Study Guide

Midnight's Children Chapter 10

By Salman Rushdie

Chapter 10

Snakes and Ladders

  • After the freeze there are bad omens—comets, bleeding flowers, visions of Krishna. Things are not going so well for the country or for the Sinais.
  • The Sinais have no money, so they rent a room to Dr. Schaapsteker, an old man who is obsessed with finding some kind of miracle cure from snake venom.
  • He keeps buying horses to use as test subjects, and they keep dying. Yeah, he's totally weird, but they need the money something fierce.
  • Amina writes to her parents (Remember them? Aadam Aziz and the Reverend Mother?) about the freeze and they run right over.
  • They were pretty young the last time we saw them, but now it's like a time warp and they are old grandparents. Dr. Aziz immediately asks to examine his patient, and the Reverend Mother takes over the kitchen.
  • Hidden in the Reverend Mother's food and Mary Pereira's pickles are their personalities, so while Amina is eating them she's absorbing their determination.
  • That's how one day she makes a plan. She will go to the horse races and win enough money to take care of her family while her husband is enduring the freeze.
  • And it works! Against all odds she wins. All the time. Like a champ.
  • But she hates it. Determination isn't the only thing that Amina got from her mom. She also got her ideas of what it means to be a good Kashmiri girl. Hint: it doesn't involve gambling.
  • Now Saleem would like to tell us about his favorite board game: Snakes and Ladders. For every ladder you go up, there's a snake waiting to bring you down. Or is it really that simple? We have a feeling someone's going to get bitten by a snake pretty soon.
  • Time for uncle Hanif. He's a director in Bombay, married to a beautiful actress named Pia. Amina and Ahmed (who seems to have gotten over the freeze) are going to see his first movie.
  • We don't know if they had X ratings back then, but there's some pretty hot stuff going on. Maybe not hot by our standards, but this is before romantic leads could even touch one another.
  • But when things are just starting to get good, they are interrupted. The Mahatma Gandhi is dead. The family rushes out of the theater, hoping that the assassin isn't a Muslim. He's not, so they breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Back to the business of the freeze. Days in court, gambling on the racetrack, and Musa and Mary fighting. Musa is jealous of Mary because he used to be the top servant and now she is. It doesn't help that she acts snooty all the time.
  • Finally the flight explodes. Musa burgles the house and gets kicked out. He puts a curse of leprosy on himself by lying about it, and curses the house as he leaves. Curses!
  • Amina can't go to the racetrack anymore because she's too pregnant, but the court case is still being fought. Mary notices a strange figure in the clock tower near their home, and police come to shoot the suspect.
  • Guess who it was? Joseph D'Costa, Mary's ex-boyfriend.
  • All this drama is too much for baby Saleem, and he comes down with typhoid fever. It's almost certain that he's going to die. Until… Dr. Schaapsteker comes with the venom of a King cobra. It will either kill Saleem, or cure him. It cures him.
  • Meanwhile, the court case has been won and Saleem learns how to stand. So much is going on and no one seems to notice that Brass Monkey, Saleem's sister, has been born.