After Mary’s confession, Saleem begins to avoid the Midnight Children’s Conference. He is convinced that he won’t be able to hide his secret from Shiva, “the most ferocious and powerful of the Children,” who will be sure to claim his birthright if he finds out the truth. Saleem vows to keep his secret just as Mary had, and he continues to avoid the other children.
It is not necessarily Saleem’s place to keep the secret of their birth from Shiva. Shiva is affected to the same level that Saleem is by Mary’s actions; however, Saleem selfishly keeps this information from him. This is another example of Saleem’s belief in his superiority over other people, and this serves a representation of India’s own social divide along lines of class.
In the days following Hanif’s mourning period, the dust begins to settle around Buckingham Villa, but Ahmed remains drunk and angry. Surprisingly, he doesn’t blame Mary, or even Saleem, for the midnight switch. Instead, he focuses his considerable rage onto Amina, berating and abusing her until Reverend Mother intervenes. Telling her daughter that there is “no shame in leaving an inadequate husband,” she encourages Amina to go to Pakistan. “Take your children, I say, whatsitname—both your children.”
Again, Ahmed’s actions are a representation of the gender oppression present within the patriarchy. Despite Amina’s innocence in Mary’s switch, Ahmed still holds her responsible and makes her pay. Reverend Mother stands up to Ahmed’s power, and in the process, she legitimizes Saleem, who still has not received any support from his parents regarding his true identity and parentage.
Later that same day, Amina, Saleem, and the Brass Monkey begin to travel back to Pakistan with Emerald and Zulfikar. As Amina leaves, all the servants quit, except for Alice Pereira, who stays behind to watch over Ahmed. When Saleem arrives in Pakistan, he notices that his “thought-transmissions are jammed.” He is unable to commune with the Midnight Children’s Conference in the land of the pure.
Saleem’s inability to commune with the children of midnight from Pakistan cements him firmly as an Indian, and this makes him even more of a foreigner in the Muslim country. This realization becomes all the more powerful when Saleem becomes a Pakistani citizen.
They arrive in Rawalpindi aboard the SS Sabarmati and go directly to Emerald and Zulfikar’s large and impressive mansion, which is surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Zulfikar frequently yells out the family’s official “catch-phrase,” “Let’s get organized!” and the entire family is militarized, even the old beagle, Bonzo. Bonzo holds the rank of sergeant-major and is natural at sniffing out land-mines.
The fact that the ship that Saleem and his family sail into Rawalpindi on is named after Commander Sabarmati suggests that his reputation is not at all tarnished by shooting his wife and killing her lover. The ship represents society’s continued support of the Commander, which serves to further oppress women.
Saleem and the Brass Monkey go to school with Emerald and Zulfikar’s son, Zafar, an unpleasant boy who wets the bed and has a crush on the Monkey. Each time Zafar wets the bed (which he shares with Saleem), Zulfikar belittles him, calling him names such as “coward,” “woman,” and “homosexual.”
Notably, when Zulfikar berates his son for wetting the bed, he calls him names that are associated with women and femininity. This implies that Zulfikar believes that the worst insult is to be considered womanly.
Amina tries to rebuild her relationship with her son (who really isn’t her son), but her attempts are forced and Saleem feels alienated from his mother and the Monkey. One night, shortly after their arrival to Pakistan, Emerald readies the mansion for a dinner party. Saleem notices Army security officers and military police lurking around the property, and soon a series of long, black limousines pull into the driveway.
The obviously important men who arrive for dinner at Zulfikar’s are planning a military coup. There is considerable social unrest within Pakistan as well as in India, and Zulfikar and Emerald’s dinner party is a result of this unrest. The creation of Pakistan has not been a smooth transition, and they are still contesting lines drawn in British India’s initial Partition.
As the dinner guests arrive, Saleem has no idea who they are, but he is sure that they are military officers. Emerald refers to the man who is clearly the guest of honor as “Mr. Commander-in-Chief,” and after the meal, the women abruptly stand to leave the table. Saleem and Zafar follow suit, but “Mr. Commander-in-Chief,” whose name is General Ayub Khan, asks the boys to stay, claiming, “It is their future, after all.”
Mr. Commander-in-Chief will serve as the president after the coup. His involvement of Saleem and Zafar in their talk is a reflection of their compulsory military responsibilities. In Pakistan, they will be forced to join and fight against India.
Once the women are gone, General Khan declares Martial Law and states, “I am assuming control of the State.” In that moment, Saleem and Zafar realize that Zulfikar and his dinner guests are planning a coup of the Pakistani government, and Zafar immediately wets his pants. Zulfikar begins to yell at Zafar, “Pimp! Woman! Hindu!” and orders him from the room. With Zafar gone, Zulfikar asks Saleem to come and sit near him at the head of the table.
General Khan doesn’t assume control of the State until the women have left the room. This reflects his opinion that women are inferior to men and not capable of contributing to serious matters. Again, in a response to his son’s incontinence, Zulfikar insults Zafar by calling him a woman, and to further insult him, a Hindu. This reflects his own belief in the superiority of Muslim men specifically.
Sitting next to Zulfikar, Saleem “created a new father for himself,” and as Zulfikar directed him and described the movements of troops, Saleem symbolically moved pepperpots and chutneys, serving spoons and cutlery around the table, demonstrating their treasonous coup. The cream-jug represented the President, Iskander Mirza, but it did not move during the demonstration. For three weeks after the pepperpot demonstration, Mirza remained the President of Pakistan.
Zulfikar becomes yet another father-figure to Saleem, and he is eager to please him—even if that makes him complicit in a military take-over that will undoubtedly result in increased aggression towards India, and metaphorically, toward himself as well. Saleem so badly desires a decent father that he is willing to make nearly any sacrifice.
At midnight on November 1, Zulfikar wakes Saleem from a sound sleep, whispering, “Come on, sonny, it’s time you got a taste of the real thing.” After racing through the Rawalpindi streets, they pull up to a large mansion with armed guards. The guards part ways, allowing them to pass, and Zulfikar leads Saleem into a dark bedroom with a large four-poster bed. A sleeping man suddenly sits up, surprised, and Zulfikar shoves a long-barreled revolver into his mouth. “Shut up,” Zulfikar says. “Come with us.” He drags the man, naked and shivering, out to the car.
Saleem is barely into long pants and has only just become a man, and Zulfikar is already dragging him along to kidnap the President of Pakistan. He is grooming him for military service, and Saleem recognizes this. This goes far beyond the movement of pepperpots and metaphorical involvement. Saleem is personally involved in this crime, and he is a willing participate because it affords him Zulfikar’s fatherly attention.
Zulfikar drives the man to a military airfield and places him on a plane. As the plane takes off, Saleem realizes that not only did he help to plan a coup, but he also helped to kidnap and exile a president.
Amina stays in Pakistan for four years with Saleem and the Brass Monkey, who begins to abandon her rebellious ways and becomes a devout and demure Muslim. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to deteriorate, and Saleem remains unable to contact the Midnight Children’s Conference. On the Monkey’s fourteenth birthday, Emerald throws a small party and encourages the Monkey to sing for her guests. She obliges, and when she opens her mouth to sing, the most beautiful, heavenly voice emerges. In that moment, “the Brass Monkey sloughs off her nick-name” and becomes Jamila Singer.
The Brass Monkey’s transformation into Jamila Singer is further evidence of her conflicted identity. The Muslim influence in Pakistan is too strong to be ignored, and she begins to follow its teachings, abandoning her Christian beliefs. Ironically, Jamila retains her love of leavened bread, and this represents the part of her identity that remains devoted to her true identity—that of a Christian.