On September 9, 1962—at the exact moment that India’s defense minister decides to use force, if necessary, against the Chinese army—Amina receives a telegram saying that Ahmed has suffered a “heartboot.” She announces that, after four years in Pakistan, the family is returning home to Bombay. Upon seeing her broken husband, Amina becomes determined to help him recover. During Ahmed’s recovery, the two gradually begin to fall in love with one another.
On October 9, as India prepares for war with China, Saleem reconvenes the conference. The children greet one another excitedly as if they are at a family reunion. Six days later, as India faces an unprovoked attack by China, the children begin to turn on Saleem, blaming him for Shiva’s absence and chastising him for having sealed off a part of his mind. On October 20, as the Indian army is badly beaten by Chinese forces, the children launch a full-scale attack against Saleem for his secrecy and elitism. During the next month, the children leave him, one by one.
After its initial defeat by the Chinese army, India experiences a new optimism, believing the defeat of the Chinese to be near at hand. At the same time, Saleem’s perpetually congested sinuses become completely blocked. As the war between India and China draws closer, Saleem’s sinus problems grow worse. On November 20, news of India’s defeat by the Chinese dominates the news. The papers proclaim, “Public Morale Drains Away.” The next day, the advancing Chinese army halts its progress, and Saleem’s parents take him to the hospital to have his sinuses cleared. After the operation, Saleem discovers that his connection to the children has disappeared along with the congestion in his sinuses.
Amina convinces Ahmed that they should move to Pakistan and join her sisters, and they sell their house on Methwold’s Estate to the Narlikar women. On their last day in Bombay, Saleem takes the letter from the prime minister, the newspaper photo, and an old tin globe and buries them on the property. The family arrives in Karachi on February 9. Soon afterward, Jamila begins her singing career, while Saleem enjoys the pleasure of being able to smell for the first time in his life.
Saleem’s nose can now detect emotions, feelings, and lies, as well as smells. Saleem’s sense of smell has become so acute that, upon arriving at Karachi, he can smell his aunt Alia’s bitterness and hypocrisy. Living with his aunt in the shadows of a mosque at the center of Karachi, Saleem explores the city on his Lambretta scooter. Ahmed decides to build the family a new home and has the land consecrated with the brine and umbilical cord from Saleem’s birth.
Still emotionally attached to Bombay, Saleem finds himself unable to feel at home in the overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan. Ahmed buys a towel factory, names it after his wife, and declares that someday he will produce the most famous towel in the world. Soon after, Major (Retired) Alauddin Latif comes to hear Jamila sing. Saleem and Jamila nickname him Uncle Puffs. Uncle Puffs becomes a fixture at the house and makes Jamila a famous singer. He keeps her face hidden from her audience, however, claiming that a horrible accident has disfigured her face. Jamila performs behind a curtain, which has a single hole for her lips.