It took me a long time to go from a once-every-few-months reader to a once-a-day-reader. I only read for a short while every day, but I’m glad I’ve made reading a daily habit. I started reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie this week and I really like it. I remember giving it a try a few years ago and I gave up after two pages. But this time I’m a different person so that’s why I’m liking it so much. I feel like I’ll understand the novel better if I blog about it as I read it, so here’s what stood out for me in the first two chapters.
Imagine it’s the year 1919 and over a thousand Indians are peacefully protesting against British occupation in India. Then Brigadier R.E. Dyer arives at the scene along with 50 armed soldiers. One of the novel’s characters, Dr. Aadam Aziz, is also present. But he isn’t there to protest. He’s there because he has a feeling something bad is about to happen. His wife doesn’t approve of him intentionally walking into a potentially dangerous situation, but if something bad does happen, the good doctor wants to save as many lives as possible.
Just before the British soldiers open fire, Aadam Aziz sneezes so violently that he lurches forward, loses his balance and falls on the ground. The sneeze saves his life because the moment he hits the ground, bullets are flying everywhere. But he can’t stand up. Because dead or wounded bodies are falling on top of him. As he’s on lying on the ground face down, something is digging into his chest, inflicting a bruise that will become a scar.
“They have fired a total of one thousand six hundred and fifty rounds into the unarmed crowd. Of these, one thousand five hundred and sixteen have found their mark, killing or wounding some person. ‘Good shooting,’ Dyer tells his men, ‘We have done a jolly good thing.'”
– Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Aadam Aziz did not save any lives this day.
But the novel is not all sad. The story of how Aadam Aziz met his wife is amusing, to put it mildly.
He studied medicine in Germany and when he returned to his home in Kashmir, a wealthy landowner kept requiring his services. The landowner’s daughter was constantly sick, she had a different ailment every week. But Dr. Aziz never saw his patient. She was hidden behind a white sheet. In order to examine her, a hole was made in the white sheet so he could only see the part of her body that required medical attention. The wealthy landowner claimed his daughter was a well behaved girl who did not wish to flaunt her whole body to strangers.
This went on for three years and during this time Dr. Aziz never saw his patient, he only saw different parts of her body that required medical attention. For some unfathomable reason, he began to fall in love with her. Gradually his patient began to have ailments on her chest and upper thigh area, allowing him to see and touch the body parts he had been dreaming about for years. And one day she got a headache, which was very exciting because it meant he would finally get to see her face. He was afraid at first, what if she was hideous? But she wasn’t. Not at all.
Pretty soon they got married. What an ingenious seduction tactic!