Plot outline for Chapter IX

A year and a half later, Saladin flies home to be with his dying father. He has heard that Gibreel is now making films based on the “dreams” which have alternated with the present-day plot throughout the novel. On the plane he reads of various scandals and disasters taking place in India: clearly it is no utopia. Whereas Saladin resents the former maidservant who has married his father and taken on his mother’s identity, his lover/friend Zeeny Vakil immediately sympathizes with her. After years of hostility to his father, Saladin finds no support in those surrounding him for his attitude. As he sits by his father’s bedside the two are finally reconciled. Saladin has inherited his father’s estate and is now rich. Meanwhile a dispute over a film on Indian sectarianism has become the center of a censorship controversy in a way that ominously forshadows the treatment which Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was to receive upon publication.

Gibreel has also returned to Bombay, depressed and suicidal. The movie he tries to make is a “satanic” inversion of the traditional tale from the Ramayana, reflecting his disillusionment with love after having been rejected by Allie. Ultimately he goes entirely mad, kills Sisodia and Allie (hurling the latter symbolically from the same skyscraper from which Rekha Merchant had flung herself). Visiting Saladin, he confesses, then draws a revolver from the “magic” lamp Saladin had inherited from his father, and shoots himself. Zeeny Vakil’s final words to Saladin, “Let’s get the hell out of here,” may be ambiguous: they could mean only “Let’s leave,” but she may also be inviting him to leave the the realm of the Satanic in which he has been living for so long.

Notes for Chapter IX

Page 509


A Wonderful Lamp
Alludes to the Arabian Nights tale, “ Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.”

Page 511


General practitioner (doctor).


Khalistan zealot
Sikh separatist, many of whom have been involved in terrorist acts, including the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Page 513


See note above on p. 68 [69].

Page 514


The ancestral home of Rushdie’s family is in Solan, called the “Anees Villa Estate.” When the Rushdies moved to Pakistan, it was declared “evacuee property” and seized by the state and converted into the office of the district education officer, then made a magistrate’s residence. After a lengthy legal battle, the family regained title to the house. See J. N. Sadhu, pp. 20-23. (Joel Kuortti)

Page 516


islands in the stream
The title of a novel by Ernest Hemingway.

Page 517


Shiva lingam
The lingam, or phallic stone associated with Shiva, is one of the most commonly venerated objects in Hinduism (Sanskrit).


bride suicide
Murder reported as suicide; see above, p. 250 [258].

Gaffer Hexam
See above, p. 422 [436].

Page 518

armaments scandal
Refers to the Bofors scandal in which leading Indian politicians (including Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) were accused of receiving bribes from Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors.

massacre of Muslims
In late May of 1987 a number of Muslims were massacred at Meerut, purportedly by police forces. (David Windsor)

once-popular Chief Minister
Farooq Abdullah. There was a riot against him in Kashmir in 1987 during the Eid celebrations (which took place on May 29).

Page 519


Indian English for people with a criminal record.

Juma Masjid in Old Delhi
The largest mosque in India, built in the 17th century, more often spelled “Jami Masjid.” The walled city of Old Delhi is a Muslim stronghold, as opposed to Hindu-dominated New Delhi.

General strike used as a political protest (Hindi).

member of the mile high . . . club
According to modern legend, anyone who has successfully performed intercourse in an airplane in flight.

Page 520


sugar . . . brown
“Brown sugar” is heroin, but these can also be read as racist slogans (see above, p. 261 [269]). The phrase was popularized in a song by that title by the Rolling Stones on their album “Sticky Fingers.” “Brown sugar” can also refer to sex with women of color.

Why do you think Rushdie has chosen to tell the story of Saladin’s father’s death in this final chapter? How does it relate to the rest of the novel? What functions does it serve at the end of the book?

Page 523


perhaps in the parallel universes of quantum theory
Some scientists have speculated that at each and every moment in which one thing rather than another might have happened, both do in fact happen, reality forking at that point into separate universes. Many “parallel” universes would then coexist simultaneously differing more or less from each other. The idea has been a commonplace in science fiction stories for decades.

Page 525


this pharmaceutical Tamburlane
London theater critic Kenneth Tyanan concluded his 1960 review of an Oxford University Dramatic Society production of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (directed by John Duncan) with this whimsical parody, which he introduced as follows: “The supporting cast, studded as it is with constantly repeated names like Usumcasane, Theridamas, Mycetes, Celebinus and Callipine, got blurred in my mind, rather as if they were a horde of pills and wonder drugs bent on decimating one another” (Tynan 26).

Page 526

[540] Eek, bhaak, thoo
Noises indicating something distasteful being spit out, also used as an expression of disgust (Hindi).

Father (Urdu).

The Devil damn thee black, thou cream-fac’d loon
A casually racist rebuke uttered by the besieged Macbeth to his servant in Act V, scene 3, line 11.

Page 527

Page 528


Finnegan’s wake
James Joyce’s novel, Finnegan’s Wake, is based on a popular Irish ballad about a man who loved to drink so much he refused to stay inert at his own wake.


achkan jackets
Long formal jacket associated with turn-of-the-century Muslim nobility, now rapidly disappearing (Urdu, Hindi).

Assorted hard candies.

Page 529


the lamp
See above, p. 509 [523].

Page 530


The language most commonly spoken by Muslim Indians.

the world, somebody wrote, is the place we prove real by dying in it
The “somebody” is Edward Bond, a British playwright. The last paragraph of the “Author’s Preface” to his play Lear reads as follows: “Act One shows a world dominated by myth. Act Two shows the clash between myth and reality, between superstitious men and the autonomous world. Act Three shows a resolution of this, in the world we prove real by dying in it” (p. xiv).

Page 532


Claridge’s Hotel
London’s most famous and luxurious hotel.

Page 534 [549]

How has Saladin changed after his father’s death?

Page 536


Childhood’s End
Probably a sly reference to the title of Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel. Clarke has lived for some years in Sri Lanka.

Page 536


George Miranda
Perhaps alluding to the character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. See above, p. 53 [49].

Dhobi Talao Boozer
A tavern in the Dhobi Talao district of Bombay.

Shah Bano
A 1985 Indian legal case that gained widespread attention.

Fundamentalists of both religions had instantly sought injunctions
Rushdie’s earlier novel Shame was banned in Pakistan, and Midnight’s Children condemned in India.

Page 537


Gateway of India
An impressive arch built near the harbor to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

Shiv Sena
See note above, on p. 55.

Page 539


Foras Road
Road in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light district.

Literally “brothers,” but here, pimps (Hindi).

Page 542


All-India Radio
The official government radio network.

“language press”
Newspapers and magazines in the many languages of India other than English.

Page 545

Why do you think the novel ends with Gibreel’s suicide?