Since Saleem’s personal identity is inextricably entwined with that of India, Saleem’s disappointments may be seen as a reflection of the newly forming country’s own problems. Saleem wistfully describes the timeless Kolynos Kid, trapped forever in his billboard but free from the ravages of time and age. Saleem longs for his lost childhood in the same way that India is currently overcome by a sense of nostalgia, looking back longingly at its ancient past as it lurches inexorably into the future. With every uncomfortable step forward, something else must be discarded, a sentiment dramatically captured by Saleem’s lost finger. Saleem’s awkward, inadvertent sexual experience with his aunt represents a loss of a different kind of innocence. As uncomfortable as the moment is, it marks a turning point for Saleem. Immediately afterward, Mary shows up with new long trousers. As Saleem trades his short pants for long ones, he takes a distinct step into adulthood. The world as Saleem knows it is over, a point the Brass Monkey drives home when she steps on his globe, shattering it.
Like Saleem and the nation of India, the children of the conference and the families of the estate are also beginning to shed their innocence. The midnight’s children begin to take after their parents, developing prejudices and biases. Divisions begin to break them up, andSaleem and Shiva’s highly philosophical debate demonstrates the turmoil within the conference, which reflects the political turmoil facing India at the time. Saleem’s speeches align him with the Communist Party, while Shiva seems to espouse the benefits of a system based on individual-focused, free-market capitalism.
India’s difficulties in moving forward are also symbolized in Commander Sabarmarti’s trial. The debate surrounding the commander’s innocence pits traditional and progressive values against one another. That a judge finds Sabarmati guilty represents a victory for liberal progress, yet the favored treatment he receives, along with the fact that Lila is forced to abdicate custody of their children, seems to temper that victory.