Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children

by

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight’s Children: Book 2: Commander Sabarmati’s Baton Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After they return to Buckingham Villa, Mary discovers that the ghost of Joseph has decayed. He is missing an ear and a toe, most of his teeth had fallen out, and a large hole takes up his entire stomach. Joseph tells Mary that he is being held “wholly responsible” for her crime until she confesses.
In addition to her guilt and being haunted by Joseph, Mary Pereira is forced to watch the man she loves decay before her eyes, and this is nearly too much for her to endure. Furthermore, by allowing Joseph to pay for her crime, Mary continues to sin in the eyes of Christianity.
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Meanwhile, Saleem finds that he is no longer his parents’ favorite child. Both Ahmed and Amina plainly favor the Brass Monkey, and she, unsuccessfully, “does her best to fall from grace,” including converting to Christianity. When even that fails, both Saleem and Monkey begrudgingly accept their new roles.
The Brass Monkey’s conversion to Christianity is a reflection of her conflicted identity. She is raised by non-practicing Muslims in a secular nation that is overwhelmingly Hindu, and her ayah is Catholic. The Monkey’s religious influences are also another example of hybridity in postcolonial Indian society.
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On the day that the Chinese armies make their way across the Himalayas and into India, the Midnight Children’s Conference begins to fall apart. The “prejudices and world-views of adults began to take over their minds,” and they begin quarreling. The children divide themselves according to race, class, and religion, and the poor are increasingly pressured by Communism.
The beginning of the fall of the Midnight’s Children coincides with China’s invasion of India, and this is evidence that Saleem and the others are “handcuffed to history.” As India is further divided when China attempts to claim a portion for themselves, the Conference begins to divide as well.
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Saleem tries to unify the children and pleads with them not to “permit the endless duality of masses-and-classes, capital-and-labor, them-and-us” to come between them. He calls on them to be a “third principle,” one that does not fall to social pressures. Sadly, most of Saleem’s words fall on deaf ears, except for Parvati-the-witch, who continues to support him. Shiva, on the other hand, does his best to pull them further apart, telling Saleem his calls for unity are “all just wind.” According to Shiva, “there is no third principle; there is only money-and-poverty, and have-and-lack, and right-and-left.”
Shiva’s response to Saleem’s unifying cries are proof of his belief in the randomness of life. To Shiva, Saleem’s search for meaning and togetherness is “wind,” essentially nonsense, and his opinion serves to further divide them. Interestingly enough, there are vague communist undertones to Saleem’s rallying speech, and in this way, Rushdie again suggests a communist approach to solve India’s social problems. 
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Saleem begins avoiding the Midnight Children’s Conference and spends most of his time in the quiet darkness of Mr. Schaapsteker’s upstairs apartment. There, the ninety-one-year-old man becomes another father to Saleem, “instructing him in life.” During one of their lessons, Mr. Schaapsteker tells Saleem, “Be wise, child. Imitate the action of the snake. Be secret; strike from the cover of a bush.”
Mr. Schaapsteker becomes yet another father-figure to Saleem. As he is unaware of who his real father is, Saleem compensates by collecting fathers, and he takes on a little piece of each one of these men, making them a part of his identity.
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Saleem takes Mr. Schaapsteker’s advice. When he discovers that Homi Catrack is having an affair with Lila Sabarmati, he decides to strike, fueled by his “mother’s hypocrisy and Pia’s inconsolable grief.” Calling Lila a “loose woman,” he enters her thoughts and discovers that she meets Homi every Sunday at an address just off of the Colaba Causeway. He sends an anonymous letter to Lila’s husband, Commander Sabarmati, asking why his wife goes to Colaba Causeway on Sunday mornings.
Saleem hates Homi for the pain that he has caused Pia, and he again projects his feelings for his mother onto another woman. As Saleem has long since suspected his own mother of being a “loose woman,” he decides to make an example out of Lila Sabarmati, who will forever serve as a warning to his mother concerning her own infidelities. Saleem’s treatment of all of these women reflects the trappings of the patriarchy. Instead of respecting these women, Saleem believes that it is his right to meddle in their lives and teach them lessons on morality, as he believes in his own superiority as a man. 
