The Express Essay

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Saleem Sinai, the narrator of Midnight’s Children, opens the novel by explaining that he was born on midnight, August 15, 1947, at the exact moment India gained its independence from British rule. Now nearing his thirty-first birthday, Saleem believes that his body is beginning to crack and fall apart. Fearing that his death is imminent, he grows anxious to tell his life story. Padma, his loyal and loving companion, serves as his patient, often skeptical audience. Saleem’s story begins in Kashmir, thirty-two years before his birth, in 1915. There, Saleem’s grandfather, a doctor named Aadam Aziz, begins treating Naseem, the woman who becomes Saleem’s grandmother. For the first three years Aadam Aziz treats her, Naseem is always covered by a sheet with a small hole in it that is moved to expose the part of her that is sick. Aadam Azis sees his future wife’s face for the first time on the same day World War I ends, in 1918. Aadam Aziz and Naseem marry, and the couple moves to Agra, where Aadam—a doctor whose loss of religious faith has affected him deeply—sees how protests in the name of independence get violently suppressed. Aadam and Naseem have three daughters, Alia, Mumtaz, and Emerald, and two sons, Mustapha and Hanif. Aadam becomes a follower of the optimistic activist Mian Abdullah, whose anti-Partition stance eventually leads to his assassination. Following Abdullah’s death, Aadam hides Abdullah’s frightened assistant, Nadir Khan, despite his wife’s opposition. While living in the basement, Nadir Khan falls in love with Mumtaz, and the two are secretly married. However, after two years of marriage, Aadam finds out that his daughter is still a virgin, as Nadir and Mumtaz have yet to consummate their marriage. Nadir Khan is sent running for his life when Mumtaz’s sister, Emerald, tells Major Zulfikar—an officer in the Pakistani army, soon to be Emerald’s

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