Multicultural and transcultural issues
Salman Rushdie was born on June 19, 1947, to an affluent family in Bombay, India. Rushdie’s birth coincided with a particularly important moment in Indian history: after nearly one hundred years of colonial rule, the British occupation of the South Asian subcontinent was coming to an end. Almost exactly three months after Rushdie’s birth, Pakistan and India achieved their long-awaited independence when, at the stroke of midnight on August 14 and 15, respectively, power was transferred from Great Britain to the sovereign governments of each country. The period that immediately followed independence proved tumultuous. Political and social tensions between Hindus and Muslims caused not only the division of India into two separate countries—a calamitous event referred to as Partition—but also wide-scale riots that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The violence that accompanied independence was a prelude to the multiple wars, coups, and governmental abuses that plagued the area in the years that followed.
The political upheaval and constant threat of violence that marked the first three decades of independence forms the backdrop forMidnight’s Children, Rushdie’s most celebrated novel. Like Rushdie himself, Saleem, the narrator of Midnight’s Children, is born on the eve of independence, and the events of his life closely parallel events in the development of both India and Pakistan. Most of Rushdie’s novels concern themselves, to some extent, with the character and history of these two major South Asian nations and describe the various, often violent struggles between different religions, classes, languages, and geographical regions. In the thirty years following independence, India and Pakistan fought three separate wars: two over Kashmir, and one over the creation of an independent Bangladesh. The wars produced millions of refugees,...