Padma interrupts the story to call Saleem a liar. He responds by saying that even after his parents discovered what Mary Pereira had done, they could not go back and erase the past, so he remained their son. Saleem mentions a letter the prime minister sent when he was born, which he buried in a cactus garden along with a newspaper article titled “Midnight’s Child.” He tells us that the newspapermen who came to take pictures of him gave his mother a pathetic sum of one hundred rupees.
The small-scale property transfer at Methwold’s Estate clearly corresponds to the larger political situation, as Great Britain prepares itself to transfer sovereign power over India to the independent governments of India and Pakistan. Neither transfer is complete or uncomplicated. Just as independent India must now deal with the cultural legacy of British colonialism, which remains active long after the British vacate the country, so too will the inhabitants of Methwold’s Estate have to live with physical reminders of the estate’s former owner. The British continue to exert a powerful influence over independent India, as symbolized by the unconscious ways the Methwold residents begin conforming to Methwold’s customs. Methwold’s nostalgia for his estate, in turn, echoes the wide-scale nostalgia felt by the British upon leaving the former crown of their colonial empire.
As the moment of Saleem’s birth approaches—ostensibly the most significant event of the novel thus far—the narrative seems to swell to the point of breaking. Saleem wants to take into account everything he can, because everything, he believes, has been working in tandem to arrive at this exact moment. In order to understand the significance of his birth, Saleem reminds the reader of everything that came before it and all the family history that went into making Saleem who he is. However, after accumulating all this momentum, it becomes clear that the history is actually someone else’s history—it belongs to Shiva, the boy with whom Saleem gets switched at birth. Thus the narrator isn’t actually related at all to the people whose stories he has been detailing so meticulously. Significantly, in this same chapter, Aadam discovers that the sacred perforated sheet has been gnawed full of moth holes. As one of the central symbols of Saleem’s story, the partial damage of the perforated sheet seems to bode poorly for the truthfulness of the narrative as a whole.
However, Saleem remains the narrator of this tale, and the story still fundamentally belongs to him. That Saleem has told this family’s history as if it were his own highlights one of the narrative’s central themes: that truth is created and shaped, not fixed and static. Regardless of whether he is Ahmed and Amina’s biological son, they raise him up in their family, and he enjoys all the privileges and problems that birthright entails. Saleem can rightfully claim the history he has told as his own, because he believes it to be so. The truth of the situation, therefore, seems relative.
At the same time, the fact that William Methwold, an Englishman, is revealed to be Saleem’s biological father proves appropriate, given that Saleem sees himself as the perfect embodiment of modern India. The legacy of British colonialism has undoubtedly shaped the newly independent India, just as William Methwold has undeniably shaped Saleem. It is also important to note that by switching the nametags, Mary Pereira makes a distinct political decision. Alhough her primary motivation remains a romantic one, Mary nonetheless attempts to redress the vast social divide that separates rich from poor. The child of a poor woman who dies in labor and an English father who has returned to England, Saleem turns out to be an extraordinarily apt representative of the new Indian nation.