Summary of "Under the Carpet"
After Mian Abdullah is assassinated, the optimism disease has ended. Things go back to normal for the Aziz family, with the exception of political refugee Nadir Khan hiding in the basement of the family’s home. This upsets Naseem, who now fully goes by Reverend Mother. She vows a silent treatment to protest Nadir living in their home and possibly corrupting their daughters’ purity. Regardless of her fears, Nadir and the middle daughter Mumtaz fall in love even though they never speak a word. Nadir asks for Mumtaz’s hand, prompting Mumtaz to have a secret marriage in order to protect Nadir from the government.
Two years later, Mumtaz becomes extremely ill. Aadam performs a physical on her when he notices that, even though she is married, Mumtaz is still a virgin. This scandal is too much for Reverend Mother, and she unleashes a fury of words on Aadam for letting their daughter marry Nadir. Emerald, the youngest daughter, runs out of the house and grabs her beau, Major Zulfikar of the Pakistani army. When the two return, Nadir has fled and left a note for Mumtaz that reads, “I divorce you.” Coincidentally, this event occurs on the same day the United States drops the atomic bomb on Japan.
Later, at Emerald and Major Zulfikar’s wedding, Mumtaz begins talking with a man named Ahmed Sinai. He had previously been courting the eldest daughter Alia. The two are attracted to each other, and they marry. For their new life, Ahmed decides that his new wife should take the name Amina.
Summary of "A Public Announcement"
While both were initially interested in the other, Amina finds it difficult to love Ahmed when she is still in love with Nadir. She tries to focus on one aspect of her new husband and fall in love with it in the hopes that, over time, she can love all of him. Yet, month-by-month, their house begins to look like a dark basement, and Ahmed takes on the appearance of the pudgy and balding Nadir Khan.
One day, Ahmed receives a visit from two business partners. Apparently, an anti-Muslim organization named Ravana is trying to destroy Muslim businesses if they don’t pay a one-time lump sum of protection money. The three men leave to see the damage while Amina stays at home. Outside her door, a man named Lifafa is showing off his peepshow box that contains postcards from around the world. One snobbish girl accuses Lifafa of being a rapist and a Muslim, and a mob descends on the innocent man. Amina pulls the man in and announces that anyone who tries to harm Lifafa will have to go through her, a newly pregnant woman. Lifafa is grateful for her assistance. He tells her to come see his cousin who is a prophet and a seer to look into her child’s future.
Summary of "Many-headed Monsters"
Days later, while Ahmed and his friends are trying to unsuccessfully pay of Ravana, Amina takes a trip through the slums to see RamRam Seth, the seer. He touches her pregnant belly and falls into a trance. He begins by saying that her son will be the same age as his motherland and that two heads, knees, and a nose will accompany him into the world. After a full prophecy, he falls to the floor just as Ravana burns the men’s’ warehouses to the ground. Ahmed is in financial ruins, so he decides to move to Bombay because land is cheaper. As Amina and Ahmed board the train, it is announced that the nation of India will be separated into two different countries.
Throughout these chapters, present-day Saleem complains that nobody takes his ailments seriously, as a doctor dismissed his claims that his skin was cracking. Padma takes the same stance as the doctor and insists that Saleem continue with his story and hold back his complaints. Saleem can’t help but wonder, though, whether or not his mother’s intentions were pure in her adventure to see Ramram. He begins to fall into a tangent about time and whether or not it is a perfect measure of accuracy and truth.
Neither Nadir nor Mumtaz ever speak to each other, but they feel a strong connection to one another. They don’t consummate their marriage either, though this doesn’t deter their affections from one another. Yet it is through Mumtaz that her parents’ relationship plays out again. In her marriage to Ahmed, she forces herself to fall in love piece by piece, to make herself love him a little more every day. Yet, as Aadam and Reverend Mother prove, falling in love one piece at a time makes it nearly impossible for a lasting, worthwhile relationship to blossom.
Ahmed’s decision to rename his wife shows how many men believe they are able to reinvent a woman’s identity. By calling her by a new name, he wants Amina to rebuke her former life with Nadir and be completely his, like he is claiming her for himself. It is this sense of ownership that does not mesh with the idea of independence. As the country of India is headed toward freedom from the British, Amina must take the name and identity that Ahmed makes for her.
However, one of the themes of Midnight’s Children is the mutability of borders and boundaries. Ahmed has a strong idea of what he wants his wife to be. However, through Amina’s patient nurturing, Ahmed is taking on the physical and personal characteristics of Nadir. He is slowly losing himself, and Amina is able to grow in her identity as a mother instead of the identity Ahmed wants her to take.
Ahmed’s fear of Ravana isn’t altogether unfounded. In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravana is the multi-headed vengeful antagonist. He is dangerous, ruthless, and powerful. These men would know the folklore behind Ravana and how dangerous he is. This inclusion of Ravana helps to create a stronger bond between the story and India. It infuses the story with the local culture and helps to create a tale that is all about India. Salman Rushdie wanted a novel that was for India from an Indian’s point of view. Using Ravana allows Rushdie to bring in an influence that is innate to Indian culture.
What makes this book interesting, though, is that it also positions India against the rest of the world. The character of Lifafa presents almost a glimpse of the outside world onto India, a world that is completely different than the Hindu and Muslim country can imagine. With his peepshow box, he is trying to spread this holistic view of the Earth to everyone so they might see the world in a more global way. When the girl calls him a Muslim and a rapist, though, represents how narrow-minded some people are when they are presented with worldviews other than their own.
Even using the Muslim religion as a slur shows how divided and cracked India already is between the Muslims and the Hindus. These are the same metaphorical cracks that appear on Saleem’s body. After all, he is the embedment of India. Because the country is so divided on religion, it makes sense that the fault lines on his skin come from the gaps in understanding and tolerance.
At the same time, Rushdie makes an inverted correlation between Ravana and the poor in the slums. Amina is weaving in and out of the poor people; she has an image that poor people are a many-headed monster, which is where imagery of Ravana comes in. At first, Amina compares the group of poor to Ravana the god, a great and terrible beast. But in doing so, she forgets their humanity. They aren’t crippled by their limited amount of wealth, and they certainly aren’t “decayed” like she initially thinks of them (89).
As for Saleem, his prophesy sounds strange to Anima. She believes that her son will be born with two heads and warped knees, and she can’t imagine what the other parts of the prophesy mean. But it was at that time that the countdown to India’s independence began, thus solidifying Saleem’s belief that his entire existence was fated.