The arrival of the other midnight’s children, long-awaited and foreshadowed, is a seminal moment in the novel. The children are full of symbolic meaning, from their number, originally 1,001, to their very existence. As Saleem notes, they mark a break from the past—and perhaps an attempt on the part of history to bring something new into the future. Their powers range from the fantastic to the grotesque and unfortunate. To be one of midnight’s children is not necessarily a blessing, and it can sometimes be a tragedy. Like the ambiguity of the snakes and ladders, the midnight’s children are also an ambiguous group—fortunate and scarred, poor and rich. As such, they are a perfect reflection of India itself. In their sheer numbers and range of powers, they are an argument on behalf of plurality. They are the children of the country, and they represent its range and scope.
Saleem notes that 1,001 is a magical number. Scheherazade, the heroine of The Arabian Nights, tells 1,001 stories in order to delay her execution. Scheherazade is the archetypal storyteller, and she provides a fitting model for Saleem’s own narrative project. The number is also a palindrome, which means it can be read both backward and forward. In this way, the number 1,001 represents the reversal of Saleem and Shiva’s fortunes.