Study Guide

Midnight's Children Chapter 11

By Salman Rushdie

Chapter 11

Accident in a Washing-chest

  • Padma is gone and Saleem misses her, but the show must go on.
  • Brass Monkey has the habit of setting shoes on fire. Since no one paid attention to her when she was born, this is how she gets attention.
  • Brass Monkey is a bad kid. She's always getting into trouble, breaking things, and acting almost like an animal. She is able to talk to cats and birds, and what she hates most is when anyone tells her that they love her.
  • Her big brother is an entirely different kettle of fish. He's the goodie two shoes. Everyone expects him to be great, but all this does is make him anxious.
  • So he starts to hide in the family laundry basket. Yeah, we know that's nasty. But Saleem's big nose is so clogged up with snot that he can't smell anything. Plus, no one looks for him there. It's his own secret sanctuary where he can forget about all the expectations everyone has for him.
  • He's not the only one feeling guilty, though. Amina has started to get old, and she can barely walk because of the corns on her feet.
  • She feels guilty for going to the racetrack, for Ahmed Sinai's alcoholism, for Brass Monkey's bad manners, Saleem's nose, and one other thing. Can you guess?
  • Soon someone keeps calling the house, and Amina keeps picking up, waiting a long time, and saying it's the wrong number. Eventually the kids get curious and they answer the phone themselves so they can find out who it is. All they can figure out is that this guy really wants a truck.
  • One day Saleem is sitting in the laundry bin when the phone rings. After hanging up the phone, the worst thing happens.
  • Amina goes into the bathroom where Saleem is hiding. No, that's not that bad part. Things are about to get much, much worse.
  • In the worst moment ever, Saleem sees his mom masturbating, talking about a man who is not his father (but is Nadir Khan), and sees her butt as she is about to pee.
  • Can it get worse? Of course it can! Then Saleem sneezes.
  • We'll leave it up to you to imagine his punishment.
  • The thing is, all that trying not to sneeze unlocked something in Saleem. He was hearing stuff. Voices.
  • Finally he's got it! This is what will make him great! Saleem decides to tell his family that voices—specifically archangels—are talking to him. It goes about as well as you're probably imagining. Amid all the screaming and the anger, Saleem ends up slapped on the side of the head so hard that he loses hearing in that ear and falls into a glass table.
  • Saleem never tries to tell his family about the voices ever again. (Good thinking, kid.)