In the early spring of 1915 in Kashmir, Dr. Aadam Aziz meets his future wife, Naseem, through a perforated sheet. After their marriage in 1919, they travel to Amritsar just in time to witness Mahatma Gandhi’s hartal on April 7 and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13. They then move to Agra, where they have five children: Alia, Mumtaz, Hanif, Mustapha, and Emerald. In 1942, the second annual assembly of the Free Islam Convocation led by Mian Abdullah (the Hummingbird) is held in Agra; Mian Abdullah is assassinated. His secretary, Nadir Khan, flees and hides in the Aziz household. In 1943, Nadir Khan becomes Mumtaz’s first husband. In 1945, Major Zulfikar (who subsequently marries Mumtaz’s youngest sister, Emerald) attempts to arrest Nadir Khan. Before fleeing, Nadir Khan divorces Mumtaz, allowing her to marry Ahmed Sinai the following year. She changes her name to Amina Sinai. The Sinais move to Delhi, where Amina receives a prophecy about Saleem, and then to Bombay (Mumbai) in 1947, where they purchase a piece of William Methwold’s estate. The estate is handed over to them exactly at midnight on August 15—the date of India’s independence from the British. They live there with the Catracks, Ibrahims, Dubashes, Dr. Narlikar (a gynecologist who delivers Saleem), and the Sabarmatis.
Also at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, two children are born, one to a poor couple, Wee Willie Winkie and Vanita, and the other to Ahmed and Amina Sinai. The father of Vanita’s son is actually William Methwold, who had an affair with Vanita. A nurse at the hospital, Mary Pereira, intentionally switches the two babies in an act of socialist resistance; the biological son of Methwold and Vanita grows up as Saleem Sinai, while the biological son of Ahmed and Amina grows up as Shiva. Pereira later becomes Saleem’s nanny.
A little over a year later, on September 1, 1948, Saleem’s sister, the Brass Monkey, is born. In the summer of 1956, Saleem learns about his mother’s first love, Nadir Khan (who is now called Qasim Khan and is a member of the Communist Party of India), while hidden in a washing chest. He thus discovers that he has the ability to hear voices in his head. These voices include the thoughts both of the people immediately around him and of those from other parts of India. In 1957, as a result of a bicycle accident, Saleem manages to use his miraculous ability to convene the voices of all the children born during the first hour of India’s independence from the British. These children all have miraculous powers. Saleem names these children (including himself) the Midnight Children’s Conference (M.C.C.). Through the M.C.C., Saleem reconnects with Shiva, who has become a gangster, and meets Parvati, another child of midnight.
Saleem, who already possesses a big nose, is mutilated twice in 1958. A schoolteacher, Emil Zagallo, mutilates his hair, leaving him with a monk’s tonsure, and a group of school bullies chases him and slams his finger in a door. While in the hospital after the second mutilation, Saleem discovers via a blood test that he is not the biological son of his parents. Consequently, his...
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