On December 15, 1971, Tiger Niazi, the Pakistani in charge of the war in Bangladesh, surrenders to Sam Manekshaw of the Indian army. According to Saleem, the fighting has cost Pakistan “half her navy, a third of her army, a quarter of her air force” and “more than half her population.”
This passage reflects the death and devastation that came along with Pakistan’s war in Bangladesh. Again, this war was fought because of Saleem, and he becomes responsible for the death and destruction.
Saleem and Shaheed Dar arrive in Dacca and find the city demolished. They are met with the atrocities of war and are surrounded by death and destruction. Saleem enters a crumbling building, while Shaheed remains out in the street, surveying the damage. Suddenly, a grenade is launched in his direction, and Shaheed is blown in half. Saleem drags Shaheed to the cover of a nearby mosque, and his screams are echoed throughout the streets. Shaheed soon dies, and while Saleem still has his spittoon, he is unable to remember his name.
The nearby mosque is a representation of the Muslim faith, and to a greater extent, Pakistan. Shaheed Dar’s echoed screams through the streets represent Pakistan’s defeat in the conflict. Saleem’s inability to remember his name indicates that his identity is not yet whole, and because of this, he still clings to the spittoon, a physical symbol of his Indian identity.
A special I.A.F. troop soon arrives in the city, arriving just before the Indian troops. The troop carries with it entertainers from the famous magicians’ ghetto in Delhi, including Picture Singh, a giant man weighing nearly two hundred and fifty pound, known as “the Most Charming Man In The World” on account of his snake-charming abilities, and he is accompanied by Parvati-the-witch.
This passage brings Parvati back into Saleem’s life. Without her, he would never remember his name and his identity would never be complete. This passage also introduces Picture Singh, who will play an important role in keeping Parvati’s son alive during the climax of the story.
Parvati entertains the crowd by making them disappear inside a wicker basket, a skill made possible by her gift of sorcery bestowed upon her by her midnight birth. When she sees Saleem, she becomes excited, calling out to him by name, and he suddenly remembers who he is.
Without Parvati’s help, Saleem is unable to remember his name. As usual, it is a woman who saves Saleem, and this highlights the importance of women within the story.
Parvati clings to Saleem, claiming that now that she has him, she won’t let him go. As the Indian army arrives and carts countless Pakistani soldiers to P.O.W. camps, Parvati smuggles Saleem out of Dacca and back to India, hidden in her magic wicker basket.