Rushdie's Midnight Children changed the literary tone in India. A look at this intriguing and influential writer.
Easily in the top level of best-known writers globally, Salman Rushdie is amongst the cream of India's literary imports. Controversial, insightful, colourful, blasphemous - the adjectives describing the author indeed have acquired a wide range - depending on what ground one is viewing him from. Today Salman Rushdie has however travelled far beyond the confines of his motherland and is today famous in different parts of the world for varying reasons.
Almost literally a 'midnight's child', he was born in Mumbai less than two months before India's independence in 1947. After studying in Mumbai and Rugby, he moved to Karachi as his parents had migrated there. He briefly worked in Pakistan Television before returning to Britain.
It was while working as copywriter that his first novel, Grimus was published in 1975. But it his second novel, Midnight's Children that took him superstardom. Not just the winner of the Booker Prize and a dozen other literary prizes, it heralded the arrival of new voice. A voice that skillfully combined realism with fantasy, was sharp and witty yet concerned about the marginalised, capable of interweaving issues while narrating tales of immense complexity with great literary dexterity.
The concerns in his writings have ranged from migrant experiences to freedom of expression, religion and its relationship to popular culture and modern society, the role of the artist in society, the differences in cultures. More significantly, as novelist Anita Desai put it, the novel changed 'the social realist tradition of fiction by writers such as Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, or herself'.