Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) is a book which tells us the history of India in the eyes of Salim Sinai who is the historical course of India itself. Saleem was born at twelve o’clock midnight, India’s Independence Day, 15 August 1947, and he has a telepathic gift to communicate other midnight’s children. Postcolonialism consists of binary oppositions. Saleem’s enemy Shiva represents a different part of history and according to the mythology, this paper will analyse binary opposition in the perspective of historical approach. This paper will analyse the book with the perspective of new historicism which is a form of literary theory whose goal is to understand intellectual history through literature, and literature through its cultural context along with postcolonialism. Also, will analyse as a historiographical metafiction which denies the history can’t be based just one truth, singularity versus plurality, individual escapism from the historical course and in the respect of magical realism.
Keywords: Historiographical metafiction, postcolonialism, magical realism, mythology, history,
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981), which has been awarded
Man of Booker, Book of Bookers and Best of Booker, shows why the author is a great pioneer of modern literature. Rushdie feeds his book with his own country’s culture and history. Midnight’s Children tells the history of India in the eyes of Saleem Sinai who has the power of telepathy and communicate with other midnight’s children and smell any upcoming threat with the sense of smell. In this way, Saleem, whose life is connected with his own country, will experience modern India’s victories, deaths, disasters, tragedies and contradictions though time. One day he realizes his time is coming and he is being dissolved and he starts to tell his story to his future wife Padma. Saleem is India’s history itself and he starts his story his grand grandparents. His enemy is Shiva and Shiva tries to destroy midnight’s children. The book shows us there are many perspectives of history, how history is a playground for politicians and as a deeper meaning of how mythology is still connected with shapeless history.
POSTCOLONIALISM AND HISTORIOGRAPHICAL METAFICTION
The term post-colonial is used to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day.
Postcolonialism is a trend to cover all colonial actions happened by the British Empire’s expanding policy. Basically, colonialism is conquering territory and using its resources as the colonizers own. But this doesn’t always have to be by force. Colonizer can do that with strategic tricks like changing the culture and implement your own religion, language and societies rule. According to colonialism west is civilized and the rest (non-west) is primitive and needs to be helped by western people with ideological impose, the imposition of values. But in literature, postcolonialism stars after decolonization. Because that is where post colonialism begins. What’s left by the colonizer is effects not only culture but also literature.
Postcolonialism includes both colonization and decolonization. After decolonization, post-colonialism emerges. With postcolonialism, we can speak about a few genres like magical realism, historical graphical metafiction, post-colonial novel. And Salman Rushdie smoothly combines these elements in Midnight’s Children.
“In fact, Midnight’s Children paves the way for the other novels of Salman Rushdie. He has been unable to disengage himself from this substantive text while writing other novels. For instance, Shame is a shorter version of its predecessor Midnight’s Children. Midnight’s Children is a novel about postcolonial India, in the same fashion as Shame is about Pakistan. The former deals with the colonials and postcolonial situations of India, while the later with an “insufficiently imagined country”: unavailing Pakistan.”1
Postcolonialism began in 1940-50s in the postmodern period. During colonialism, the establishment between east and west has been tied. They had an attempt for historical, cultural identity, so-called reclaiming a space that is to restore a home for them. The idea to restore a cultural identity, it can’t be built, but assert it. They revived the rewriting history and discovering history. Post-colonial writers attempted to produce counter-ideology to fight them, to challenge colonization. It includes the language of the colonizer that makes suitable for its own identity.
Post-colonial writes try to produce counter-identity. It’s based on binary oppositions. They try to fight and challenge colonialism. Also, characters created according to mimicry theory. Mimicry is copying and behaving like a colonizer. It’s the relation between them. Hybridity, double consciousness, split personality between spacious and ambivalent is also supporting reconstructing the identity along with mimicry. Hybridity is related to colonized. Homi Bhabba speaks;
“Double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority.” 2
Mimicry describes the ambivalent relation of colonized and colonizer. Colonized have to behave like a colonizer. When they imitate colonizer, culturally you become them, but in truth, they cannot. But in this way, they have to accept their new culture and identity which is created by the colonizer for them. A new historical background and a so-called advanced government system, religion etc. This historical background changes the colonized countries history. And their history becomes what they tell them. It becomes nothing but a written document and told stories.
