Timeline B: 1300 - 2020

1300  

The Divine Comedy by Alighieri Dante: Virgil takes Dante into the Inferno and then up the island mountain of Purgatory; since the pagan Virgil can’t reach the higher Christian truths, Beatrice shows Dante the wonders of Paradise; Grimus: Eagle is guided by Virgil Jones into the inferno of his mind and then up the island mountain of Calf; Media shows him to the peak; Midnight's Children: Saleem and his fellow Pakistani soldiers descend into a jungle version of Hell; Shame, Verses, Moor and Ground: Omar, Chamcha, the Moor, and Ormus all plummet their own versions of Hell 

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Gustave Doré illustrated Dante's  Divine Comedy  from 1857-67. Above are details from Doré's scenes, ascending from the Inferno, up to Purgatory, to Paradise.

Gustave Doré illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy from 1857-67. Above are details from Doré's scenes, ascending from the Inferno, up to Purgatory, to Paradise.

1492  

Columbus reaches the Caribbean, supported by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain; Jews expelled from Spain; Boabdil, the last Muslim ruler in Andalusia, surrenders the Alhambra in Granada, reportedly shedding a tear as he looks back; this marks the end of the reconquista, in which Christian Spain regains its lands; Moor: in a villa in Andalusia, the modern day Moor soliloquizes on the past greatness of Boabdil and the Alhambra; Rushdie parallels the expulsion of the Moors and Jews from Spain with the rejection of Muslims in India; Belle wins back the family business in Cochin, a reconquista which earns her the nickname Queen Isabella

From Wikimedia Commons:  Salida de la familia de Boabdil de la Alhambra,  Manuel Gómez-Moreno González (1834–1918). La obra representa el momento en que (Boabdil (1459-1533), el último rey musulmán de Granada, abandonó el palacio de la Alhambra junto con su familia después de que los Reyes Católicos tomaran Granada en 1492. Translation by RYC:  The Departure of Boabdil's Family from the Alhambra  ... This work shows the moment Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Grenada, abandoned the palace of the Alhambra with his family before the Catholic Kings took Granada in 1492.

From Wikimedia Commons: Salida de la familia de Boabdil de la Alhambra, Manuel Gómez-Moreno González (1834–1918). La obra representa el momento en que (Boabdil (1459-1533), el último rey musulmán de Granada, abandonó el palacio de la Alhambra junto con su familia después de que los Reyes Católicos tomaran Granada en 1492. Translation by RYC: The Departure of Boabdil's Family from the Alhambra ... This work shows the moment Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Grenada, abandoned the palace of the Alhambra with his family before the Catholic Kings took Granada in 1492.

1497  

Vasco da Gama: Portuguese explorer who makes the first sea voyage from Europe to India, spurring interest in the spice trade; Moor: Aurora da Gama’s Portuguese Goan family gets its riches from the spice trade

1526  

Babur begins Moghul rule by defeating the Sultan of Delhi; later Moghul emperors Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb expand the empire to include most of the subcontinent; Shahjahan builds the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz; Midnight's Children: Saleem evokes Muslim power and beauty in Jehangir’s Kashmir, and hopes to honeymoon with Padma to this earthly paradise; Nadir Khan and Mumtaz (later Amina) find love in her basement, their Taj Mahal; Shame: Babar becomes a fighting hero of the Baluchi tribespeople 

Emperor Babur with attendants in a garden, miniature, c. 1605, source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Wikimedia Commons)

Emperor Babur with attendants in a garden, miniature, c. 1605, source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Wikimedia Commons)

1600  

British East India Company established; starting in Surat and other coastal locations, the English gradually take control of the subcontinent from the waning Moghuls, the Marathas and the French; after the 1857 rebellion, often called The Mutiny, the Crown takes direct control, thus beginning The British Raj (which ends in 1947); Midnight's Children: Saleem goes to an English-style school in Bombay; Sir William Methwold’s departure mimics the transfer of power from England to India (his sunset gin and tonics become the fire-water djinns of Ahmed’s decadence); Verses: Chamcha finds his Indian self despite his desire to become thoroughly British; Ground: the Anglophile Sir Darius pretends to have earned a law degree from Cambridge

1603  

Othello; the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare: the bitter Iago uses sinister innuendo to drive the war hero Othello into a jealous rage, in which he kills his wife and then himself; Verses: an embittered Chamcha whispers satanic verses into the ears of his friend, the great movie-star Gibreel; these verses drive Gibreel to murder his mystical lover Alleluiah and then himself

Othello and Iago, from Charles and Mary Lamb,  Tales from Shakespeare,  Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1901 (Wikimedia Commons)

Othello and Iago, from Charles and Mary Lamb, Tales from Shakespeare, Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1901 (Wikimedia Commons)

