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Saleem tells us that Lord Khusro, today the wealthiest and most famous guru in India, was once his childhood friend, Cyrus-the-great. After Cyrus’s father dies from choking on an orange seed, Cyrus’s fanatical mother begins claiming her son is a holy child and invents a history for him based, in part, on a Superman comic book that Saleem had once given to Cyrus.
As the Narlikar women begin to demolish the houses of the estate, Pia calls to tell the family that Hanif has committed suicide. The entire family gathers at the house for a forty-day mourning period. Infuriated by the dust from the demolition, as well as Pia’s refusal to mourn, Reverend Mother vows not to eat until her daughter-in-law shows her dead son some respect. After twenty days, Saleem breaks the stalemate by apologizing to his aunt for his previous indiscretion. Pia tells Saleem that she refuses to mourn because Hanif always tried to avoid melodrama in his films, and she wants to respect that. Once she finishes explaining this, however, Pia breaks into a torrent of grief that amazes everyone. Pia begs Reverend Mother for forgiveness and places herself in her mother-in-law’s control. Reverend Mother declares that Pia will move to Pakistan with her, where they will realize Reverend Mother’s long-held dream of purchasing a petrol pump.
On the twenty-second day of the mourning period, Aadam Aziz sees God. Aadam tells his family that he asked God why his son died, to which God replied: “God has his reasons, old man; life’s like that, right?” Mary believes that Aadam actually saw Joseph D’Costa’s ghost, but she keeps this to herself, and the vision of an indifferent god haunts Aadam for the rest of his life. In his old age, he takes to shouting and cursing at mosques and holy men. Finally, on Christmas Day, he takes a train to Kashmir. Two days later, at a mosque in Kashmir, a man fitting Aadam’s description steals a lock of hair that once belonged to the Prophet Muhammad. Later, the government replaces the stolen lock with a replica, claiming to have recovered the precious artifact.
On the thirty-eighth day of mourning, Mary sees the ghost of Joseph D’Costa for herself. She calls the entire family together and confesses that eleven years ago she switched Shiva’s nametag with Saleem’s. Ahmed recognizes the supernatural figure, however, and realizes that it isn’t the ghost of Joseph D’Costa, after all. The “ghost” is Ahmed’s old servant, Musa, now afflicted with leprosy and returning to seek forgiveness. Mary returns to her mother’s house in Goa, though her sister, Alice, stays on to assist Ahmed.
Afraid that Shiva will discover the truth about their parentage, Saleem bans him from the children’s conference. Meanwhile, Ahmed, distraught over what has happened, drunkenly berates his wife. Reverend Mother advises Amina to take her two children away from Ahmed, so Amina, Saleem, and the Brass Monkey move to Pakistan to live with Emerald and General Zulfikar. At the general’s opulent house, Emerald and the general treat Saleem and his family worse than the general’s mine-sniffing dog, Bonzo. Once in Pakistan, Saleem finds himself unable to communicate with the other children.
One evening, General Zulfikar hosts an important dinner, attended by many high-ranking military officials. During the dinner, the general allows his son, Zafar, and Saleem to join the men at the table. The commander-in-chief of the army, General Ayub, declares that the government has failed and announces his plans to take over Pakistan. When Ayub decrees a state of martial law, Zafar—who has a tendency to wet his pants—gets frightened and has an accident. General Zulfikar chases his son out of the room, then asks Saleem to come help him. Saleem helps the officers map out their strategy, using pepperpots and other condiment jars to symbolize troop movements. On November 1, General Zulfikar takes Saleem to the president’s house, where Saleem watches as the general forces the naked president out of bed and onto a plane.
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