The moment of birth arrives and India’s independence starts with fireworks, fights and a race to get the baby that is born on the stroke of midnight. Having relocated to Bombay after the father’s leather goods warehouse was burned down the family settle into the idea of becoming property magnates in Bombay.
They pick up a house on an estate owned by a man sharing the same name as the original dreamer who hoped to get Bombay established by draining the sea and joining together disparate islands. Methwold sells them his home on the condition they take nothing out until independence has been declared so the narrator’s family and a host of other new owners to the estate have to live surrounded by the English man’s rubbish.
The birth of Saleem Sinai drives his father to drink and although the narrator is swapped at birth with another baby – a detail in the story that causes the narrator’s audience Padma to leave in disgust – the family soon settles into a rhythm of mother focusing on child and father slowly succumbing to drink.
Meanwhile across the country the signs are not good with talk of omens indicating that India is losing favour with the Gods and being punished for being a secular country. Those who took the decision to go to Pakistan appear to be better off and things get worse when Ghandi is assassinated.
Just a few years into independence and already the cracks, which are slowly covering Sinai and killing him, are evident across all parts of Indian society.