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Literature / Midnight’s Children

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"We will watch your life closely; it will be, in a sense, the mirror of our own."
Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to Saleem Sinai

Midnight's Children is a 1981 novel by Salman Rushdie, and is one of the two works for which he is best known (the other being The Satanic Verses, which is largely well-known for being the one that got him some very serious death threats). As well as winning the Booker Prize in the year it was released, it has twice won the Booker of Bookers, meaning that it was voted the best novel ever to have won. It is considered a major work in the Magical Realism genre, as well as of postcolonial literature and, of course, of Indian literature; Rushdie's prose style is quite a departure from previous Indian twentieth-century literature, often becoming very vernacular and creating a very vivid sense of the culture and atmosphere of India.

The novel is structured as the hastily-written and occasionally verging-on-incoherent autobiography of Saleem Sinai, born precisely at midnight on 15th August 1947 into a wealthy Indian Muslim family in Bombay. Before he can get to that point, however, Saleem rewinds the clock to his grandfather losing his faith as a young foreign-returned doctor in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and follows his own descendants down to his birth at the precise moment of India's independence from The British Empire. Astonishingly, all the 1,001 children born within India's borders in that first hour of independent India develop a variety of supernatural powers as they grow, but none as powerfully as the two children born precisely at midnight: Saleem, whose telepathy manifests at the age of nine and allows him initially to read everyone's thoughts and later to telepathically connect the five hundred and eighty-one surviving Midnight's Children; and his nemesis Shiva, born into poverty but with a ruthlessness that propels him through Bombay's gangs and eventually to fame and power.

As Saleem describes his strange and convoluted life, racing against the destruction of his body to an unseeable, unknowable medical condition, it becomes clear that he is obsessed that his life is magically linked to the country of his birth, intersecting with significant historical events and in which a youthful India's successes and failures reflect and are reflected by Saleem's own life.

Tropes appearing in Midnight's Children include:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Saleem's father starts off kind, but gradually becomes more distant, eventually disowning him entirely after the Switched at Birth reveal. He eventually comes around, though.
    • Saleem's cousin Zafar is frequently beaten and harangued by his father for his enuresis, to the point that Saleem suspects The Dog Bites Back as a motive when Zafar decides to become a Self-Made Orphan.
    • Mustapha's children are so abused into silence and irrelevance that Saleem can't remember any of their features. It's implied that The Chain of Harm might be at play here, as Mustapha is enraged at constantly being passed over for promotion.
  • The Alcoholic: After purchasing Methwold's estate, Ahmed becomes a bit too attached to the English wine cabinet, and starts "warring with djinns". This eventually makes him very delusional.
  • Alliterative Name: Aadam Aziz, Alia Aziz, Saleem Sinai, and Ismail Ibrahim.
  • Always Second Best: Saleem's uncle Mustapha becomes a civil servant, but is constantly passed over for promotion, getting stuck in second-rate positions for his entire life. This infuriates him, causing him to take it out on his children. Even in the scope of his genealogy hobby, he discovers that someone's better at it than him.
  • Arc Number: 1001. Most obviously, it's the number of the midnight's children, but it occurs in other contexts as well, mostly in Saleem's musings.
  • Arc Words:
    • "History", "time", and "inheritance".
    • The "optimism disease".
    • Pomfrets come up an awful lot.
    • "Midnight".
    • Snakes and ladders.
    • FULL-TILT!
    • "Knees and a nose, a nose and knees..."
    • The blue of Kashmiri sky.
    • "What can't be cured must be endured."
  • Audience Surrogate: Padma, possibly. Like the audience, she is hearing Saleem's life story for the first time. Some of her wry and impassioned commentary is bound to resonate with at least some readers (especially her urging Saleem to hurry up).
  • Awful Wedded Life:
    • Aadam and Naseem Aziz. He's a secular, foreign-educated progressivist, while she's a deeply religious traditionalist. They butt heads constantly over this, and Naseem once tries to starve Aadam to death when he throws the children's religious tutor out on his ear. Aadam eventually dies before her, and she doesn't seem to care one whit.
