In the little town, Thalassery, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, the Southwest Monsoon rules as usual, and life is determined by its rhythms and the widespread death and devastation it brings every year. A World war is raging in Europe and parts of Asia, India is a reluctant participant and the Congress Party has had enough. It wants Swaraj now.
Raghavan, the young lawyer, is determined to bring up his daughter, Anandam, himself, having lost his child-bride to Tuberculosis when she was eighteen years old. According to him, the school cannot do enough to educate her for the twentieth century, and the women of his extended family are mired in superstition. So, he decides what she reads, teaches her to speak English fluently, introduces her to the religions in India, its music and history, and keeps her close. He fends off all the marriage proposals that come from the time she is fifteen years old. She is not going to be man-fodder like his wife.
Raghavan is also one of the Congress Party leaders, in their non-violent conflict with the British rulers, and goes to jail for two years, when Gandhi asks the Raj to Quit India. During this period he is reduced to sending heavily censored letters from jail to his daughter.
However, as she grows up, falls in and out of love, he loses his confidence. She, on the other hand, with all her reading, knows there is a world out there she wants to claim and the books are no longer enough. She gets married to get out of the little town and ends up in an empty relationship, in far off Ceylon. Eventually she finds her way out of the system and goes to Nigeria to start being part of that huge, magical world she has only known in books.
In a hide-bound Nair community, this odd father-and-daughter relationship is one that puzzles and annoys them.