The problem with postcolonialism is the issue of identity. Post-colonial thinking deals with the issue of identity considering a cultural product which is produced discursively by the means of narrativization. The identity is being as for the history itself. The issue of identity is also discussed which emerges from actually being produced or recreated. It is a juxtaposition through the cultural context. In the book, Saleem has identity issues. He wants to be an individual being but because of his telepathic supernatural gifts, he has voices in his head. He is experiencing plagues and violence from the historical course. He is one of the midnight’s children.
The result of all of these colonial processes is an ambivalent identity that they don’t actually represent. Post-colonial studies focus on these cultural notions, beliefs, are and literature as well. This relies on binary opposition. And one of the most important binary opposition created a new genre called Historia graphical metafiction by Linda Hutcheon.
Historia graphical metafiction uses history as a background. According to postmodernism history is nothing but a written context. There is no way to construct history back. History has different ideologies, cultures, religious background and only the winner writes it. So there is no way to explain what the true history is. Rushdie says “What’s real and what’s true aren’t necessarily the same.” This quote explains his understanding of history.
In Midnight’s Children, Saleem Sinai is created discursively, India is a state which is also created discursively. There is no historical record but there is a narrativization of history. In modern period what was a historical novel, turns into historiographic metafiction in the postmodern period. In the modern period, history is discovered when nationalism emerges, but in postmodern period history can only be constructed or reconstructed. Because somebody is writing history, it’s told from TV or newspapers, history is not possible to be witnessed by everybody.
“Some critics charge that employing the term “metafiction” to refer to modern works that are radically self-reflexive as well as to works that contain only a few lines of self-reflection actually creates critical imprecision or ambiguity. In her review of Patricia Waugh’s Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction (1984), Ann Jefferson argues that “the trouble is that Waugh cannot have it both ways, and present metafiction both as an inherent characteristic of narrative fiction and as a response to the contemporary social and cultural vision” (574). Other theorists often employ the same double definition of metafiction, which makes it difficult to know whether the definition refers to contemporary metafiction or to all works containing self-reflexivity. John Barth concisely defines metafiction as a “novel that imitates a novel rather than the real world” (qtd. in Currie 161).”3
According to Prof. Dr Bran Nicole from University of Surrey metafiction is “self-reflective writing that lays bare its own process of construction to reminds us that reality is similarly constructed and meditated.”4
According to historiographical novels, history is constructed, it’s made by fragments and yet not trustable. In this case, the author can write his/her own history and the writing itself will know it is a fiction even though it’s based on historical background. So, the fiction goes beyond and knows it’s a fiction. In general, this beyond fiction called metafiction. Historiographical metafiction takes history as a background but makes fiction out of it. Real events become a fictional event. In this case, fiction goes one step further and it becomes meta.
Historiographic uses metafiction technique to remind readers that history is constructed, not equated with the past but a narrative based on a document created in the past. Author consumes himself, depersonalizes and becomes an item in his/her fictionalization. Stuart Sim claims that “history is the equivalent of humankind’s memory” (Derrida and the End of History 3). Gyanendra Pandey addresses history as “a sign of self-consciousness” (Remembering partition 7). 6
Historiographic metafiction is a basically post-modern historical novel. It’s self-reflective, self-conscious work of fiction or novel which writes history according to what the writer thinks it’s the history. Because in postmodernism history is nothing but a narrated document which was written by the nationalist who gained the advantage. It’s based on the idea that there is no objective reconstruction of the past, there is no objective history of the past. All you have is told stories. History is a narrative, consisting of different histories, different ideologies. According to post-modern thinking, it’s not an objective entity and there is no stable, fixed history which can be taken as a true background for literature to be grounded.
