One afternoon after the trial, Abdul, Mirchi, Zehrunisa and Karam consider the trash left in the storeroom. They have to sell it now, even though prices are still low, because they have sold the storeroom to pay for the lawyer. Their profits have been even further depleted by Abdul’s frequent trips to check in at Dongri and their new vow not to buy anything stolen. The police continue to sniff around the family, hoping to catch them doing something wrong so they can extort even more money.
Though the trial is now close to over, it continues to have a deep impact on the Husains’ lives. This one disaster was enough to lead them to failure in the competitive world of Annawadi. The justice system and the police do not care about the Husains economic hardship, demanding that the Husains be perfect even if that means they cannot make a profit.
As the family recycling business fails, Mirchi has been forced to take any job available, so he works construction and loads a freezer for a catering company. He prays that someone will notice his talent, charm and hard-working nature. But there are too many boys in Mumbai looking for permanent work and Mirchi is stuck with temp jobs.
Mirchi desperately wants to be noticed and singled out as special in his jobs outside Annawadi. But the wider world of Mumbai considers all slum boys unimportant and interchangeable, leaving Mirchi to survive on his own from day to day.
All of Mumbai begins to follow another case in which a young Pakistani man is the lone survivor gunman of a terror attack. Karam laments the terrorists who twist the words of the Koran and Abdul feels hopeful when he sees that the Hindus of Mumbai don’t seem to transfer their anger to all the Muslims of the city. Rich people in Mumbai are also hopeful that they can rehabilitate the Indian government into a government capable of keeping its citizens safe, as security is the only thing that the rich can’t buy privately.
India seems to have made some progress towards tolerance when the actions of one Muslim man do not lead to the exclusion of all Muslims from Hindu society in Mumbai. This terrorism ironically works better to bring a united national sentiment than any of the government programs, as the rich see that they have to invest in their country in order to ensure their personal safety.
The terrorist attacks act as a reminder that most public services, including police, medical response teams, and military squads, are dangerously untrained and underfunded. Parliamentary elections at the end of April bring record numbers of middle and upper-class candidates running for office to bring change, as well as a new fervor for voting among the rich and the poor.
The rich are willing to address problems in India’s infrastructure only when their own lives are at risk, showing that personal gain is still the biggest motivator even when it looks like all of India is coming together in this parliamentary election.
The Husain family’s business finally fails completely when another garbage trader moves in to Annawadi. Abdul tries to trade in a nearby neighborhood, Saki Naka, but mostly he just sits and enjoys being in an environment where everyone does not know his tragedies. He thinks about water and ice, two substances made of the same thing, just as all people are made of the same thing. Yet ice is better than what it is made of, in Abdul’s opinion, and Abdul hopes to be the “ice” that rises above the dirty water of his slum. Being ice means believing in ideals and the possibility of justice.
Outside of Annawadi, Abdul can again reflect on the circumstances that have brought him to this low point. The intense competition and constant corrupt deals that mark every aspect of life in Annawadi have created a culture in which every Annawadian is marked by that harsh life. Abdul recognizes that he is part of Annawadi, but hopes to retain some morals despite how stepped he is in Annawadian culture.
A new judge is appointed when the judge who has heard all the Husain family’s evidence gets transferred. The Husains are crushed that they will have to convince yet another person of their innocence. The special executive officer tries to get the Husains to pay her to have Fatima’s husband call off the trial, hiding the fact that this is a criminal trial that cannot be shut down by a private citizen. Karam checks with his lawyer and refuses the special executive officer’s corrupt bargain.
Every time the Husains believe their trial is over, the convoluted workings of the Indian justice system again throw an obstacle in their way. Yet Karam’s insistence on doing things the right way and resisting bribes finally pays off, as he catches the special executive officer in a lie and is able to save some money for his family. Boo suggests that corruption in India will eventually become less prevalent as the poor are given more access to information about how their country actually works.
Part of popular Indian mythology is that Indian success comes from the very instability of their country, which forces Indians to constantly adapt. Yet for the poor, forced to reinvent themselves over and over, this adaptability no longer brings profit. Abdul wants to believe that his new persona as a virtuous student of The Master will finally bring him the good life he is looking for, but each day Abdul cannot earn any money in Saki Naka.
The constant shifting nature of life in Annawadi means that the poor can never be sure exactly what is going to bring them success. Abdul, who has been working hard for years, has already seen how his entire life could fall apart in one day. His new devotion to living virtuously could follow a similar path if Abdul is unlucky.
As a distraction one afternoon, Abdul goes to Haji Ali, the biggest Muslim gathering place in the city. He sees the beauty of the temple as it is shown in postcards and calendars, but he also sees the throngs of disabled beggars lining the road up to the mosque. He leaves quickly, reminded too much of Fatima. He prays that the courts will see him as ice, proclaiming him innocent despite the dirty water of his life.
The vision of India and Mumbai shown to tourists is far different than the city that Abdul sees as he lives there. The postcard version erases much of the poverty and the hardship of this life. Abdul hopes that living in the midst of this corruption and inequality has not permanently marked him, but the desperation of this scene suggests that Abdul’s hopes are unlikely.