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I'm almost finished with chapter 17 (out of 22) of Midnight's Children. The book just gets weirder and weirder. And I've been confused this past chapter or so, because it's 1971, and there seems to be war between India, Pakistan, and a newborn Bangladesh. Wikipedia tells me that this was the "Indo-Pakistani War," so I guess it was really between India and Pakistan ... but part of Pakistan broke off and became Bangladesh. And the amnesiac narrator (his amnesia brought on by his getting hit on the head by a flying spittoon which was part of his mother's dowry) spent several months of the war living in "the jungle of dreams," where he was bitten by a transparent snake, which caused him to regain his memory.

I can't remember the last book I read that had me running to Wikipedia so often. I didn't even know that Bangladesh used to be part of Pakistan!

We took Lucy to the vet today for her annual check-up, and she only weighs 7.5 lbs! She's just a tiny cat. But apparently perfectly healthy. She wasn't very happy about being carried in the cat carrier, though.

I was surprised that it wasn't raining this morning, but very pleased that I could get out and about comfortably. I didn't even have to wear a sweater.

I'm thinking maybe Mediterranean food for my birthday. Yum.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
Lis just found a book called "Snakes and Ladders" which is a series of essays by an Indian journalist, who was born before India's independence. Because of this book, we just found out about Bangladesh, too.

See, originally, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan were all part of "India", as defined by the British Empire. Really, "India" was a whole bunch of different kingdoms, who spoke a whole bunch of different languages, who had a whole bunch of different cultures. But a good chunk of "India" was Hindu (notice, by the way -- listen to the words "India" and "Hindi" and "Hindu." Same word. "India" is the area where "Hindi" people practice the religion "Hindu".) So the British called the whole thing "India." They controlled . . . PARTS of it. And influenced other parts.

Of course, a good chunk of "India" WASN'T Hindu. It was Muslim. For the most part, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Buddhists, and Christians did okay side by side. But not always. And, when Great Britain left, it made sense to split it into the mostly-Muslim area, which they called "Pakistan", and the mostly-Hindu area, which they called "India".

Of course, after they did this, there was a lot of cross-border migration as lots of Hindus who lived in Pakistan decided they'd rather live in the officially-Hindu country, and lots of Muslims who lived in India decided the opposite.

Pakistan, however, was in two non-contiguous chunks -- "East Pakistan" and "West Pakistan". And East Pakistan wasn't actually as Muslim as West Pakistan was.

And eventually, there was a civil war. And India supplied arms to East Pakistan, which split off and became Bangladesh. Which is one of the reasons Pakistan doesn't like India so much.

And I didn't know ANY of this before a week ago. And you'd think that this is kinda pretty important to understanding anything about how the modern world works. And I was completely 100% ignorant of it.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
Wow. What I am most struck by in what you wrote is that the book is called "Snakes and Ladders." Snakes and Ladders (the children's game) has played a large role in "Midnight's Children," as the narrator often describes a high point (coming to the top of a ladder) being immediately followed or accompanied by a downturn (snake). Also, there are snakes in the book, both literal and metaphorical.

And your explanation about the creation of Pakistan, and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh, is much clearer than Salman Rushdie's. But, then, I think Rushdie was assuming his readers would already know the facts and would be reading his book to see how he presented them, rather than to try to understand history.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
One thing I picked up from my learning about the history of board games is that Snakes and Ladders was originally designed as a game for children to reinforce the idea of karma within reincarnation. The final space was supposed to represent Nirvana, and each ladder started with a picture of some sort of good action that would help your karma, and each snake, with a picture of a bad action that would hurt your karma. And the bottom of each snake would be a lower form of animal or something.

A similar lesson, of course, can show up in versions for Christians, Jews, or other religions (I've got a "Torah Chutes and Ladders" game downstairs), but it's more obviously relevant for religions with a concept of karma.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Hmm. The narrator of Midnight's Children (and Rushdie himself) is Muslim, but I suppose they both would have been exposed to karmic ideas in India.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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