1789  

French Revolution: popular revolt against the ancien regime, followed by the Reign of Terror, in which the guillotine speeded up the execution of those formerly in power; Shame: Raza Hyder’s regime is brought to an end by the extreme violence of the possessed Sufiya, who is a mix of the Beast, Kali with her necklace of skulls, and Madame Guillotine with her basket of heads

The top half of  Liberty Guiding the People , 1830, by Eugène Delacroix ( Le 28 Juillet. La Liberté guidant le peuple ), from Wikimedia Commons

The top half of Liberty Guiding the People, 1830, by Eugène Delacroix (Le 28 Juillet. La Liberté guidant le peuple), from Wikimedia Commons

1915  

Mahatma Gandhi returns to India from South Africa and leads civil disobedience campaigns until 1947; Midnight's Children: the novel opens in 1915 with Dr Aadam Aziz returning to India from Germany; Aadam’s wife Naseem doesn’t understand Gandhi’s sense of bringing the country to a halt, to “mourn, in peace, the continuing presence of the British”; Moor: Francisco takes part in the Home Rule campaign of Gandhi and the Congress Party

1919  

Amritsar massacre: in a brutal application of the Rowlatt Act prohibiting demonstrations, the British General Dyer has his soldiers fire on a large crowd of peaceful protesters, killing over 300 and injuring over 1000; Midnight's Children: we see the massacre from the Indian perspective of Dr Aadam Aziz; when Naseem asks where he’s been (and thinks the blood all over his body is mercurochrome), he says “Nowhere on earth” 

1924  

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: a novel set during the British Raj of the early 20th Century; after being acquitted of molesting Stella, the Muslim Dr Aziz goes off to live in a Princely State in central India, far as possible from the British; in the 1984 film he ends up in Kashmir; Midnight's Children: the novel starts in Kashmir with the Muslim Dr Aadam Aziz, who accepts Western science yet rejects Western Orientalist notions of superiority; Aadam isn’t personally betrayed by the British, yet witnesses firsthand the Amritsar Massacre and struggles to reconcile East and West; he returns to Kashmir at the end of his life

1939-40  

The Master and Margarita (suppressed for at least thirty years in Russia): a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov; the Devil descends on Moscow and narrates Chapter 2; Verses (still banned in Islamic countries and India): the Devil descends on England and Arabia; his narrative voice is least disguised at the beginning of Chapter 2

A Russian stamp featuring the cat, theatre, magic, and Christ story from Bulgakov's  Master and Margarita  (From Wikimedia Commons: "Soviet preprinted (original) stamp of 4 kopecks, 1991")

A Russian stamp featuring the cat, theatre, magic, and Christ story from Bulgakov's Master and Margarita (From Wikimedia Commons: "Soviet preprinted (original) stamp of 4 kopecks, 1991")

1940  

The Muslim League, allegedly speaking for Muslims in the subcontinent, declares an independent Pakistan as its goal; historical accounts seldom refer to the aim of Sheik Abdullah’s Muslim National Conference, which is to keep Muslims within a unified subcontinent; Midnight's Children: the Muslim League lies behind the death of the Hummingbird (Sheik Abdullah) and the destruction of his Free Islam Convocation; the Hummingbird’s ideal of unity is echoed in Amina’s battle with communalists in Delhi and in Saleem’s chairmanship of the Midnight’s Childrens’ Conference (for “Conference” see 1177 above)

1945-7  

Communal violence; Partition of India from East and West Pakistan: Britain makes a hasty retreat, conceding to the vision of a partitioned subcontinent; millions killed in violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs; Hindus flee to India and Muslims flee to West and East Pakistan, now Bangladesh (the Calcutta riots are described succinctly in Midnight's Children as “four days of screaming”); Shame: in Delhi Mahmoud protests communal violence by playing a Hindu-Muslim double bill; his cinema is boycotted and blown up; Midnight's Children: communal violence is represented in Delhi by the Muslim mob that attacks Lifafa Das and by the gang named after the powerful Ravana;

The multi-headed Ravana, king of Lanka (clip of a photo by Gane Kumaraswamy, from Wikimedia Commons)

The multi-headed Ravana, king of Lanka (clip of a photo by Gane Kumaraswamy, from Wikimedia Commons)

1947  

Independence of India and Pakistan at midnight on August 17; Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, gives a famous speech about India’s “tryst with destiny”; Midnight's Children: of the first 1001 magical children born, Saleem and Shiva are born closest to midnight and hence have the greatest powers; Nehru sends Saleem a special letter of high hopes

1956-8  

Pakistani dictatorship sets in; Ayub Khan imposes military rule, taking power from Iskander Mirza and his Republican Party; Midnight's Children: a naive Saleem helps his uncle Zulfikar and General Ayub plot the coup

1959 (novel); 1979 (film)  