    • Amina and Ahmed Sinai. After Saleem is born, Amina devotes most of her attentions to their son, which infuriates the attention-hogging Ahmed. Alcoholism and financial hardship drive them even further apart. After Mary confesses that Saleem is not their biological son, they break off and Amina moves in with her family. In a subversion, she later returns to nurse him back to health after a heart attack, at which point they finally become Happily Married.
  • Backstory: Lots of backstory. Before it even begins chronicling the entirety of Saleem's thirty-one years in incredible detail the novel spends about 150 pages describing the lives of the two preceding generations of the Aziz-Sinai family. Even characters not related to the family get an awful lot of backstory, often injected at awkward moments in the story (which is lampshaded by Saleem). A possible justification is given in the opening: "I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the lot of me, you'll have to swallow the lot as well."
    • Saleem lampshades his tendency to do this at the very end:
      Midnight, or thereabouts. A man carrying a folded (and intact) black umbrella walks towards my window from the direction of the railway tracks, stops, squats, shits. Then sees me silhouetted against light and, instead of taking offence at my voyeurism, calls: 'Watch this!' and proceeds to extrude the longest turd I have ever seen. 'Fifteen inches!' he calls, 'How long can you make yours?' Once, when I was more energetic, I would have wanted to tell his life-story; the hour, and his possession of an umbrella, would have been all the connections I needed to begin the process of weaving him into my life, and I have no doubt that I'd have finished by proving his indispensability to anyone who wishes to understand my life and benighted times; but now I'm disconnected, unplugged, with only epitaphs left to write. So, waving at the champion defecator, I call back: 'Seven on a good day,' and forget him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Word of God argues that the ending is this. Readers usually see it as a Downer Ending. The children are all castrated during the Emergency, which also removes their powers. Saleem becomes a vagabond after that. He finds a new girlfriend in Padma and work at her Chutney factory and seems to have settled in despite his bitterness. On the other hand, all the Midnight's Children are either dead, or in hiding. Saleem's Evil Twin Shiva has become a Karma Houdini and 80s India and Bombay generally seems pretty hollow. Saleem's only hope is in his son Aadam, who he believes is part of another generation of magical children who can accomplish what he could not.
    "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 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's the privilege and the curse of midnight's children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked in the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live and die in peace."
  • The Blank: One of the titular children has this appearance during the psychic conferences due to living in the woods and never properly seeing their own face, though they do have eyes of a sort and a mouth-like hole.
  • Blessed with Suck: One of the titular children is so beautiful that they blind anyone who looks at them. Their great-aunt eventually disfigures them, which negates the power.
  • The Can Kicked Him:
    • Homi Catrack is killed on a toilet.
    • General Zulfikar is killed in a bathtub.
  • Cartwright Curse: Saleem believes he has this; everyone directly connected to his family, even through something as minor as a betrothal, dies by the story's end. When Padma makes her marriage offer, he fears that she will suffer this fate as well, but acquiesces. We never see what comes of it.
  • Cassandra Truth: One of the midnight children can Time Travel. They warn of impending doom, but nobody believes them, and they eventually leave the conference out of frustration.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Nadir Khan may be an inversion. He has a fairly important role as Amina's first husband before disappearing from the story. He shows up a fair bit later as Qasim the Red, whom Amina is seeing secretly. However, his only contribution is as a living plot device, by motivating Saleem to get them to break up.
    • Saleem's uncle Mustapha is so irrelevant for most of the story that Saleem barely even describes him or his children. However, towards the end of the book, he briefly gives Saleem shelter after the rest of the family is killed. It's also implied that he helped the Widow track down the midnight children.
    • When she's initially introduced, Parvati-the-witch is merely Saleem's most vocal supporter during the Midnight's Children Conference, but Saleem makes no attempt to hide her later importance. Towards the end of the story, she encounters him in the flesh at Bangladesh, and saves his life by smuggling him back into India.
    • Mary Pereira. She runs away after her confession to the Sinais, and Saleem says he doesn't know what happened to her after that, implying she's gone from the story for good. At the very end she's revealed to be the manager of the pickle factory where Saleem works in the present day, who took him under her wing after all his other friends and family were gone.
