Shiv Murthy is a meek, middle-aged professor of history at a college in New Delhi. When Meena, his twenty-four-year-old ward, breaks her leg, she calls on him for help, even though they barely know each other and even though Murthy’s wife is visiting their daughter in another city.
Coping with Meena’s care, struggling with the feeling this intellectual, self-possessed, politically minded, and sexually aware young woman stirs in him, Murthy’s life is thrown into even further turmoil when one of his medieval Indian history lessons is challenged by a group of religious extremists.
The university responds by giving Murthy the opportunity to apologize publicly. But increasingly in thrall to Meena and influenced by her political convictions, Murthy takes an entirely unexpected plunge into the political world: he defies the university and the fundamentalists, and defies as well his most basic sense of who and what he is.