The Tin Drum: German novel in three parts by Günter Grass; a magic realist work emphasizing the solipsistic perspective of Oskar, who refuses to grow and who influences the course of events in Nazi Germany; Midnight's Children: the three parts of the book chronicle in magic realist fashion the solipsistic vision Saleem has of his magical self and of his influence over key events in subcontinental history, including the rise of Pakistani militarism; Oscar has an object (a tin drum) which accompanies him on his travels, and at one point he uses it to turn a Nazi rhythm into a waltz; Saleem is likewise accompanied by a silver spittoon, which is a symbol of, among other things, democracy and the ideals of the Free Islam Convocation; both protagonists are witnesses to their country's most violent 20th century conflicts  

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1962  

India-China border war: China deflates Indian confidence by taking Aksai Chin, a region scarcely populated yet strategic to the Chinese since it lies on the western route between Xinjiang and Tibet; Midnight's Children: China’s successful assault coincides with the magical children’s assault on Saleem as leader of the Midnight’s Children’s Conference; Saleem notes how Indian optimism is deflated and how Indian citizens of Chinese descent are interned

1965  

India-Pakistan war: battles fought to Pakistan’s advantage in the Rann of Kutch (east of Karachi) and to India’s advantage in the greater conflict; tank and air battles near Sialkot in northern Pakistan; Midnight's Children: Saleem feels that the official version of the Rann skirmish is so unreliable that he decides to relate a ghost-story version instead; Saleem loses his family and becomes amnesiac as a result of the bombing in northern Pakistan

1971  

Bangladesh Independence: East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) elects the separatist Awami League, thus constituting a slim majority in a parliament once dominated by the West Wing; the West Wing tries to stop the East from seceding; Indian troops enter the struggle on the East’s side and swiftly prevail in Dhaka; Midnight's Children: The chapters “The Buddha” and “Sam the Tiger” chart the course of the civil war; in a dog-like amnesiac state of subservience to the West Pakistani military, Saleem helps sniff out East Bengal separatists (“enemies of the state”) in Dhaka; traumatized by the war and his conscience, Saleem flees into the purgatory of the Sundarbans Jungle; he returns to a liberated Dhaka

1975-1977  

The Emergency: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspends parliament in a doomed bid to retain power; forced sterilizations and slum clearings; Midnight's Children: the Widow (Indira Gandhi) sterilizes the Midnight’s Children, who represent the diverse voices of India; Saleem’s wife Parvati dies in the slum-clearings

1977-8  

Zia ul-Haq takes power from Ali Bhutto in his “Fair Play” military coup; Zia postpones elections and implements Islamic Law; Shame: Raza takes power from Iskander in his “Fair Play” coup; Raza professes to be a fair umpire, and declares Iskander’s leftist politics to be against Islam

The politics of Pakistan can be a bit confusing; here is a simplified version, posted by the Dhaka Tribune, October 2016 (the original sources are listed at the bottom):

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1979  

Ali Bhutto is executed by hanging; Shame: after his hanging, Iskander haunts Raza in the form of a devil in his left ear

1985  

Air India bombing: Flight 182 from Vancouver (via Toronto) to London explodes off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 passengers (156 Canadians, 122 Indians; 187 Hindus, 18 Sikhs; 125 under the age of 21); Verses: the Canadian terrorist Tavleen girds herself with explosives and leads her less fearless band in a hijacking; not receiving what she wants, she executes passengers and blows up the plane; the episode parallels Satan’s fall from Heaven, and is echoed by the tolerant Allie’s descent from Everest; a prototype of the religious extremist, Tavleen foreshadows Ayesha and the Imam, who both lead their followers into death

1988  

Zia dies in a plane crash and Benazir Bhutto wins the national elections; Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini delivered on Valentine’s Day: “I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses -- which has been compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an -- and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr”; the next day Rushdie goes into hiding under the protection of Scotland Yard; Shame: in this 1983 novel Raza (Zia) is killed by knives in an elevator, and the “Virgin Ironpants” (Benazir Bhutto) takes his place as national leader; Verses: Chapter 4 contains a ten-page attack on Khomeini, portraying him as a xenophobic zealot who smashes clocks (to stop progress and to return to the days of Muhammad), who snaps his fingers and commands the archangel to fly him to his homeland, who takes on the traits of a flying demon or witch, and who devours his people for the sake of his revolution; the novel contains hints of backlash: there are warnings about a script containing the same subject matter as the offending Chapters 2 and 6; the Madame of a brothel says that mimicking the prophet’s wives will be dangerous but good for business; Mahound executes the poet Baal, who parodies and satirizes him and his God; Salman Farsi, the scribe who distorts Mahound’s words, flees for his life

1992  

Destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya: in northern India Hindu fundamentalists tear down the 16th Century Mosque of Babur, believing it to be built on a site sacred to the god Rama; about 1,000 people die in rioting; Moor: Mainduck heartily agrees with the decision to tear down the Mosque of Babar; Abraham (representing Muslims) and Mainduck (representing Hindus) fight a turf war in the streets of Bombay; Mainduck takes on the name “the Battering Ram”

(Work in progress)

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