  • Child Hater: Downplayed with Doctor Narlikar, who just prefers to avoid them and has no children of his own. Oddly enough, he works as a gynecologist despite this.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Sonny, who demonstrates Undying Loyalty to Saleem, and continues to love the Brass Monkey even after she subjects him to a Shameful Strip. Inverted everywhere else: The Brass Monkey lights shoes on fire and reacts violently to anyone who shows her affection; Evie Burns delights in torturing animals and murdered an old lady who objected to this (and also tries to murder Saleem). The other children in the neighborhood, while not nearly as violent, are still pretty belligerent.
    • Also averted by the Midnight's Children Conference, whose eleven-year-old constituents turn on each other due to racial and religious prejudices.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A lot. Saleem often becomes introspective when they occur, examining all the events that led up to them and wondering if there might be greater purpose to it after all. He also believes that his life is a metaphorical reflection of India's history, such that the events in his life can affect India even though they appear unconnected and vice versa.
    • The Diabolus ex Machina of the Delhi monkey destroying Ahmed's Shame If Something Happened payments, which sets many later events in motion by forcing him to move to Bombay.
    • Perhaps most notable is Ahmed dropping his chair and breaking his toe upon hearing the news of his son's birth. The entire staff of the understaffed hospital flocks to tend to him, which is what allows Mary to switch the nametags of the two children and causes Vanita to suffer Death by Childbirth.
    • Exactly 420 midnight children die before Saleem can contact them, which seems like an oddly significant number for seemingly random deaths. Saleem himself briefly ruminates on this one.
      Inevitably, a number of these children failed to survive. Malnutrition, disease and the misfortunes of everyday life had accounted for no less than four hundred and twenty of them by the time I became conscious of their existence; although it is possible to hypothesize that these deaths, too, had their purpose, since 420 has been, since time immemorial, the number associated with fraud, deception, and trickery. Can it be, then, that the missing infants were eliminated because they had turned out to be somehow inadequate, and were not the true children of that midnight hour? [...] It is [...] an unanswerable question; any further examination of it is therefore pointless.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru falls terminally ill the same day that Saleem's grandfather dies. Saleem wonders if this was in fact a coincidence, and blames himself for Nehru's death.
    • Only a few bombs actually hit anything on the final day of the Indian-Pakistan war of '65. Every single one of them hits somewhere relevant to Saleem (all his family members except his sister, a friend of the family who could have sheltered him, the jail where his cousin was being held, and the housing project he could have gotten some resources out of).
  • Creator Cameo: "Naturally, the prefects had the pick of the ladies; I watched them with passionate envy. Guzder and Joshi and Stevenson and Rushdie and Talyarkhan and Tayabali and Jussawalla and Waglé and King..."
  • Death by Childbirth: Wee Willie Winkie's wife Vanita, who bleeds out because the understaffed hospital is too busy fussing over Ahmed's broken toe.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Ahmed and his business partners are told "Shame If Something Happened" and must make a payment; but when they go to deliver it, a monkey comes out of nowhere and tosses their money sacks in a gutter. This forces Ahmed to relocate to Bombay, which sets many events in motion.
  • Doorstopper: ~600 pages. It is a slow read.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Saleem formally introduces himself to Shiva, Shiva rhetorically asks why he was born poor and Saleem was born rich. He is trying to make a nihilistic philosophical point, but the readers know there is actually a specific reason for this: Mary switched the two at birth.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Aadam's colleague Ilse Lubin drowns herself in the Kashmiri lake after her husband dies.
    • Saleem's uncle Hanif jumps off a building after Homi Catrack — his sole source of income — is murdered. Saleem blames himself, as he initiated the chain of events that led to Homi's murder.
  • Eye Scream:
  • Fiery Redhead: Saleem's sister the Brass Monkey, who got her nickname because she's one of these. She is also literally fiery, in that she lights shoes on fire to get attention. Her hair darkens to brown when she turns nine, and she subsequently mellows out a bit.
  • Flight: One of the titular children has this power.
  • Film of the Book: It was made in 2012, with Rushdie himself co-writing the screenplay.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The moment the resident time-traveler says "they will end us [the midnight's children] before we begin" and nobody listens, you know you're in for a Downer Ending.
