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Saleem asserts that though he appears to be a perennial victim, the kind of person “to whom things have been done,” he persists in seeing himself as the protagonist of his story. He contemplates how an individual’s life might be connected to the history of a nation and says that he is linked to India “literally and metaphorically, both actively and passively,” and every combination after that: “actively-literal, passively-metaphorical, actively-metaphorically, and passively-literally.”
Saleem returns to his story, to the day he left the hospital after losing a portion of his finger. Mary Pereira and his uncle Hanif pick him up from the hospital instead of his parents. They assuage his fears with promises of sweets and food as they drive to Hanif’s home on Marine Drive. On the way, they pass a billboard for Kolynos toothpaste, which depicts the brand mascot, the Kolynos Kid, brushing his teeth. Grateful to his uncle and his uncle’s wife Pia, he vows to be an exceptional son to the childless couple.
Mary stays with Saleem, feeding him enormous quantities of food, which fuel a rapid growth spurt in him. She tells him fantastic stories in which India’s ancient past returns to life. Now that he’s growing up, Saleem can’t help but notice his aunt Pia’s beauty, which persists even though her film career has begun to fade. She blames her career failure on Hanif, who has refused to write anything besides strictly realist film scripts, which, in the current film industry, will never get made. Hanif and Pia only manage to make ends meet because Homi Catrack continues to pay Hanif a studio salary. During one of his aunt and uncle’s popular card parties, Homi Catrack hands Saleem a note. He tells him to give it to his aunt without telling anyone, or he’ll have Saleem’s tongue cut out. Later that evening, Saleem has a nightmare and goes to his aunt and uncle’s bed. Curled up next to his aunt, he hands her the note and feels her body stiffen. The next day, she comes home and launches into a tirade against her husband. She storms off to her bedroom, and Saleem follows. Pia throws herself onto the bed, and, while attempting to comfort her, Saleem is overwhelmed by his aunt’s beauty and fondles her. Pia smacks him and calls him a pervert. Mary appears in the doorway, embarrassed, and tells Saleem that his parents have just sent him his first pair of long trousers.
Amina comes to the apartment on Marine Drive to bring Saleem home. On the drive back to their house, she tells Saleem to be good to his father, as Ahmed is unhappy these days. Saleem recalls his mother’s indiscretion and is filled with a desire for revenge. In the meantime, the children’s conference has been set aside.
After returning to Methwold’s Estate, Mary Pereira discovers that Joseph D’Costa’s ghost has fallen into decay. The ghost tells Mary that until she confesses to having switched the babies, he will be held responsible for her crime.
Saleem realizes that his father no longer wants anything to do with him and that his sister, the Brass Monkey, has become the new household favorite—a fact that surprises her as much as it surprises him. In an attempt to lose her favored position, she tries to become a devout Christian. Saleem notes that this is the first instance of the Brass Monkey’s fanatical tendencies, which come to dominate her life in later years.
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