“Works of historiographic metafiction are “those well-known and popular novels which are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically also lay claim to historical events and personages. Historiographic metafiction is a quintessentially postmodern art form, with reliance upon textual play, parody and historical re-conceptualization.”10
Historiographic metafiction preserves historical elements but it’s not so dominant, nationalism doesn’t exist anymore due to effects of colonialism. Romanticism has vanished and postmodern thinking dominates through the work of fiction. There is no reality anymore. Historiographical metafiction parodies and making irony with history. Past is something that authors can play because it’s not something concrete. It’s what you believed.
Historiographical metafiction consists of a high degree of intertextuality. Salman Rushdie plays with history, making fun of it. In Midnight’s Children, literature and history are both achieved. The reader can find historization and literary side of the novel. They are both achieved in the work of fiction.
“History’s paratextual conventions – especially footnotes and the incorporation of documents – are conventions which historiographic metafiction both uses and abuses, perhaps parodically extracting revenge for the historian’s tendency to read literature as only historical documents. Recent works in the philosophy of history have called into question the validity of the concept of objective documentation in the writing of history. Yet, even today, paratextuality remains the central material mode of textually certifying fact. As one historian says: “Today the statements of the reputable historian are not believed until they are shown to be believable.” #. And the footnote is the main textual form by which this believability is procured. Although publishers hate footnotes – they are expensive and they disrupt the reader’s attention – such paratexts have always been central to the historiographic practice, to the writing of the doubled or “braided” narrative”8
MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN AND METAFICTION
In historiographical metafiction, the plot or narration is based on a kind of binary opposition or. A kind of cultural conflict. In Midnight’s children, there are conflicts between colonizer and colonized. Also, history is there as a background or a concept. In the book, Rushdie introduces characters and events that give the reader that it’s a fiction an imaginative world. For this perspective, magical realism technique helps. In the book, everything looks like real events, real characters and even real history. But the history proceeds as the way Salem Sinai (The protagonist) remembers. Because of the idea of history is nothing but past fragments.
Salem Sinai is a person who has supernatural gift who can telepathically communicate with other midnight’s children. He has this gift because he was born in the moment of India’s Independence Day. Whoever were born near that moment had supernatural gifts according to the moment how they close the midnight. But Salim is not just a kid. He is also representing the history of India itself. One day Salim realizes he is going to die and decides to tell his story to Padma. But he starts his story with his grandparents because he remembers even though he wasn’t alive that very moment. This happens because he is the historical course of India itself. With these lines below, you can see how Saleem sees himself as the history itself.
“I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.” 5
In Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie plays with history, he manipulates and alters it. It’s a kind of parody of history. Because everything is recorded as history is nothing but recorded documents and memories. Rushdie explains his idea about the connection between memory and history in his essays Imaginary Homelands;
“Thereafter, as I wrote the novel, and whenever a conflict arose between literal and remembered the truth, I would favour the remembered version. This is why, even though Saleem admits that no tidal wave passed through the Sundarbans in the year of the Bangladesh War, he continues to be borne out of the jungle on the crest of that fictional wave. His truth is too important to him to allow it to be unseated by a mere weather report. It is memory’s truth, he insists, and only a madman would prefer someone else’s version to his own.”12
“Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end, it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.”5
In Book Two: At a Pioneer Cafe, the government found Padma guilty and Saleem tries to remember what happened to defend Padma. But instead of remembering what really happened he remembers something else and he claims it’s the true version of what really happened. He says that because he remembers this way. Everything he says is true not because it happened that way, but because he remembers and rearranges the story and gives it deeper meaning and functionality. And what he remembers is the truth. Below is Saleem’s words when defending Padma. It’s about how memory and history are unreliable Also, historiographical metafiction has the element of untrustable narrative because history itself is unreliable as well.