  • Foreshadowing: Exaggerated, possibly even to the point of parody. Though the narrative is mostly linear, Saleem acts like a literature student performing a deep reading of a work, and excitedly references future events whenever he notices something significant. It may even overlap with Doomed by Canon, as Saleem will sometimes spoil future events outright (particularly the deaths of certain characters). But in particular, the negation of Saleem's Telepathy after his sinus operation foreshadows that surgical operations can remove the midnight powers, which occurs when the Widow castrates all of them at the end of the story.
  • Framing Device: While the novel is presented as Saleem's written autobiography, he is also telling it to his girlfriend and eventual fiancee, Padma, and makes frequent mention of her reactions.
  • Fridge Logic: Saleem briefly muses on this as applied to his own story when he's collating everything at the very end, wondering if people will pick apart inconsistencies such as Saleem having to awaken his midnight power when none of the other children did. invoked
  • Gender Bender: One of the titular children can do this by immersing themselves in water. Unfortunately for them, this means they have to undergo two sterilizing surgeries in the end.
  • Generation Xerox: Discussed, and a major theme of the book. Saleem believes that he is doomed to inherit all of his parents' mistakes, and points to many instances in his life that echo the lives of his ancestors, metaphorically if not literally.
  • A God Am I: Though we never hear the Widow's own stance on it, the Widow's Hand claims this of her. Saleem believes this delusion to be the reason why she goes to such lengths to neutralize her political rivals and the midnight's children — she refuses to tolerate any other potential "gods" that could undermine her superiority.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Widow. Saleem never confronts her directly, but does run afoul of her subordinates.
  • Green Thumb: One of the titular children can grow thriving plants even in the middle of a desert.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Homi Catrack is shot in the groin, likely due to his killer's motive.
    • Saleem and the other midnight children are all castrated and hysterectomied by the Widow's sterilization crew. This has the side effect of removing their powers as well.
  • Healing Hands: Parvati's most prominent power, though she often combines it with medicinal poultices and the like. She can presumably perform other magic as well, but refuses to demonstrate anything other than White Magic.
  • He's Just Hiding: In-Universe example. After she turns against Pakistan's government, Saleem's sister is arrested and never seen again. However, Saleem has a dream about her escaping and hiding among a group of nuns, and desperately clings to this happier possibility. Her ultimate fate is left ambiguous.
  • Hope Spot:
    • After Ahmed's heart attack, Amina returns to care for him, and, after years of a tumultuous family life, they finally learn to love each other and become Happily Married. Amina even becomes pregnant with a third child. Then Ahmed has a stroke that reduces him to a near-vegetative state, and Amina starts losing her mind over fears that her 42-year-old body is too old to birth a healthy child. Then a bomb kills them both.
    • After the midnight's children are gathered in the Widows' Hostel, Saleem believes that they can fight back now that they're finally all together. He encourages them to endure the torture and strike back once the Widow thinks they're finished... but then that torture turns out to remove their powers. Lampshaded by Saleem, who says that in addition to vasectomies and hysterectomies, the sterilization crew performed "sperectomies" — the removal of hope.
    • After the traumatic events of the Widow's Hostel, Saleem hears the outcome of the historic 1977 election, where Indira Gandhi is defeated and loses her iron grip on the country. But when we return to the present day, Saleem dejectedly notes that she is experiencing a political second wind, and stands poised to become prime minister again. (In Real Life, this did happen in 1980- but she'd be assassinated by her bodyguards 4 years later.)
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Ahmed reacts badly to the death of his friend Doctor Narlikar. He calls it a "betrayal" on account of the fact that Ahmed couldn't actually attach his name to Narlikar's business due to religious persecution, and was thus totally dependent on Narlikar to give him the profits.
  • It's All My Fault: Due to his belief that his life is metaphorically linked to the nation's, Saleem blames himself for just about everything.
  • Karma Houdini: Double Subverted. Shiva sells out the midnight's children to the Widow, and personally captures Saleem himself. He's also implied to have murdered an awful lot of people. He does get castrated along with the other midnight's children, but otherwise gets off scot-free...until one of his mistresses returns to shoot him through the heart. Except not; less than two pages later Saleem reveals that Shiva is still at large, and he's so terrified that Shiva will find him that he made up the story for peace of mind. Greater-Scope Villain Indira Gandhi also returns to power after a Hope Spot where she loses the 1977 election. (In Real Life, she was later assassinated, but the book was published three years before that event took place.)
