Written by Thrity N. Umrigar, this is the story of two women in modern day India; Sera, an upper-middle class Parsi housewife and Bhima, her long-time servant. Although they are separated by class and circumstance, the two have both endured hardship and sorrow in their lives. Though Bhima has worked in Sera’s home for many years, and they enjoy a companionship based on Sera’s family and household needs, there still is that division of class that precludes such things as Bhima’s sitting on the furniture and using household dishes and utensils.
Sera is the widow of an abusive man who finds joy in sharing her home with her daughter, her only child and son-in-law who soon are expecting a child. Bhima, whose marriage fell apart after her husband’s work injuries led to a downward spiral to alcoholism, raised her granddaughter Maya after her daughter and son-in-law died of AIDS. She lives one step above poverty but manages to carry on in hopes of seeing her pretty and intelligent granddaughter graduate college (paid for by Sera) and pull herself out of the lower class. Then tragedy strikes with the revelation that Maya is pregnant and refuses to name the father of the child. Sera arranges for an abortion for the reluctant Maya. From there the story unfolds until the unknown father’s identity is revealed.