As Saleem continues his story for a rapt Padma, Narlikar’s women have begun to demolish Methwold’s Estate, and a massive cloud of dust settles over Buckingham Villa. Pia calls and informs Amina that Hanif, distraught over losing his income with Homi Catrack’s death, has committed suicide by jumping off his apartment building.
Because of his involvement in Homi’s death, Saleem is also, to an extent, responsible for Hanif’s death. Had his income not stopped with Homi’s death, Hanif, presumably, would not have committed suicide; however, Saleem fails to make this connection.
Saleem’s entire family soon arrives at Buckingham Villa to observe the forty-day mourning period for Hanif’s death. Reverend Mother, who has always disliked Pia, is irritated with her lack of crying and appropriate mourning. In true fashion, she vows not to take one single bite of food until Pia mourns properly.
Reverend Mother again exerts her power in an unorthodox way. She knows that by refusing to eat, Pia will eventually do what she wants.
On the twentieth day of mourning, Saleem apologizes to Pia for behaving so inappropriately during his exile at her apartment. She then proceeds to tell him that she is not crying because of Hanif’s “hate of melodrama.” Suddenly, the dust that has settled over the estate begins to tickle her nose and she sneezes, causing her eyes to water. The sneeze opens a flood-gate, and Pia finally begins to cry—uncontrollably.
Saleem’s attempt to smooth out Pia and Reverend Mother’s disagreement by apologizing to Pia for inappropriately touching her is his closest attempt at atonement for his despicable actions. Of course, Pia is saddened by Hanif’s death, and ironically, it is her nose that reminds her of her true feelings.
As Pia cries, Reverend Mother embraces her, finally forgiving her for her lack of mourning. She tells Pia that she is to come and live with her and Aadam (they will be moving to Pakistan soon to be near Emerald), and together they will purchase a petrol pump. Pia agrees, “relinquishing the world of films for that of fuel.”
Now that Reverend Mother has weakened Pia with her own hunger strike, she assumes complete power over her, and dictates her move to Pakistan and her purchase of a petrol pump.
On the twenty-second day of mourning, Aadam Aziz sees God, and on the twenty-third day of mourning, he tells his family of his vision. According to Aadam, he saw a man standing in the dark of his bedroom the night before. The man had holes in his hands and feet and said, “I didn’t think you could see me.” Aadam is convinced—he has seen God.
On the thirty-seventh day of mourning, Mary is convinced that she sees the ghost of Joseph approaching Ahmed in his office. Before Ahmed notices the ghost, Mary blurts out her secret, confessing to everyone that she switched Saleem and Shiva’s nametags after birth. She then turns and runs from the room.
Mary never returns to the Sinais’. She never explains herself and she never seeks forgiveness, despite her deep Catholic beliefs. After her public confession she simply runs away, and this suggests that her faith is not as strong as it appears.
Shocked and confused, Ahmed turns to the ghost and says, “That, in the corner, is my old servant Musa, who tried to rob me once.” Indeed, the man Mary has confused for Joseph’s ghost is in fact old Musa, afflicted and dying of leprosy. Ahmed then forgives Musa, and after that day, Ahmed “never tried again to discover his own (and wholly imaginary) family curse.”
This passage implies that much of the unrest and unfortunate circumstances endured by the Sinais since Musa’s departure are a result of his curse, which ironically, Ahmed tried to effect on his own. As Musa’s curse was, in part, in response to his anger at Mary Pereira, she is directly responsible for much of the family’s troubles, and this paints her, and her religion, in a negative light.