Literature Study GuidesMidnights ChildrenBook 1 Many Headed Monsters Summary

Midnight's Children | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight's Children | Book 1, Many-headed Monsters | Summary



Two journeys open this chapter, which Saleem Sinai is still relating in flashback. Amina Sinai takes a taxi to the Red Fort to meet Lifafa Das, the Hindu whose life she saved. She travels deep into the neighborhood of impoverished untouchables and is both terrified and moved by the suffering she sees. She seeks a visit with a prophet that Lifafa Das has promised her as a reward for saving his life. In the meantime, Ahmed Sinai takes his gray bag stuffed with cash to the Old Fort. He travels with his business partners who also carry bags of cash. Amina goes to learn what the prophet will say about her newborn, while the men carry bribes to the Ravana to ensure the safety of their warehouse. Ahmed's early dream of employment as a Koranic scholar has turned, definitively, to the nightmare of a leather merchant's life and a bribe gone astray.

The night journey ends with a prophecy for Amina, who learns she will have a son. For Ahmed and his associates, the night is a disaster. Setting up an ambush for their tormentors, the businessmen abandon their bags of cash and hide. Before the receiver of the loot arrives, resident monkeys who pass the time dismantling the fort and tossing it stone by stone over the ramparts discover the gray bags. Just lighter and more manageable than the stones of the fort, the bags are hurled by the monkeys into the darkness and filth at the foot of the crumbling fort.

Saleem imagines the possibility that the seer who prophesized his birth was Amina's first love or at least a man who resembled the poet with the paunch and greasy hair—seemingly, her preferred masculine type. He suggests there will be proof later in the story. Saleem also reveals the prophecy of Ramram Seth for Amina's unborn child: "There will be two heads—but you shall see only one—there will be knees and a nose, a nose and knees."

Saleem recounted Amina's quick departure along with his suspicions over the true identity of Ramram Seth.

Ahmed's godown (warehouse) and its precious contents were burned, and in the aftermath the angry merchant decided to leave Delhi and go to Bombay where the departing British left prime real estate that could be had for deflated prices. The warehouse had been insured, and Ahmed is confident that his next fortune lay in the move. Amina never forgot the prophecy and its puzzles.

The couple left for Bombay on the day that British statesman Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900–79), the last viceroy of India, announced the partition of India, 70 days in the future. The Sinais carried among their possessions the lapis lazuli–encrusted spittoon that had been part of Amina's dowry.


Amina's venture outside the Muslim neighborhood reveals to her the hardships of impoverished Indians, principally Hindus. Among the horrors are children crippled by their parents so that begging would provide a regular income. Ahmed's humiliation included the retrieval of the lost rupees in the sanitation ditches and garbage dumps of the city. Only the hordes of monkeys seemed settled in their lives in the decay of the Old Fort.

The relation between love and money or marriage as a commercial venture is emphasized in the relations of Ahmed and Amina. She has taught herself to love him in bits, all of his parts except for his penis. His quick lovemaking leaves her disappointed with him. He resents her seductive techniques for getting money from him.

The jeweled spittoon, a relic of royalty and antique India, is Amina's inheritance. A symbol of impotence linked to lost love and to Indian aristocracy, the spittoon seems to follow her wherever she goes.

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