In One Amazing Thing, a variety of people, such that Uma thinks it looks like "a mini UN summit," become trapped in the basement of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco when an earthquake hits. The main characters, nine of them, each recounts a story from his or her life- "one amazing thing" - which is Uma's suggestion, to distract the increasingly restless group. Uma is in the consulate waiting for a visa to visit her aging parents in India.
In chapter 11, Tariq, American-born, who has "a beard of the kind that in recent years made airport security pull you out of line and frisk you" is telling his story of his father's assumed arrest by seemingly FBI agents. His father is returned home unharmed but there is no sign of the other man, Hanif, who was taken with him. Tariq's father, although physically unhurt, has a stroke and the family consider moving back to India. Tariq is conflicted over what to do.
It is at this point in his story that the group in the consulate hear noises, first Uma and then the others, as the ceiling collapses and the group scatters to the shelter of the doorways. The water that they had collected so carefully to share amongst them is now full of dirt but there is a ray of light coming through the debris. Cameron, who is clearly the leader of the group, feels around and touches what he realizes is a dead body but decides not to tell the others. Tariq is now tired of telling his story and. though unfinished, Lily will take her turn.