Naseem experiences numerous ailments over the next few years, and, in each case, Aadam examines her by moving the sheet so that the hole exposes the affected area. However, as Naseem never develops pains in her head, Aadam never lays eyes upon her face. On the day World War I ends, Naseem finally complains of a headache, and the doctor receives permission to see her face, at which point he falls even further in love with her. In that same year, Doctor Aziz’s father dies, followed shortly by his mother. Ilse, Aadam’s anarchist friend from Germany, comes to visit him and deliver the news that their friend Oskar has died. Agra University offers Aadam a job, and he decides to leave Kashmir and proposes to Naseem. Ilse drowns herself in the lake that same day, in a spot where, as Tai once told the young Aadam, foreign women often come to drown themselves without their knowing why.
Padma, who has brought in Saleem’s dinner, interrupts the narrative and demands he read her what he has written. When Saleem returns to the story, it is August 6, 1919, and Aadam and Naseem are in the city of Amritsar. Mahatma Gandhi has issued a call for a day of mourning—Hartal—on August 7, to protest the British presence. On the day of Hartal, riots break out, and Aadam treats the wounded with Mercurochrome, which leaves bloodlike red stains on his clothing. Six days later, a peaceful protest erupts, in violation of the martial law regulations. The crowd moves into a compound, where Brigadier R. E. Dyer and his troops eventually surround them. Aadam’s nose begins to itch furiously. As the brigadier issues a command, Aadam sneezes violently, falling to the ground and thereby missing a bullet aimed in his direction. The troops continue to fire into the crowd. Of the 1,650 rounds fired, 1,516 find their mark.
Before concluding the chapter and going to bed, Saleem discovers a crack in his wrist. He then tells how Tai, the boatman, died in 1947, protesting India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir. Tai walked to where the troops were stationed, intending to give them a piece of his mind, and was shot dead.
Saleem’s account of his grandfather, Aadam Aziz, resembles the story found in the biblical book of Genesis. Aadam’s name suggests the biblical Adam, the world’s first man. Adam and his consort, Eve, lived in the Garden of Eden, and Aadam’s hometown in Kashmir is similarly described as a lush, beautiful locale. The story of Adam, Eve, and their eventual expulsion from Eden provides Christians with an inaugural narrative, from which they can trace the development of the world. Similarly, the story of Aadam and Naseem in Kashmir provides Saleem with an original myth that helps shape and give meaning to the rest of his story. Rushdie’s use of the biblical tale demonstrates his willingness to incorporate and transform various literary traditions into his own narrative.
Aadam’s friend Tai plays an important role in the novel’s early development of certain symbols and themes. Although most of the local people attribute his seemingly nonsensical statements to delirium, insanity, or stupidity, Tai ultimately demonstrates great wisdom. Regarding Aadam’s prominent nose, Tai warns the boy to trust the nose’s feelings, as the nose will indicate when something is wrong. Here, Tai alludes to the important role noses will play not only in Aadam’s life but in future generations of his family. Tai’s comments also introduce the idea that sensory experience and instinctual behavior are linked entities. Most important, however, Tai’s warning suggests the ways in which personal and public concerns collide, a dominant theme of the novel.
ThroughoutMidnight’s Children, Indian and global politics resonate in the lives of the characters, often to an improbable degree. As Saleem’s grandparents fall in love, we witness the first occasion in which a great event in world history corresponds to a personal event in the lives of Saleem’s family: World War I ends on the same day that Aadam finally sees Naseem’s face. Rushdie links the two events to illustrate the ways in which humans rely on their individual experiences to make sense of huge, abstract historical events. Sometimes, public history and private history relate in parallel but apparently unconnected ways. Aadam doesn’t see Naseem’s face because the war has ended, but the two events seem linked, because each heralds a major transition. Sometimes, however, public and private histories intersect directly, as when Aadam participates in the proindependence riots and, miraculously, manages to avoid being shot. The proindependence riots are significant for the nation, but they gain an added significance for Saleem’s family, since Aadam’s experience there provides one more prominent example of the important role of noses play in Midnight’s Children.
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