Study Guide

Midnight's Children Chapter 1

By Salman Rushdie

Chapter 1

The Perforated Sheet

  • And so begins Book 1.
  • Happy birthday/Independence Day? Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. He lets us know that this is serious business—before the first page is done we know that he is at the center of history and that, thirty years later, he's dying.
  • Saleem tells us that in order to understand him, we will have to understand a whole lot of other people. So we start with his grandpa, Aadam Aziz.
  • One day Aadam Aziz is trying to pray when he hits his nose on the ground and gets a nosebleed. While other people might just shrug this off, Aadam Aziz rejects religion forever. Maybe that's a teensy teensy bit of an overreaction?
  • This absence of religion leaves a hole in Aadam Aziz that leaves him vulnerable to women and history, whatever that means.
  • We learn that Aadam Aziz has been in Germany for the past five years, and he's just returned home to Kashmir. Everything looks just a little bit different from how it did before.
  • We rewind a bit in order to see what's going on in Aadam Aziz's head. As he's praying, thoughts of Germany flood his mind so that he can't concentrate.
  • He thinks about how his friends there (though we don't know if we'd call them friends) made fun of his religion and his praying five times a day. Then we get back to that moment when he hits his nose and renounces religion.
  • Time is going forward again and we learn that Great Grandma Aziz has been working to put her son through college ever since his father had a stroke and started talking to birds.
  • Anyway, enough about that. Tai the boatman is coming.
  • Saleem interrupts your regular programming to give you a description of his rather hunky looking grandpa. He's got a red beard, blue eyes, and a huge schnoz! Not just any old schnoz, but a regal one, one for princes.
  • Okay, Tai is closer now. So let's learn more about him. Tai is old. How old? Nobody knows. Tai doesn't know, his wife doesn't know, and no one else seems to know either.
  • Word on the street is that he's pretty weird. People are kind of afraid of him, but they also think he's kind of awesome. He knows more about the lake (remember he's a boatman) than anyone else, and rumor has it that he has a treasure stashed away somewhere.
  • The exact same thing that makes everyone else think Tai is crazy attracts young Dr. Aziz (a.k.a. Gramps a.k.a. Aadam). Tai's long stories and magical talks are like honey to him, even though he gets in trouble for hanging out with him.
  • One day Aadam Aziz asks Tai how old he is, and Tai goes on a rant about seeing the mountains formed and a rather blasphemous description of Jesus as a bald glutton. When it's clear that Aadam doesn't quite believe the old man, he kicks him out.
  • Despite getting kicked out, and in trouble with his parents, young Aadam Aziz hangs out with Tai almost every day. He learns things like where the water snakes are and the importance of noses.
  • Okay, fast forward again. It's 1915 and Dr. Aziz has just returned from Germany and is being called by Tai to treat the landowner's daughter.
  • His nose is itching like crazy. Danger Will Robinson!
  • This part (a.k.a the whole rest of the novel) gets a little confusing. We go back and forth between Aadam Aziz at Ghani the landowner's house, Aadam Aziz treating his mom for rashes and boils, and Aadam Aziz being cursed out by Tai.
  • Tai is particularly upset about Aadam's pigskin bag, which would be considered unclean for a traditional Muslim. There's something else bothering him too, but Dr. Aziz can't really figure it out.
  • Back to Ghani's place. This guy is totally sketchy—he's big, rich, and he snaps his suspenders. Who does he think he is? Uncle moneybags? Super shady. Oh, and by the way, he's a blind art collector to boot.
  • Everything in Aadam Aziz's body is telling him to run away. His nose is itching, he feels hot, and he's just about to pee himself. But he ignores all that.
  • So back to that girl that needs treating… Aadam finally gets to treat her. Only one small problem: She's behind a sheet with a seven-inch hole cut down the middle of it, through which Dr. Aziz has to treat his patient. But like a trooper, he doesn't flinch. He just asks her to put her stomach against the hole.
  • Best way to end a chapter ever.