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Additional info for Salman Rushdie and Indian Historiography: Writing the Nation into Being
MC 195) By 1957, only 581 children had survived and their talents do not seem particularly promising in modern, scientific India. It is a miraculousness of an almost ordinary nature, which does not mean that their gifts are not potentially radical or subversive. But to consider them the essence of a traditional India would be misleading, even though the text toys with the idea. Saleem explicitly points out the ordinariness of their kind of magic in India: ‘But no literate person in this India of ours can be wholly immune from the type of information I am in the process of unveiling – no reader of our national press can have failed to come across a series of – admittedly lesser – magic children and assorted freaks’ (MC 197).
What could I have done except stay? You know the state the country was in. What would have happened if there had been nobody to lead it? I was the only person who could, you know. It was my duty to the country to stay, though I didn’t want to. (Moraes 1980: 220) Saleem’s belief that he is India’s Siamese twin is outstripped by the Congress slogan ‘Indira is India; India is Indira’, in which the nation and its leader are actually equated. This frequently quoted slogan was coined by the Congress President Dev Kant Barooah during the Emergency and Indira Gandhi’s biographers claim that she eventually came to believe this phrase (Gupte 1992: 436).
India, the new myth – a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by the two other mighty fantasies: money and God. (MC 112) This is Midnight’s Children’s equivalent of Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, which is later extensively quoted, and with which the novel’s version shares uplifting pathos to a remarkable degree. The text emphasises the masses, who are supposed to be the nation in this ‘mass fantasy’ and ‘collective fiction’. In Midnight’s Children, the mythical and legendary are represented as the domain of the subaltern, for example, Tai’s and the paan-chewers’ mythic history.