“I told you the truth,” I say yet again, “Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent versions of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.”5
Also, from Rushdie’s 1881 essay Imaginary Homelands;
“Thereafter, as I wrote the novel, and whenever a conflict arose between literal and remembered truth, I would favour the remembered version. This is why, even though Saleem admits that no tidal wave passed through the Sundarbans in the year of the Bangladesh War, he continues to be borne out of the jungle on the crest of that fictional wave. His truth is too important to him to allow it to be unseated by a mere weather report. It is memory’s truth, he insists, and only a madman would prefer someone else’s version to his own.”12
Many of Saleem memories are full of errors and frauds. Another example of how history and narrative are untrustable and Saleem’s missing memories are in the part where Gandhi becomes the victim of assassination. After Gandhi was killed Saleem sees this event in the newspaper and he realizes the date of Gandhi’s assassination was wrong. And he doesn’t remember what the true date is and he says “in my India, Gandhi will continue to die at the wrong time”7
Saleem is in charge of two different concepts. One is narrativization of India’s history and narrativization of his personal life. In this way, he constructs his own identity himself. First, the self is subjected to history. It’s the history what torments him. He was born in colonized India and he was born at 12 o’clock the exact moment of India’s independence. His birth becomes a mark for India’s independence. Even press celebrated Saleem’s birth. He is marked. Also, he dies and born again when the snake bites him. Just like India’s rebirth, Saleem rebirth’s again. When the big war begins, he dies, he loses all his senses.
In war, Saleem’s family killed, then relationship with history is broken thus he is separated from history. When he lost his finger, China attacks India for a small finger. Then he is taken into the circus by Parvati the witch and he was reborn against the hegemony that represents the carnivalesque world. He is taken to India and he gets mad at history because he carries history as a burden and he experiences a war. Saleem gets angry at history because history prevents him to be free, but he wants to be free. He wants to get rid of the burden of history. “…proving once again that there was no escape from recurrence.” 5
In Chapter 2: How Saleem Achieved Purity the raid over Pakistani happens. Saleem tells a story in Pakistani soldier’s eyes. They move in the darkness and they tell stories each other about ghosts and other magical creatures. The thinks they saw ghosts but it turns out to be that ghosts are actually Zafar’s smugglers and they kill Pakistani soldiers. The next morning instead of saying “villainous Indian invasion has been repelled by our heroic sons”, the newspaper says “innocent soldiers have been murdered by Indian forces”. This statement has been created by General Zulfikar and Saleem says this is an ambiguous reality and this event is followed by fake peace which only lasts thirty seven days.13
The book shows features of the bildungsroman as well, but in a post-modern way. He dies, born again, dies and born again… It shows the postmodern way of history. It’s emancipation, there is always a war. But according to Rushdie every part of the history misleads people’s idea. It’s like a cinema to watch.
“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible. Suppose yourself in a large cinema, sitting at first in the back row, and gradually moving up, row by row, until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars’ faces dissolve into dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; the illusion dissolves – or rather, it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality.” 5
This act of finding true identity can be seen in many parts of the book. The idea of history is written for countries that mean huge parts of human folks. This human mass destroys individuality… If you’re Indian that means you belong to some stereotypical features based on certain religion and culture. Like Hinduism or Pakistani Muslim, or your skin colour. But individualism is a part of human nature and in postmodernism, thinking search the way to ground the individual. He is disturbed by being the history itself. Because history does not only contain births, laughs and enjoyable moments. It’s also filled with wars, death, plagues, violence and hatred.
“Midnight has many children; the offspring of Independence were not all human. Violence, corruption, poverty, generals, chaos, greed and pepper pot… I had to go into exile to learn that the children of midnight were more varied that I— even I—had dreamed.”5
The other example of the burden of history comes with the harsh political control and dogmatism of the Pakistani government. Pakistani government forces militarist ideology to the country. This symbolises history’s singular perspective. Whoever is ruling a country controls history. But singular perspective cannot coexist with different perspectives of culture, religion and lives. In this part, Rushdie criticises singularity of history.
