Midnight’s Children Read-along: Book Two (until Alpha and Omega)

by Bellezza

After that, for several months, mother and ayah took it in turns to open and close my lids. “He’ll learn, Madam,” Mary comforted Amina, “He is a good and obedient child and he will get the hang of it for sure.” I learned: the first lesson of my life: nobody can face the world with his eyes open all the time.”

“Our Bombay: it looks like a hand but it’s really a mouth, always open, always hungry, swallowing food and talent from everywhere else in India.

Midnight’s children can be made to represent many things, according to your point of view; they can be seen as the last throw of everything antiquated and retrogressive in our myth-ridden nation, whose defeat was entirely desirable in the context of a modernizing, twentieth-century economy; or as the true hope of freedom, which is not forever extinguished; but what they must not become is the bizarre creation of a rambling, diseased mind. No: illness is neither here nor there.”

“That was the day on which taxes were raised and tax threshold simultaneously lowered; my father flung down the Times of India with a violent gesture and glared around him with the red eyes I knew he only wore in his tempers. “It’s like going to the bathroom!” he exploded, cryptically; egg toast tea shuddered in the blast of his wrath. “You raise your shirt and lower your trousers! Wife, this government is going to the bathroom all over us!” And my mother, blushing pink through the black, “Janum, the children, Please,” but he had stomped off, leaving me with a clear understanding of what people meant when they said the country was going to pot.”

Now our hero, Saleem, is nine years old going on ten. He has a prodigious nose, graphically described as being constantly running with goo; he has also acquired the ability to read people’s minds. His father, Ahmed, whose assets were frozen has become impotent because his genitals were consequently turned to ice. His mother, Amina, answers the telephone of the Wrong Number only to flee so that she can meet her older lover, Nadir.

As to Saleem? He has met his ‘twin’ in Shiva. “Saleem and Shia, Shiva and Saleem, nose and knees and knees and nose…to Shiva, the hour had given the gifts of war (of Rama, who could draw the undrawable bow; of Arjuna and Bhima; the anient prowess of Kurus and Pandavas united, unstoppably, in him!)…and to me, the greatest talent of all-the ability to look into the hearts and minds of men.”

The more Rushdie describes of India’s distress, the more I see of America within his pages. America; the country I once believed in because I saw her leaders as moral, truly working for freedom of the people. Not themselves.

Read along with us, if you choose. Find Arti’s thoughts here, Gavin’s thoughts here, Janell’s thoughts here and ds’ thoughts here. The second half of Book Two will be discussed on May 31.)

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