Course Hero Logo

Midnight's Children | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Midnight's Children Study Guide." Course Hero. 18 July 2019. Web. 28 May 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, July 18). Midnight's Children Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Midnight's Children Study Guide." July 18, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2023.


Course Hero, "Midnight's Children Study Guide," July 18, 2019, accessed May 28, 2023,

Midnight's Children | Book 3, Abracadabra | Summary



Saleem Sinai acknowledges a lie in his narrative; he claims it is the only lie in the story. He has lied about Shiva's death at the hands of a wronged woman. He does not know if Shiva is alive or dead, far or near. He does know, however, that he is terrified of Shiva and of the potential for Shiva's revenge should he discover the secret of his origins and his loss of opportunities in being born to poverty.

Padma proposed marriage and a honeymoon in Kashmir. Saleem admits to a moment of optimism tempered by the "rip tear crunch" that assails him. He recalls that "optimism is a disease."

Saleem recognizes that in Padma's proposal she has refused to recognize the past. He believes the same is true for everyone around him. All are invested in a future, in everything that is new. Saleem, however, is caught up in his memories of the past. He visited with Durga, Picture Singh's betrothed and the wet nurse of baby Aadam Sinai. The wet nurse, rumored to have two uteruses and an infinite supply of milk, warned Saleem that "when a man loses interest in new matters," he is "opening the door for the Black Angel."

Baby Aadam had been left with Durga, while Saleem and Singh took a trip together. Saleem had come to see himself as old at 31 and prepared to cede the future to his son and his son's birth mates. He and Singh traveled to Connaught Place, where Singh planned to earn some money as the "Most Charming Man"—a snake charmer, that is. A nearby street vendor warned the crowd away from Singh, claiming that in Bombay, "there is a better man." Singh decided to take up the challenge.

Saleem headed to Bombay with Singh, the rhythm of the railway carriage on the rails singing abracadabra. Aadam was along for the ride. Saleem's spirits rose as the train drew closer to Bombay's center. He was thrilled by old sites he remembered and equally happy with so much that was new. They found an underground night spot, the M.C.C., the initials of the defunct Midnight Children's Conference, but in fact, it is the Metro Cub Club. The club was created to enable the youth of the new secular state to avoid the stigma of old judgments, to be able to enjoy alcoholic refreshment in a dry state and to court romance in a Western style.

The unlikely trio were ushered in by alluring women who were blind, with beautiful eyes painted on their closed lids. The contest took place between the Most Charming Man, old Singh, and a young man who was introduced as the Maharaja of Cooch Naheen. The contest took hours, days, and months, and the maharaja was finally defeated.

Each night a roving spotlight focused on one amorous couple in the midst of their chosen escapade. The light this time chose Saleem, who stood in the spotlight. Afterward Saleem and Singh were treated to a feast that included a chutney that brought tears to Saleem's eyes.

It was Braganza pickle, and Saleem left Picture Singh to his fate and hurried to the factory. The story at this point has come full circle. Padma greeted him there, and Saleem discovered the manager of the factory was none other than the first—and last—of his surrogate mothers, Mary Pereira.

Finally, Saleem and Padma marry on Independence Day. As they make their way through the celebrating crowds, they are separated and Saleem falls victim to the cracks and fissures of his own body as well as the pressure of the crowd. He is annihilated by the weight of a new India—likely not much different from what has preceded. Saleem's purpose in life has been fulfilled in his need to tell his story, a tale of continuity, ragged and rough, in a world wrenched from the past and not quite ready for radical change.


Saleem's return to Bombay fulfills the magic of the train's song. Abracadabra is a word used to produce magic on stage. Among medieval people the word summoned magical powers of protection and was often embroidered on an amulet and worn for safety's sake. The usage here includes that it is a stage device for summoning fake magic. It is a word that functions to recall ancient superstition in a country attempting to modernize.

The growth of Bombay is pleasing to Saleem. He especially notices a prominent new construction, the tall building of the Narlikar's women's success, an obelisk, a caricature of masculinity, painted pink and feminine. The scene at the club further demonstrates the most daring versions of modernization, the changing habits of courtship and recreation, including men and women sharing cocktails. The spotlight also picks up couples making love. The impulses to modernization are building, albeit underground.

For Saleem and his extended family, all's well that ends well. Mary Pereira lives in a room in the new pink obelisk on the old Methwold Estate. The situation of her room is analogous to the space that Saleem's old room occupied, and she rocks baby Aadam on her lap, singing a modern tune that reflects an ageless scene. The song, "Red Sails in the Sunset," is ready-made for the view of red dhow sails against the distant sky. The color red, moreover, no longer functions as the threat of spilled blood or of communism. Instead it conjures a beautiful sunset and a boat of a fashion as old as India matching the glory of a setting sun. Also, Jamila Singer lives in a convent, content with her favorite bread and the women who bake it.

The celebration of Independence Day, a celebration of Indian renewal, is the appropriate final moment for Saleem who, in his many parts and personal celebrations, was a product of an old world and a country that paid a very high price to pursue a future, imperfect and promising. Saleem's demise predicts the continuity of India's chaotic struggles and enshrines his story, a tale of the optimism and troubles, advances and retreats, the resistance to change and the optimism that constitute the historical record. He has fulfilled his vanity; he has invented a life that "means something," that marshals memory and its inventions in service to meaning.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Midnight's Children? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!