“I have been only the humblest of jugglers-with-facts; and that, in a country where the truth is what it is instructed to be, reality quite literally ceases to exist, so that everything becomes possible except what we are told is the case.”5
He criticises the dogmatism of Pakistani which want to rule the country with the militaristic idea but the ideologies can’t be looking just one perspective. There are many ideas, religions and cultural background of people. Reality cannot consist one truth and, in this way, reality cannot exist where there are multiple perspectives. If it’s about a country, lies are necessary to keep the singular truth up. In order to maintain the fictional one truth, Saleem says reality cannot exist. Everything has to be plural. Even though his storytelling is full of errors and loose historical facts, Saleem’s story is more functional than Pakistani government because his version of history shows multiple perspectives, contradictions and plurality rather than Pakistani’s singular perspective.
“Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me.”5
This quotation is about Saleem’s rage about the unfairness of life because he has seen many deaths and many wars. He has seen how colonization works. He begins telling his life story thirty-two years before his birth and according to Saleem everything ever happened is related to his own life. He refers to the connection between past and present, state and individual. History never stays in past, it still shapes the future. Any historical event is still active and shaping the future because it’s a dynamic fact. And Saleem’s life story captures these historical dynamic events in the telling process.
Memories are pickled at the end of the story which refers to how history exists as a fragment. Every pickle tastes different so every part of history has a different meaning. According to Hutcheon, chutnification for Rushdie is the process of paradoxically anti-totalizing the totalized image of history. Each chapter of the novel is compared to a pickle jar, standing “gravely on a shelf”, each labelled with the title of the chapter and the contents is shaped by its form.9 Every pickle piece represents a historical period of India. Also, Saleem’s death is not actual death. He turns into many pieces of dust which is also represent the exact number of that India’s population. According to this information makes the novel is kind about Saleem’s identity search. Is he really individual while constantly being assaulted by many voices in his head and experiencing the history of India? If he turned to dust which is also equal with India’s population, maybe he didn’t gain his freedom.
“Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, all in good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace”5
HISTORICAL TORMENT IN THE EYES OF CHARACTERS & HINDU TRIMURTI
Even though with Saleem’s death story comes to an end. It’s not an actual ending. There will be more children who will experience the history and will be tormented by history. Saleem is both master and victim of his life in order to control his memories and rearranging them. But also, he is in great suffering because of historical violence.
Beginnings and ending are very important in the book. The characters are dying and new characters being introduced quickly from the beginning until the end of the story. Even Saleem dies and born again. This happens because history itself is like that. One country dies and new ones emerge. Just like India. Once it was a colonized by Britain Empire but now it’s an independent country which represents India’s reborn and Saleem is the symbol of this independence. Also, this represents how unstable life is. Everything changes quickly and drastically. The story starts with Saleem’s grandparent and jumps from one relative to another. Storytelling changes just like India and its independence. In this way, the reader can feel how chaotic life Saleem has. Because Saleem is also experiencing many lives just like the reader himself/herself.
“Aadam’s life is especially an example of this pattern of beginning and ending. When he hits his nose on the ground while praying, three drops of blood come out and that suddenly makes him renounce his faith (which I thought was a quite ridiculous reason for renouncing one’s faith), that experience is described as leaving a hole in him, making him “vulnerable to women and history” (Pg. 4). But then when he falls in love with Naseem, the hole in his heart disappears. When World War I ends, his new life begins with Naseem and a new job in Agra University. But there are also deaths of those near to Aadam, i.e., Oskar, Ilse, and his parents around the same time.”9
Historiographical metafiction tells history in a postmodern way. This also consists of magical realism when talking about Midnight’s children. There are many magical references and mythological events in the book. Saleem is in charge of two different discourse in this respect. Characters are expressed as mythological creatures. Saleem can do telepath, Parvati the with and Shiva. Saleem represents Indian god Brahma. Brahma is the creator of the universe and all beings in Hindu cosmology. Saleem is also India’s itself, every being in the land of India is also him. He always hears noises, he suffers from India because India is also him.
Saleem’s enemy is Shiva who is an army member. He is violent and a fighter, blessed with power and enormous, powerful knees. Shiva is switched at birth with Saleem. He has raised in poverty. He is busy with gaining influence and winning power. The name is important because in Hindu mythology Shiva is the god of destruction. But this can be misleading in respect of symbols. The god Shiva is not just destroying for destroying things. He destroys to get rid of worn out universes, in this way Brahma can create new ones. Rushdie’s character show violence but is he really all that bad? Maybe he has reasons just like god Shiva.
