Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

This tattered book once lay on my parent's bookshelf, respectably clothed and almost new. The year was 1995. I was in Class Eight. The bookworm of the family. Who will try to read anything. Anything.

All the erotic fiction in the house mysteriously vanished when my mother caught me with a Mills and Boon in Class Six. Midnight's Children was obviously fair game for my marauding reading eye.

I struggled through two chapters. Nothing made any sense. I struggled through two more. My grandmother had to get her eye check up and I carried the book with me. I wanted to appear important and intelligent in the waiting room. I struggled through one more paragraph in the waiting room. "You are reading such big books!" said the nurse in the waiting room, with approval. The purpose of the book had been served. It had impressed someone. I put it away.

I picked it up again when I was doing my bachelors' in English literature. I couldn't put it down. My understanding of Indian history is haunted by this book. My understanding of self and wanderlust and humanity is shaped by a passage from this book - I copied it down carefully in my little book of quotes. "We name distant stars like they are our pets....and this is the species that kids itself that it likes to stay home!" or something to that effect, Rushdie says.

Rushdie was my first encounter with magical realism. Even the later encounter with Garcia Marquez did not dull the exquisite wonder of Midnight's Children.

In another city now, I still carry the book with me. I've re-read it only once since. My parents don't miss it. It has left an indelible impression on me. Tattered, falling apart, I lug it around with me - to the places I studied in, to the city I work in. If I had to give it away, I would give it to my favourite second-hand bookseller on Mount Road in Chennai. Maybe it will impress someone else, somewhere in this city I call home. "Imagine," they will say, "a book once cost only Rs. 30." I hope they will be impressed by its magical content too.

An entry for the 'My oldest book and its memories' contest

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1 comment:

Baski.. said...

nice intro... how r u??

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