  • Lampshade Hanging: Saleem is very self-aware and will frequently make tongue-in-cheek jabs at his own erratic, stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Even when he doesn't, Padma usually does it for him.
  • Love Triangle: During Saleem's childhood, he develops a crush on Evelyn Lilith Burns (an American girl who moves into his gated community), but she develops a crush on his friend Sonny, who in turn is enamored with Saleem's sister the Brass Monkey. The Brass Monkey doesn't love anyone, and reacts violently to shows of affection.
    To save time, I shall place all of us in the same row at the Metro cinema; Robert Taylor is mirrored in our eyes as we sit in flickering trances — and also in symbolic sequence: Saleem Sinai is sitting-next-to-and-in-love-with Evie Burns who is sitting-next-to-and-in-love-with Sonny Ibrahim who is sitting-next-to-and-in-love-with the Brass Monkey who is sitting next to the aisle and feeling starving hungry.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • The beginning of the Wham Episode chapter "Drainage and the Desert" echoes the rambling, evasive description of the time and date of Saleem's birth at the start of the story. This is likely because Saleem considers the events to be of equal importance: while his birth gave him his power, the telegram eventually took it away.
    • The birth of Saleem's son Aadam similarly echoes the opening. This is fitting, because just as Saleem was born at the moment of India's inception, Aadam was born at the moment Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency, and thus the birth of a "new India".
    • Another Wham Episode, "How Saleem Achieved Purity", makes references to a countdown and a "ticktock", just like the chapter detailing his birth. This countdown is to a much less happy event, however.
    • The narration for Saleem's castration operation in "Midnight" echoes the sinus operation of "Drainage and the Desert", even cutting off at the exact same point. This is likely because both operations remove midnight powers.
  • Motifs: A recurring trend is that scenes will sometimes be described in film jargon, as if Saleem is scripting a movie scene.
  • Nay-Theist: Aadam becomes this after he mistakes Joseph D'Costa's ghost for God, as he blames God for the bad events in his life. He spends the rest of his life haranguing priests and ranting outside of mosques.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Midway through the book, Saleem has a nightmare of his time in the Widows' Hostel, with the Widow depicted as a grotesque, green-and-black monster who tears children in half. The narration for the scene is suitably confusing and chaotic, just like a real dream.
  • The Nose Knows: After Saleem's sinuses are cleared, he loses his Telepathy but gains a supernaturally keen sense of smell, to the point that he can even smell emotions and abstract concepts.
  • No-Sell: Shiva can block Saleem's telepathy if he so desires.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Saleem tries to invoke this when confessing his love to his sister. She doesn't go for it, and in fact punishes him by abandoning him to the army after they become orphans.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Midnight's Children Conference quickly descends into this. Saleem tries to act as a voice of reason and galvanize them toward some abstract, philosophical purpose, but he can't overcome their own prejudices and the distraction of everyday troubles; they are, after all, only children.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Naseem Aziz is known only as "Reverend Mother" after she becomes a mother.
    • Saleem's sister, the Brass Monkey (so called for being a Fiery Redhead).
    • Lila Sabarmati's son is only ever referred to as "Eyeslice", after the Eye Scream he suffers for bullying Shiva.
  • Psychic Radar: Saleem can intuitively sense the other midnight children with his Telepathy.
  • Rule of Seven: Parvati-the-witch is born seven seconds after midnight, making her one of the most powerful of the titular children.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Zafar kills his father, General Zulfikar, after returning from a border skirmish. Saleem implies it is because he discovered Zulfikar's smuggling operations, but says it's impossible to be certain; the Pakistani government denied the scandal, and Zafar may have had other motives.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: How Saleem feels about his life, and since he's a metaphor for post-Independent India, it might be how the book and author feels about India or at least the generation of that era.
  • Shout-Out: There are one thousand and one children of midnight. Saleem makes note of the parallel.
  • Slashed Throat: Zafar kills his father Zulfikar this way.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Saleem will often respond to Padma's wry criticisms in his narration. Since he reads his story to her aloud, it can sometimes result in extended banter.