Although he is violent and possibly a murderer, he is damaged by the historical course and social classes. He has no right to change his destiny because he was switched at birth and live his life in poverty. He has grown in individualist perspective. He represents another side of India, poor and low life. Shiva is violent but his violence comes with, again, the historical tormenting. He slices Eyeslice’s eye because Eyeslice was making fun with him for being poor. Shiva broke his father’s hand but if he hadn’t, his father would have break Shiva’s legs. Saleem is always lost in philosophy and meaning. He has time for thinking and losing himself in thoughts, but if you’re poor and starving there is no time for questioning life and meaning. Shiva is gaining influence. Shiva’s father tries to break Shiva’s leg so he can be a better beggar. People will pity him and throw him a lot more money. When Shiva meets Saleem, he gives a life lesson to Saleem.
“Rich kid, Shiva yelled, “you don’t know one damn thing! What purpose, man? What thing in the whole sister-sleeping world got reason, yara? For what reason you’re rich and I’m poor? Where’s the reason in starving, man? God knows how many millions of damn fools living in this country, man, and you think there’s a purpose! Man, I’ll tell you-you got to get what you can, do what you can with it, and then you got to die. That’s the reason, rich boy. Everything else is only mother-sleeping wind!”5
He blinds Eyeslice, but in the book, Rushdie talks about Eyeslice as Shiva’s tormentor. Shiva is violent for sure, but the book can’t blame his reasons in the course of history. Eyeslice makes fun of him because he is poor and he lives in poverty. But he has lived in the pain of being poor, he was a beggar and for this reason, his father tried to broke his legs. Also, he didn’t choose to be poor and live in poverty. Everything torments him along with Eyeslice. So, he takes a sharp razor and makes him blind.
“When Lila Sabarmati’s elder son was eight, he took it upon himself to tease young Shiva about his surliness, his unstarched shorts, his knobbly knees; whereupon the boy whom Mary’s crime had doomed to poverty and accordions hurled a sharp flat stone, with a cutting edge like a razor, and blinded his tormentor in the right eye. After Eyeslice’s accident, Wee Willie Winkie came to Methwold’s Estate alone, leaving his son to enter the dark labyrinths from which only a war would save him.”5
Shiva’s purpose in the book is to collect all midnight’s children and sterilize them. In this way, this generation will no longer exist. He is trying to destroy that generation so the new generation will no longer suffer from history like them.
Padma is the narrate in the book. She is Saleem’s wife. She is his alter ego. Saleem is inattentive and makes a lot of mistakes but as an alter ego figure Padma is there to correct him and making his life better. Narration is pushed different directions by her, she is dominant in respect of narration because Saleem tells his life story to her before he turns into dust particles. She is powerful with narration and Saleem recognizes that she powerful in the respect story telling.
“And certainly, Padma is leaking into me. As history pours out of my fissured body, my lotus is quietly dripping in, with her down-to-earthery, and her paradoxical superstition, her contradictory love of the fabulous…” 5
Padma is the opposite of Saleem. She is the one who keeps Saleem balanced. When Padma goes somewhere else, Saleem makes a lot of mistakes. Without him, he is a mess. But whenever Padma comes back to him, everything goes into a good way, again. According to Padma, Saleem is a bad storyteller. And Saleem knows that she is the one who keeps him grounded. He knows Padma is good for him.
