Literature Study GuidesMidnights ChildrenBook 2 Movements Performed By Pepperpots Summary

Midnight's Children | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight's Children | Book 2, Movements Performed by Pepperpots | Summary

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Summary

Saleem Sinai decided to exclude Shiva from the conference rather than having them discover his true parents. Saleem acknowledges that such a discovery would transfer from Saleem to Shiva all of the privileges that Saleem enjoyed. Naseem Ghani, now known as Reverend Mother, made it clear that Saleem was a member of the family. She counseled Amina Sinai to leave her husband, Ahmed Sinai, and take her children to Pakistan to live with Emerald Aziz and General Zulfikar. Reverend Mother and Pia Aziz also went to Pakistan. Saleem found the move to be another sort of exile. The frontier jammed his "thought transmissions"; he was unable to communicate with the midnight children.

Saleem recalled the bomb-sniffing gifts of General Zulfikar's dog. He was made to sleep, however, with his bed-wetting cousin, Zafar Zulfikar. Saleem keenly felt that both his mother and his sister had acquired an awkwardness around him. Although Reverend Mother had confirmed his place in the family, Saleem feared that his closest of kin would reject him.

That was not to be the case. Saleem attended a formal dinner at his aunt and uncle's house and recalled the momentous declaration that took place there. The general declared the abrogation of the Constitution, the dissolving of the Central and Provincial legislatures, and the abolition of political parties. The date was October 7, 1958, and a military coup was taking place in Pakistan.

Cousin Zafar, in terror of the announcement, wet his pants and was exiled from the room. General Zulfikar invited Saleem to redeem the family's younger generation by participating in the plans. Zulfikar described troop movements, and Saleem moved pepperpots, salt cellars, and bowls of chutney on the table to demonstrate the plan.

On November 1 Saleem accompanied General Zulfikar to the home of the Pakistani president Iskander Mirza (1899–1969). Mirza was taken from his bed, stark naked, driven to a military airfield, and flown off to exile. Saleem rode into history that night, present at the military coup that drastically changed Pakistan.

Jamila Singer, known as the Brass Monkey, in the meantime adopted "expressions of demureness and submission," learning cookery and housekeeping skills and assiduously learning her prayers. Saleem describes his sister's coming to Islam, the religion of the God who had been named after a "carved idol in a pagan shrine built around a giant meteorite: Al-Lah."

Living in Pakistan, Saleem was separated from all that was familiar to him for four long years. He did acknowledge that Mary Pereira's confession had been lost to time, that he was again a full-fledged member of the family.

If the time was uneventful for Saleem, it was not for India or Pakistan. Relations between the two countries had grown worse. India conquered Goa (the old Portuguese state from which Mary had come). Saleem had nothing to do with the Sino-India border skirmishes; nor was he a part of U.S. aid to Pakistan. He was not involved in the election of 1961 when the All-India Congress prevailed in the national assembly and at the state level. The literacy level in India in 1961 was 23.7 percent, without his raising even a finger to help.

Clearly, in his separation from all things familiar, Saleem was growing up on his own. His father remained at the estate, and his mother was quite unapproachable. When the Brass Monkey sang at her 14th birthday celebration, Saleem was in for a surprise. Her voice was clear and beautiful. He speculated that she who had studied songbirds must have learned from them. All gathered were enchanted by her faultless voice, and from then on the Brass Monkey lost her nickname and became Jamila Singer.

Saleem acknowledged that from then on, his sister was the child who mattered, while he "had to be properly finished off."

Analysis

Saleem is growing up and changing. Although he still muses on his power with respect to the nation, he recognizes and admits that during four stagnant years in his life, events on the national level went on without him.

He acknowledges that Pakistan was not his country, and clearly, Islam not his religion. In that, he has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Aadam Aziz, whose narrative begins with the doctor's rejection of religion, the day he bumped his nose on a frozen tussock of earth. Saleem, too, has up to this point followed his nose, mostly taking his cues from what is around him. Renouncing any responsibility for political developments in Pakistan would seem to involve a series of independent rather than reactive choices.

This chapter marks a turning point in Saleem's development. Although the opening section of the chapter places him at General Zulfikar's right hand and in position to become an actor in the politics of Pakistan's troubled emergence, he rejects that position, even as he accepts his uncle as yet another surrogate father. Although Pakistan's painful adolescence, in an earlier narrative by Saleem, might have had some resonance with Saleem's adolescence, that is no longer the case. By chapter's end readers find Saleem's narrative true to his personal state, to his emotions, and prepared to move on with a more focused vision of who he is in relation to those around him. He is on a mission, and his new mission is simply to grow up, to be "properly finished off," likely under his own auspices. It would seem that he no longer desires to have his history tied to the state, particularly if the state is Pakistan. He is a displaced Indian and virtually alone.

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