  • Stealth Pun: When Ahmed becomes The Alcoholic, Saleem refers to his behavior as "warring with djinns". "Djinn" is a homophone for "gin", the kind of alcohol he would be drinking at that point; and of course, both are found in bottles.
  • Switched at Birth: Saleem and Shiva. One was born from a wealthy family (the Sinais), while the other was born from a poor family; the midwife was in love with a Communist at the time, and so she switched them to echo his principles. Saleem says he doesn't care about his true parentage, and still considers the Sinais his family. Notably, this is one of the few twists that Saleem doesn't spoil in advance or even hint at. Padma feels betrayed by it as a result.
  • Telepathy: Saleem's midnight power. He has a particularly powerful version: not only can he read surface thoughts, he can share perception; with effort, he can pry into deeper, specific memories; he can transmit and receive images and information; he can intuitively sense the other midnight's children; he can transform himself into a mental relay that allows every midnight child to communicate with each other; and his range extends across all of India.
  • Taken for Granite: Mary's mother suffers this fate after accidentally biting off a saint's toe... possibly.
  • Time Travel: One of the titular children has this power, though they don't seem to be able to actually affect events, only observe. They try to warn the other midnight children of impending doom, but they aren't believed.
  • Two Aliases, One Character:
    • Throughout the novel Saleem makes references to Indira Gandhi and her Emergency, and to the Black Widow, one of the women who seriously affected his life, but it isn't revealed until near the end that they are the same person, and 'seriously affected his life' is something of an understatement.
    • Saleem's sister the Brass Monkey's transformation into Pakistan's national darling Jamila Singer entails such a sudden and total change of personality that they are effectively different characters (highlighted, of course, by the use of different names). Subverted in that it's not kept as a surprise; in fact, we see the transformation take place.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Sonny Ibrahim remains a steadfast friend to Saleem despite the numerous indignities he receives for it, such as the bicycle accident and the Brass Monkey's torment.
    • Parvati-the-witch remains Saleem's most vocal supporter even after the Midnight's Children Conference descends into a Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering, and continues to tune in even after the conference disintegrates completely. Much later, she saves his life by smuggling him out of occupied Bangladesh.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Saleem, on occasion, although he's quite upfront about his own fallibility. There is one event (Shiva's murder) he outright admits to falsifying less than two pages later.
  • Verbal Tic: Naseem gains a tendency to pepper her sentences with "whatsitsname" after her marriage. Saleem speculates:
    I don't know how my grandmother came to adopt the term whatsitsname as her lietmotif, but as the years passed it invaded her sentences more and more often. I like to think of it as an unconscious cry for help... as a seriously-meant question. [Naseem] was giving us a hint that, for all her presence and bulk, she was adrift in the universe. She didn't know, you see, what it was called.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: One of the titular children has this power. The villagers are so terrified of her that they banish her to the jungle.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Commander Sabarmati's Baton". Saleem sets off a chain of events that results in all his neighbors either dying or moving out.
      Nussie-the-duck said, as she left, 'I told you so, Amina sister—the end! The end of the world!' This time she was right and wrong; after August 1958, the world continued to spin; but the world of my childhood had, indeed, come to an end.
    • "Drainage and the Desert", positioned near the end of book two. The Midnight's Children Conference falls apart completely, Saleem loses his power of Telepathy, and the family departs for Pakistan once more.
    • "How Saleem Achieved Purity", the finale of book two. Saleem's entire family (excluding his sister and one faraway uncle) is killed in a single night.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • Gender-flipped with Commander Sabarmati. When he learns his wife is cheating on him with Homi Catrack, he tries to kill them both. His wife survives, but her lover does not.
    • Saleem's father Ahmed was initially engaged to his aunt Alia. He ended up marrying her sister instead, and Saleem claims that Alia was consumed by bitterness as a result. When they move to Pakistan, she gets her revenge by infusing their food with her jealousy and bitterness, causing the cheerful family to rot from within. Interestingly, however, Saleem's only evidence for this is his supernatural ability to smell emotions, raising the possibility that Unreliable Narrator is in effect.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Saleem is dying of a mysterious illness, which is what pushes him to write his autobiography with such fervor. He is certain that he will die on the coming Independence Day. He writes what he thinks his death will be like in the final scene, but we never see it ourselves.