Summary: A Wedding
Saleem describes how Parvati succeeded in getting him to marry her, on February 23, 1975. Having heard of Saleem’s impotence, Parvati decides to take her fate into her own hands. Using a magical spell, she summons Shiva to her. Not knowing why, Shiva becomes compelled to come to the ghetto.
Saleem describes Shiva’s career for us. Following the war, Shiva becomes a national hero. He grows more refined and sophisticated and develops a reputation as a great lover and seducer. Soon, women from the highest echelon of society are devising ways to have affairs with him. They tuck secret notes into their toes, drop handbags, and spill drinks. A number of illicit children are born from his affairs, although he falls out of love with any woman who bears his child. One woman, angry and bitter, approaches him during a horse race and tells him that he’s become the laughingstock of all the rich women. After this revelation, Shiva grows uncomfortable in his new life and becomes unintentionally cruder than ever.
After Parvati casts her spell and brings Shiva to the ghetto, Shiva takes her back to his barracks. The two are briefly happy until, on September 12, she tells him she’s pregnant with his child. Their relationship grows violent, and Shiva begins to sleep with prostitutes, siring a line of poor illegitimate children to match his earlier line of rich ones. Meanwhile, the political situation grows darker, as students and workers begin protesting government corruption. The protests lead to the development of an opposition party, the People’s Front. Parvati releases Shiva from her spell and he promptly returns her to the ghetto, where she finds Saleem and Picture Singh running from tear gas, launched by the police during a political rally.
In the magician’s ghetto, everyone shuns Parvati because of her pregnancy. Picture Singh suggests again that Saleem marry her, and Saleem finds himself unable to ignore his plea—fully aware of the fact that, since Shiva is Ahmed and Amina’s true son, Parvati’s child will be his parents’ true grandchild. Parvati converts to Islam and becomes Laylah, and the magicians perform incredible feats after the wedding ceremony.
While public dissent with the government grows, so does Parvati’s stomach. On June 12, at 2 p.m.—the exact moment the prime minister is convicted of campaign malpractice—Parvati goes into a labor that lasts thirteen days. Her labor pains correspond to political events involving the prime minister, until finally, at midnight on June 25, the prime minister declares a State of Emergency, allowing her to arrest her opposition and censor the press. At the same moment, Parvati’s child is being born, and Saleem laughs hysterically at the sight of his son’s enormous, floppy ears. Saleem describes the boy as a grave, good-natured child who refuses to cry. Saleem wonders if his long-held belief in the intimate connection between the nation and the individual has leaked into the prime minister’s mind, since her new slogan has become “India is Indira and Indira is India.” Saleem gives a brief synopsis of Indira’s life, including a description of her husband’s death, and the prominent role her son Sanjay played in the sterilization campaign of 1975. He points out that, in 1975, Indira had been a widow for fifteen years.
Saleem says he can’t go on with the story, but that he must. He struggles to find the right words, trying to tell it as a dream, but then stops and decides to tell it directly. He says that the winter of 1975–76 brought with it an endless darkness. His son, Aadam, suffers from tuberculosis, and neither he nor Parvati can cure the boy. Saleem insists that, as long as the Emergency lasts, his son will be ill. Parvati tries to make Aadam cry by using magic, but instead he holds in all of his sound. Meanwhile, the government alters the constitution, giving the prime minister nearly unlimited power. Saleem can smell danger in the air.