“Abracadabra” proves a fitting title for the novel’s final chapter, since the chapter is as much about the continued presence of magic as anything else. As Aadam Sinai’s first word, it suggests that, despite everything that has happened—the wars, the tragic deaths, and the chaotic political turmoil—the next generation of midnight’s children retain the magic of potential, and the ability to change the world. In Aadam’s mouth, it becomes a word of defiance, accumulated over the months of silent listening that marked the first three years of his life. A sense of cautious hope pervades the last chapter. Saleem is set to marry Padma, and in her strong body, he sees a flicker of hope that his own, cracked body might somehow be preserved. Perhaps, armed with Padma and with love, he won’t disintegrate and be consumed after all.

Despite all the changes and exiles he has undergone, Saleem ends up almost exactly where he began: at a house on Methwold’s Estate, his son in the care of Mary Pereira, just as he was once in her care himself. Saleem has succeeded in telling his story, thereby preserving it for his son, just as fruit gets preserved for chutney. That initial optimism is tempered, however, by Saleem’s final prophecy, which spills out in a stream of consciousness. Imagining his future, Saleem sees himself falling apart on his birthday and crumbling into millions of specks of dust, just as his grandfather Aadam crumbled into dust in his time. Saleem’s birthday is, of course, the anniversary of his nation’s independence. Crumbling into dust becomes a symbolic act of both exhaustion and unity. Having given everything he has within him—not only through his life, but through the telling of his story as well—Saleem can surrender himself, dissolving into a metaphor for his nation, as he crumbles into as many pieces of dust as there are people in India.