As Saleem continues his story, he notes that he now has twenty-six pickle-jars present for each of the chapters in his story. Padma continues to enjoy the story and Saleem’s company. She talks of a Kashmiri vacation together, and for the first time, she has a “desire for legitimacy” and a “hope-for-marriage.” Sadly, Saleem’s cracks are worsening, and he must finish his story—Padma will have to wait.
The pickle-jars which hold Saleem’s chapters are a physical representation of his attempt to preserve his history and stories. Finishing his story is the most important thing to Saleem, even more important than Padma.
When Saleem returns to India, Indira Gandhi’s New Congress Party is in full power. Saleem is struck by a sudden sympathy for his country, and he vows to save the country from Mrs. Gandhi’s grip.
Indira Gandhi’ hold on India is foretold in Saleem’s nightmare about the Widow, and now it is coming true.
Saleem stays for a few days in the ghetto, a guest of Picture Singh, but he soon remembers that his uncle, Mustapha Aziz, lives nearby in the city of Delhi. He hopes to stay with Mustapha for a while and recover from his recent trials.
Saleem is not entirely comfortable living in the poverty of the ghetto, and this is a reflection of his own privileged, middle-class life.
Parvati tells Saleem that she also ran into Shiva in Dacca when he came through with the army procession. Shiva, a famous war hero, gave Parvati a lock of his hair, and she hopes that he will come and visit the ghetto so that they may all be together.
Shiva, named for the god of war and destruction, is living up to his identity. Parvati does not know about the dissent between Saleem and Shiva, as Saleem has kept the truth from her.
Mustapha spends his free time researching genealogies and lineages. One day, Saleem sees a folder in his office labeled TOP SECRET with the title PROJECT M.C.C.
Saleem is convinced that the folder is information on the Midnight Children’s Conference. The Conference represents a free and diverse India, and to Saleem, the folder is proof that the government wants to destroy them.
While at Mustapha’s, Saleem also definitively learns about the deaths of his family and the recent disappearance of Jamila Singer. When Mustapha’s wife Sonia learns that Saleem fought on the Pakistani side of the war, she refuses to feed him and wishes him gone; yet Mustapha insists that he can stay. Saleem begins a four-hundred-day mourning period, to honor each of his fallen family members.
Sonia views Saleem as a Pakistani and a traitor. Saleem’s Muslim faith (which he still claims not to practice) dictates his long mourning period, proof again of the effects of religion in even a secular life.
Following Saleem’s disappearance during the war, Jamila spoke out against the Pakistani government and was forced to go into hiding. Jamila slips, undetected, behind the watchful walls of the order of Santa Ignacia, dedicating herself to Christianity and leavened bread.
Jamil finally surrenders to her true identity. As one of the new sisters of Santa Ignacia, her Christian faith is realized, and the order provides much needed sanctuary.
On the four hundred and eighteenth day of Saleem’s stay in Mustapha’s home, a man with “a mouth as fleshy as a woman’s labia” comes to dinner. Saleem thinks that he recognizes him, and the man joins Mustapha in his office.
The man who visits Mustapha is Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son. Notably, Sanjay helps to organize the sterilization program, and this is reflected in his “labia mouth.” His description also serves as an insult. Just like Zulfikar, Saleem views feminine insults as the worst possible affront.
That night, Parvati comes to visit Saleem. She tells him that she has been wanting him to come and visit her in the ghetto because she has no one to talk to. She can’t tell the others, including Picture Singh, about her true powers, and she is able to talk to Saleem.
Most of the other magical people in the ghetto are phonies; but Parvati possesses real magic. There is a long history the world over of women being persecuted as witches, and Parvati must carefully guard her secret.
Later that same night, Sonia and Mustapha kick Saleem out of their house after they catch him in bed with Parvati. Parvati is waiting for him in the street, and together, they return to the magicians’ ghetto.
Parvati has been loyal to Saleem (like most of the women in his life) since they were children, and this continues in adulthood. This highlights the importance of women in Saleem’s life.
At the magician’s ghetto, Parvati shares her magic with Saleem in the shadow of a mosque. She is a skilled witch of “white magic,” and can cure sickness and counter poison. With Parvati, Saleem’s hair begins to finally grow back, and the birthmarks on his face fade; however, he is never able to “do for her the thing she desired most.” Saleem claims that he is under a bewitchment which has stolen his sex.
Despite being in the Delhi ghetto and out of Pakistan, Saleem still can’t escape the Muslim faith, and the mosque near the ghetto is proof of this. Parvati’s use of “white magic” means that she is a good witch, and by association, a good woman.
Parvati develops a perpetual pout, and Picture Singh decides it is because she wants to get married. He asks Saleem if he is interested, but Saleem claims that he can’t marry Parvati because he is unable to father children. Picture Singh warns him, “One must not lie about such things, captain. To lie about one’s manhood is bad, bad luck. Anything could happen.”
Picture Singh’s assumption that Parvati is missing a husband and wants to get married is more evidence of the patriarchy. Singh assumes that Parvati wants to get married and serve her husband. He never considers that she is capable of more or that her pout is indicative of something else.