monkey; the conflict between grandpaternal scepticism and grandmaternal credulity; and above all the ghostly essence of that perforated sheet, which doomed my mother to learn to love a man in segments, and which condemned me to see my own life – its meanings, its structures – in fragments also; so that by the time I understood it, it was far too late.”
I’m eager to continue with Book Two, the first half of which will be discussed on April 30. There is much to be revealed, and what a revelation it is through Rushdie’s eyes.