“How to dispense with Padma? How to give up her ignorance and superstition, necessary counterweights to my miracle-laden omniscience? How to do without her paradoxical earthiness of spirit, which keeps – kept? – my feet on the ground?”5
Padma coexists with Saleem, she is the partner of his story. And Saleem is aware that his life is connected with women. Another example of the importance of Padma in the words of Saleem;
“Women have always been the ones to change my life: Mary Pereira, Evie Burns, Jamila Singer, Parvati-the-witch must answer for who I am; and the Widow, who I’m keeping for the end; and after the end, Padma, my goddess of dung. Women have fixed me all right… or perhaps one must consider all possibilities-they always made me a little afraid.”5
The name Padma is also as important as Shiva. Even though there is not much information about Padma in the book, Rushdie gives us a lot of information just with the name. Padma is Laksmi in Indian mythology. She is the goddess who was born from the ocean and symbol of beauty, mother of Kama and Vishnu’s body form Narayana’s wife. Just like Vishnu, she has died and reborn again and whenever she rebirths, she always chooses to be Vishnu’s wife. Just like Padma’s devotion to Saleem. She listens to Saleem’s story. And Lashkmi’s duty is to observe and perceive the world around her. Padma completes historical triangle in Hinduism; Trimurti or Trinity. Brahma is the one who creates the universe, Shiva is the destroyer and Vishnu is preserver. And Saleem is the one who creates and also preserves the story according to his own memories. And Padma listens to him and observes him. With Padma, the triangle is completed. This is important because Midnight’s Children tells the history of India and mythology is playing a great part in India. It creates beliefs, cultural life and even social status. History shaped in many many years and once there was mythology before every recorded history. People used to believe mythology, just like created history in the present day.
“Padma, who along with the yaksa genii, who represent the sacred treasure of the earth, and the sacred rivers, Ganga Yamuna Sarasvati, and the tree goddesses, is one of the Guardians of Life, beguiling and comforting mortal men while they pass through the dream-web of Maya … Padma, the Lotus calyx, which grew out of Vishnu’s navel, and from which Brahma himself was born; Padma the Source, the mother of Time!”5
Mythology is also important because there are myth makings in the Midnight’s Children, the book is about the history and how can it be false. And making mistakes in history and making people believe it is called myth creating. Saleem witnesses the language of the riots of Bombay in 1956.
In West Pakistan, he sees the awful effects of the two Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 on the psyches of the local population. Here Saleem consciously secedes from history by developing amnesia. He parallels the secession of East from West Pakistan that occurred as a result of this war. Amnesia is like myth.11
To conclude this paper, history is connected with mythology in the book. Yet history is not something which people should purely believe in. The novelist tries to express this idea in the book. Everything related to history is memories or just narrated documents. Past is nothing but fragments just like pickles and it’s consumerist, nations will use it in order to accomplish their objectives and goals. But nothing in history goes without a mark. Saleem’s nose proves that point. His nose is the political face of his heritage. He carries pickle like nose because of Aadam Aziz. He is the patriarch of Saleem’s family and he can’t escape from his nose. And also, there are Ahmed Sinai’s words like; “The children of the Mohalla did not call my father by his right name. They knew him as ‘the man who can’t follow his nose”5 Saleem’s nose is where inside and outside meets. Saleem is unreliable just like history itself. He is the symbol of why people shouldn’t follow the historical course. Lastly from Imaginary Homelands again with Rushdie’s own words;
“History is always ambiguous. Facts are hard to establish and capable of being given many meanings. Reality is built on our prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance as well as on our perceptiveness and knowledge. The reading of Saleem’s unreliable narration might be, I believed a useful analogy for the way in which we all, every day, attempt to ‘read’ the world.”12
1. The Novels Of Salman Rushdie: A Postcolonial Impression, Tiwari J. (2004) Vol 1, Issue 5
2. The Location of Culture, Bhabba H. (1994) pp85-92
4. Postmodern Fiction, Nicol B. 2009
5. Midnight’s Children, Rushdie S. (1981)
7. Midnight’s Children, Rushdie S. (1981) p.230
8. Postmodern Paratextuality and History, Hutcheon L. p304.
9. Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ As A Historiographic Metafiction
10. Historiographic Metafiction Pointed Summary, Kallookaran A.
11. Myth & History In Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Mahendrakumar M. p.3 Vol 2, Issue 3
12. Imaginary Homelands. Essays and Criticism, Rushdie S., (1881-1991) p22-25
13. Midnight’s Children, Rushdie S. (1981) p. 512
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