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Related Quotes
The following Sunday, Commander Sabarmati goes to the naval arsenal and obtains a long-nose revolver, and after taking a taxi to the Colaba Causeway, he knocks on the door indicated in the anonymous letter. As Lila opens the door, he shoots her twice in the stomach before moving to Homi, whom he murders with three shots; one to the genitals, one to the heart, and one straight through his right eye.
Saleem’s plan has backfired in a major way. Of course, he succeeds in setting an example for his mother, but his belief in his own superiority has led to Homi’s death and Lila is severely injured. While Saleem does admit to being “horrified” by what he has done, he makes no effort to confess or atone.
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After smiling to himself, Commander Sabarmati goes directly to a police officer directing traffic and turns himself in. Startled by his revolver, the officer immediately runs away, causing traffic to back-up. When a group of officers return to arrest him, they find the Commander directing traffic using the smoking gun as a baton.
While Commander Sabarmati’s surrender is depicted in a humorous way, it nevertheless represents the serious problem of domestic violence within sexist societies. The Commander believes that this degree of power over his wife is his inherent right, and he acts on this belief. 
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Saleem’s “revenge participates a national crisis,” and Commander Sabarmati becomes exceedingly popular. Married men defend his actions, including Ismail Ibrahim, who defends him in court. Faithful women also support him, and even Lila’s own sons take their father’s side. All the newspapers “agree on his upstandingness” and that he is an “undeniably attractive chap.” Despite the prosecutors “open and shut case,” public opinion is that Sabarmati is a good guy.
The public’s support of Commander Sabarmati is evidence of the extent to which the patriarchy has affected society. He is clearly guilty, but he is still considered a good guy. His gender gives him a pass on his awful crime, and the fact that even other women and Lila’s own sons support his actions is a stark look at India’s social inequality. 
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The jury finds Commander Sabarmati not guilty; however, the judge reverses the “absurd verdict.” The public is outraged, and Ismail Ibrahim appeals the case all the way to the President of India. At first, it is unclear if “India will give her approval to the rule of law, or to the ancient principle of the overriding primacy of heroes” but in the end, the President refuses to pardon the Commander.
This social inequality has even infiltrated the local courts, and the President’s delay in supporting the judge’s decision to overrule the “absurd verdict” is proof that he secretly supports the Commander’s actions as well.
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Feeling guilty over the terrible crime he caused, Saleem nearly confesses to his mother; however, he suddenly changes his mind. Soon after Commander Sabarmati’s trial, the Sinai’s telephone began, as usual, to ring in the afternoon. Amina, limping her way to the phone, answers it and responds, “No, nobody by that name here; please believe what I am telling you, and never call again.”
Saleem decides not to confess his guilt when he discovers that his plan has ultimately been successful. Amina never sees or speaks to Qasim again, and Saleem is pleased with the outcome. Saleem has manipulated his mother, and he destroyed multiple lives in the process. 
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In the following days, FOR SALE signs pop up all over Methwold’s Estate. Ismail Ibrahim is suspended from practicing law after it is discovered that he is crooked, and he must sell his house. Commander Sabarmati is sentenced to thirty years in jail, and Lila, still alive, moves out. In an unrelated event, Cyrus-the-great’s father chokes and dies, and suddenly Saleem’s family is all alone with an aging Dr. Schaapsteker and Dr. Narlikar’s women, who buy up all the other Villas and apartments. The women want to raze the mansions and put up a skyscraper, but Ahmed refuses to sell.
Saleem, Ismail, and Commander Sabarmati all pay for their crimes against women. The Commander is sentenced to prison, and Ismail, his lawyer, is suspended from practice. This causes a domino effect that leads to the clearing out of Methwold’s Estate, and Saleem’s comfortable childhood home is no longer. In a final display of girl power to counteract the rampant misogyny, Narlikar’s women intend to tear Methwold’s Estate to the ground.
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