Saleem admits that there is not an enemy rebel to track and he has only led the boys away from Dacca to avoid following further orders. Padma is relieved that Saleem has come to his senses; however, now the four soldiers are lost in the jungle.
While Saleem may have protected their morals, he endangers the soldiers’ lives by crossing partition lines into Bangladesh. Again, this is a unilateral decision made by Saleem, and it represents his belief in his inherent power.
Suddenly, a snake bites Saleem on his heel, and Shaheed Dar crushes it with a stick. The three boys wait for days for Saleem to die, but he doesn’t. He finally regains consciousness, and remembering his lost history, he begins to tell Ayooba, Farooq, and Shaheed his many stories. Saleem remains, however, unable to remember his name.
Once again, Saleem’s transformation in identity is made possible by snake venom, which metaphorically represents a transformation. Rushdie further argues the importance of storytelling when Saleem tells the soldiers his story.
Moving yet deeper into the jungle, the three boys begin to hear the voices of their past and distant families, along with the continued voices of their victims. The boys pack their ears with mud and are deafened by the insects and jungle-droppings embedded in the mud. Saleem leads them to a Hindu temple of Kali, where they find respite from the rain and fall asleep.
The soldiers’ deafness mirrors Saleem’s own deafness. Not only is he deaf to the voices of the Midnight Children’s Conference, he is still unable to hear out of his left ear, the lasting punishment from his father after his confession of the voices. The temple, out in the middle of nowhere, represents the wide-spread presence of the Hindu faith in India.
They wake to four women standing over them who take them in their arms, satisfying them over and over again. Saleem and his team pass many days in the temple, rarely leaving, and they suddenly begin to turn hollow and translucent. Saleem notices the remains of other bodies in the temple and realizes that this is “the last and worst of the jungles tricks.” The women are holding them hostage, and if they don’t leave, they will surely die.
The women intend to entice the soldiers to their death, and they use their bodies and their sex as a source of their power. This too disrupts gender stereotypes in society—the women have complete control over the men while in the temple.
Saleem manages to lead Ayooba, Farooq, and Shaheed Dar out of the temple and back to their small boat, where a tidal wave suddenly picks them up and washes them out of the jungle. Saleem later notes that no tidal waves were recorded at the time.
This again makes Saleem appear as an unreliable narrator. If no wave was recorded, how can his story be believed? According to Saleem, genuine truth is found within stories, even when they seem unbelievable.
Out of the jungle and in a deserted village, Ayooba, Farooq, and Shaheed Dar are still deafened from the mud, and they noisily walk about the village, speaking loudly to each other. Saleem sits down, upset and crying over his inability to remember his name, and Ayooba stoops to comfort him. Suddenly, a sniper’s bullet shoots through Ayooba’s head, narrowly missing Saleem.
Ayooba’s death is similar to the death of Shiva’s mother, Vanita, who dies because the medical staff are too busy fussing with Ahmed’s toe after she gives birth. As Ayooba fusses over a distraught Saleem, it makes him vulnerable to the sniper’s bullet. He dies tending to Saleem, and this is a reflection of Saleem’s importance and superiority. Of course, Ayooba is a man as well, but he is still disposable compared to Saleem.
After escaping, the three men return to Dacca, where corpses rot in plain view. Saleem, Shaheed Dar, and Farooq are told of the worsening war and a formidable Indian soldier with a huge pair of knees. Suddenly, Farooq is hit by a sniper’s bullet, and he is killed instantly.
The violence of the war is obvious, and when the men are told of the Indian soldier with the big knees, Shiva suddenly becomes responsible for all the destruction in Dacca, living up to his identity as a god of war and destruction.
Saleem soon notices a small pyramid in the middle of a field and discovers that it is a pile of enemy soldiers, and one is still alive. Surprisingly, the soldiers are none other than Eyeslice, Hairoil, and Sonny, who begins to talk to Saleem. Sonny soon dies, but Saleem claims that “the purpose of that entire war had been to reunite me with an old life.”