Midnight’s Children as a Classical Allegory
The greatness of Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children lies in the art of narration. Rushdie narrates the story by means of episodes and fragments. The story is narrated in the style of the Panchatantra, a story leading to another story. Saleem is a child prodigy having telepathic powers. It is strange that he uses it for nothing. He is totally a wasted youth.
Midnight’s Children is as good as a classical Indian allegory. It is about India and everything Indian. He deals with Bombay, Srinagar, Amritsar and Delhi and gives the historical and geographical account of these places. The birth of Saleem Sinai is a unique event. He has powers to enter into the minds of others and to under-stand their secrets, thoughts and feelings. He is born along with 1001 children of India’s hopes and expectations and its prosperity and glory. But they whither away like the dreams of Swaraj, into meaningless creatures. In spite of the promised protection by Nehru, Saleem is under the watch of the government and he becomes one of the most wanted men. He later deceives his friends in vasectomy drive under the leadership of Sanjay Gandhi.
There is allegorical description of the elections of 1957. “Boss” Patil, his rival (a fictional equivalent of S.K. Patil) is the congress leader threatening the masses. There is commander Sabarmati equivalent to commander Nanavati of the Indian Navy which describes the infamous Nanavati case (Three shots that shook the nation). Rushdie narrates, in the allegorical pattern, the descent of Dr. Adam Aziz from the paradise of Kashmir to Amritsar in 1919. The journeys of his maternal grandfather Dr. Adam Aziz take place from Amritsar to Agra and from Agra to Delhi. The progress of the Indian freedom movement is described in the allegorical way. Dr. Aziz passes through difficult situations during this period as he is associated with all events of Indian history.
The allegorical pattern gets intensified when Saleem associates himself with Mian (Skeikh Abdullah). Nadir Khan (Mirza Afzal Beig) wishes to stay in his house when he is chased by his rivals. Besides giving protection to him, his beautiful daughter Mumtaz is given to him in marriage. This relation does not last long because Mumtaz fails to conceive and she is declared barren. She is later married to Ahmad Sinai by changing her name as Amina. They both witness troublesome mobs in Delhi, India is partitioned. The cruelty, hatred, jealousy and destruction among people force them to seek fortune in Bombay where their friend Dr. Narlikar invites them to purchase the estate of British officers which is sold at a low price. On the midnight of 15 August, 1947, they give birth to a child in Narlikar’s hospital. This child is handed over to Mrs. Vanita, the wife of a street singer. Mrs. Vanita’s child is given to her by the same nurse.
The story develops itself and acquires classical Indian allegorical pattern in Book I. The steady progress of Saleem, the bastard child of a Hindu mother and a Christian father (British) is narrated in Book II. This book highlights Indian history, politics, economics and society in general. There are also other events like language riots, rise of communism against Congress party, trials, elections, films and so on. Then the narrator leads us to Karachi in Pakistan with the members of his family. There he presents Field Marshal Ayub Khan planning his coup and asking Saleem to use the utensils in the kitchen which are the symbols of the movements of the Army units. The story comes to a close with the end of Indo-Pak war and his family having been completely eliminated.
Book III is altogether a different book. It describes the ugly growth of the Indian democracy. Nehru and Shastri have worked for peace, but Indira Gandhi treads a different path. During her period, Bangladesh war is fought. Saleem Sinai becomes the head of a canine unit. Pakistani government uses Saleem Sinai’s talents to find out Mujibur Rahman.
The allegory is enlarged when Saleem forgets his past including his name. He is called the ‘Buddha because of his calm and quiet facial expression and his old age. Parvati, the witch recognizes him and takes him back to Delhi in her magic box. She is married to Saleem Sinai and he is arrested by the goons of Sanjay Gandhi. They gave out the names and addresses of five hundred and eighty children out of 1001 children. Four hundred and Twenty had already died of diseases, famines, strikes and other man-made and natural disasters. Parvati visits Shiva, the war hero and conceives a child during emergency.
Saleem Sinai proceeds to Bombay along with Picturesingh. He gets a job in a pickle factory. Padma is his co-worker. She is fat, sexy and healthy and desires to have Saleem for her sexual desires. He tells her that he foresees a total disintegration of his body. The end of the book is disgusting and monotonous. It presents the corrupting influences of political powers. Thus like the tale of Panchatantra, in this novel, one story leads to another story in the same series.