Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children

by

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight’s Children: Book 1: Many-headed Monsters Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the days following the burning of the Muslim bicycle warehouse, Ahmed uncharacteristically stays at home, and Amina is unable to take Lafifa Das up on his fortune-telling offer, which she wishes to keep secret from her husband. One evening, Ahmed claims he has business to tend to and leaves Amina alone, the bulky bag of money hidden conspicuously under his long coat. She quickly runs to find Lafifa Das.
This is further evidence of the secrets kept between Amina and Ahmed and the dysfunctional state of their marriage. Ahmed is clearly going to pay the Ravana to spare his warehouse, yet he tells Amina nothing of this dangerous endeavor.
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Unbeknownst to each other, both Ahmed and Amina take separate taxis to Old Fort—an ancient part of the city of Delhi which is home to a large population of Hindus—Ahmed to pay an anonymous Ravana member to spare his warehouse, and Amina to visit a fortune-teller.  Amina is taken aback by the amount of poverty and suffering in the Hindu neighborhood, and she becomes frightened and uncomfortable in the presence of begging and hopelessness.
Old Fort is a stark reminder of the differences in social class between Delhi and Old Fort, and to a larger extent, India as a whole. Amina is so removed from such poverty and suffering in her own privileged life that she becomes physically uncomfortable at the sight of it. Delhi is already unofficially partitioned based on social class as well as religion—the poor Hindus are relegated to the old part of town while rich Muslims enjoy the comforts of New Delhi, a modern addition to the ancient city and the capital of India.
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Lafifa Das lives at the very top corner of a tenement building with his cousins, and he leads Amina to the top of a dark stairwell to meet Shri Ramram Seth, a Hindu palmist. Placing his hand on Amina’s pregnant belly, Ramram declares, “A son.” To a confused Amina, Ramram foretells a child who will never be older than his motherland,” will have “two heads—but you will see only one,” and will be raised by two mothers only to die “before he is dead.” He tells her there will be noses and knees and suddenly, Ramram falls to the floor and begins to foam at the mouth—a side effect of too much prophesy.
 Ramram’s prophecy predicts Saleem’s link to his country. Amina’s son will never be older than his motherland because he is to be born on the eve of India’s independence. Ramram’s reference to two heads foretells Mary Pereira’s switch of Saleem and Shiva, who serves as Saleem’s alter ego, essentially making Saleem and Shiva each two halves of a whole. Lastly, Ramram’s prediction that Amina’s child will “die before he is dead” references Saleem’s physical condition and his impending death more than thirty years later, the untimely consequence of his connection to his nation.
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Meanwhile, as Ahmed, Mr. Butt, and Kemal place their bags of money in the designated Ravana tenement, the three business men, instead of immediately leaving as they are ordered to do, remain in the shadows, watching. Old Fort is teeming with scores of wild monkeys, and the men watch as the human-like animals dismantle the ancient buildings, stone by stone. Suddenly, a Ravana collector appears to gather the money and finds the bags destroyed by the monkeys and the money strewn about. He angrily vanishes, and Ahmed and the other businessmen begin to quickly recover their discarded money.
As the three Muslim businessmen watch the monkeys destroy Old Fort, the animals’ behavior echoes that of the Ravana in New Delhi, as both the monkeys and the Ravana are intent on trashing the respective neighborhoods. When the Ravana collector arrives to gather the money and finds it strewn about the street, he doesn’t even attempt to collect it. The three men are greedy and retrieve their money from puddles of rainwater and urine, and in that moment, the fate of their business is sealed.
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Amina returns home from Old Fort and decides to keep her son’s fortune a secret from Ahmed. Ahmed arrives later, covered in soot and crying, his warehouse having been torched` by the Ravana after the monkeys sabotaged his ransom drop. Ahmed informs Amina that he is done manufacturing military jackets, and instead of moving to the future country of Pakistan with Emerald and Zulfikar, he has decided to go to Bombay, where according to his close friend, Dr. Narlikar, the British are quickly exiting, and property is selling for cheap.
In another display of gender inequality and the trappings of the patriarchy, Ahmed does not consult Amina in his decision to move their growing family to Bombay; instead, he simply tells her what to do and where to live. He is more committed to money and business than he is to his marriage or his religion, and he prefers to abandon Pakistan (and by proxy, his religion) and strike while the iron is hot in Bombay.
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Amina is unhappy at the prospect of moving to Bombay, but Ahmed collects his insurance money from the destroyed warehouse and begins to finalize the arrangements. He sells his leather business and readies himself to break into the real estate business, while Amina continues to focus on small parts of him, trying in vain to love him. Despite her efforts, Amina is not able to love the part of Ahmed that Nadir had “certainly lacked,” and by early summer, a very disheartened Amina moves to Bombay with her husband.
Ahmed is not at all concerned with Amina’s feelings, and she is denied a voice in their relocation. Of course, Amina’s attempts to partition Ahmed and love him bit by bit are unsuccessful, and she grows to resent having sex with him, the thing that Nadir “certainly lacked”—and, ironically, the very reason why she married Ahmed in the first place.
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