Summary: At the Pioneer Café
Saleem describes a fever-induced dream in which someone he calls “the Widow” reaches out and destroys the children by ripping them all in two. Someone brings Saleem’s son to the pickle factory, although the boy will not say whom. Saleem says that he is telling this story for his son and that memory has its own special truth. He compares himself and his story to figures and stories from various world religions.
Saleem returns to the year he turned ten. Purshottam, the sadhu, has died from a fit of suicidal hiccups. Saleem restricts his communication with the other midnight’s children to a single hour a day, between the times of midnight and 1 a.m. One day, as his mother goes on a shopping trip, he hides himself in the car and uses his telepathy to follow, through his mother’s mind, the route they are taking. He watches as his mother enters a dirty restaurant called the Pioneer Café. In the morning, film studios pick up extras at the Pioneer Café, but in the afternoon it becomes the hangout of the Communist Party. Saleem watches as his mother sits across from Nadir Khan, now named Qasim Khan, and the two of them exchange meaningful looks and gestures.
Saleem describes how he brought the midnight’s children together, breaking through the barriers of language and eventually transmitting an image of himself into their brains. They each have a horrible sense of self-image. He introduces himself to Shiva, who recognizes him as the rich kid from the estate his father used to work on. Shiva suggests that the two of them should be the leaders of the gang. Shiva scorns and mocks Saleem’s attempts to create a meaningful purpose for the conference. Shiva, Saleem notes, is the god of destruction and the Hindu pantheon’s most potent deity. He tells how Shiva’s father tried to mutilate him in order to make him a better beggar and how, at the last moment, Shiva saved himself by gripping his father with his powerful knees.
Saleem describes the events of the 1957 election. The Communist Party makes a powerful showing, although the Communist candidate Qasim Khan lost his race, due, in part, to Shiva and his intimidating gang of thugs. Suddenly, however, Saleem realizes that he’s gotten the dates wrong and that the election of 1957 occurred before his tenth birthday.
Summary: Alpha and Omega
Saleem says he will describe the fall of Evie Burns, but, before doing so, he offers a list of alternative titles for the chapter, as well as a description of the events of that winter. Bombay is on the brink of partition. A severe drought occurs, and vandals sabotage the city’s water reserves. Several whores are found murdered, bearing strange bruises that look as if made by a pair of giant, powerful knees. As a result of the water shortage, stray cats in search of water overrun Methwold’s Estate. Evie promises, in exchange for payment, to rid the estate of the cats. Armed with her Daisy air-gun, Evie ends the plague of cats by shooting them. The Brass Monkey, who was rumored to have been able to speak to animals as a child, is outraged. She calls Evie outside, then pounces on her. The two have a terrible fight, and, a few weeks later, Evie’s father sends her away for good. Months later, Evie writes Saleem a letter confessing to have once stabbed an old woman who complained about her assault on the cats. Saleem suggests that perhaps his sister acted out love for him.
Saleem says that he never liked Shiva but nonetheless could not keep him out of the Midnight’s Children’s Conference. Saleem’s mental powers grow stronger, and he is eventually able to turn his mind into an open forum in which all the children can speak to each other. Saleem notes that the conference ignored the warnings of Soumitra, the time-traveler among them, who insisted, “all this is pointless—they’ll finish us before we start!”