Friday, March 29, 2013

Does he even know what he pulled off?

Finished re-reading Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children'. The book is shockingly both - a chronicle and a prophecy of India and Pakistan. That this book was published, read, and celebrated as 'fiction' points to simpler times that is hard to even imagine now. As for Rushdie as a writer, with this book he makes every major work of Indian fiction after this one seem like a college essay.

Here's why: The story involves a man born at midnight of Independence day who later becomes the adoptive father of a child who is born at midnight of the Emergency. A man with a large nose whose arch enemy is a man with large knees. The story has references to blue Kashmiri eyes, pickling and migrant memories, tetrapods and reclamation in Bombay, circus troops and city beautification projects outside Jama Masjid in Delhi, vasectomy in Benares, the making of Bangladesh, the unmaking of other nations, the profiling of the Gandhi dynasty - and all this peppered with the Indian phrase of 'you believe don't believe '(tum maano ya na maano). With a storyline and sub-plots like this, with language like that - Rushdie has walked a tight-rope over every single sentence in those 500 pages. And he made you believe the story - believe it enough to be uncomfortable and apprehensive. That you may not be Saleem Sinai. You may not be born on August 15, 1947. But if you live in such times, you could still be a midnight's child....with no escape.

How did could he...know?

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