Ashok (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) runs a family business that sells takeout food and which also has a video rental store at the side. Ashok's extended family includes his wife Radha (Shabana Azmi), his brother Jatin (Javed Jaffrey), their ailing mother Biji (Kushal Rekhi) and their manservant Mundu (Ranjit Chowdhry), all living under the same roof. Jatin, at the insistence of Ashok and their mother, Biji, agrees to marry the beautiful Sita (Nandita Das) in an arranged marriage, although he is actually in love with Julie (Alice Poon), a Chinese-Indian. At first glance, you see a happy middle-class family going through the normal paces of everyday life. However, as the layers are slowly peeled back, we find a simmering cauldron of discontent within the family, with almost every family member living a lie. Both marriages in the family turn out to be emotionally empty, without love or passion. While Ashok is an ascetic who has taken a vow of celibacy, Jatin is a handsome ladies' man who is still openly seeing Julie even after his marriage to Sita. Ashok has pledged his total devotion to a religious holy man, a swami, in order to purge his life of worldly desires and temptations. Radha, bound by her sense of duty to her husband, agrees to go along with his wishes. As you can imagine, with both husbands ignoring their spouses' emotional and sexual needs (albeit with reasons that are totally opposite from each other), it is only a matter of time before Radha and Sita look to one another for comfort and to satisfy their own passions. In this environment, it is only natural that Sita and Radha become fast friends, and, in time, much more than that. But their love is not without its share of painful obstacles.
The film opens with young Radha sitting in a mustard field with her parents. Her mother tells her a story of a people who wanted to see the ocean; then she explains that sometimes one must learn to see some things (through her mind's eye) without looking.The film flashes forward to Sita, a newly married young woman, trying to perceive some emotion from her husband Jatin. Jatin appears distant and shows little interest in Sita or in being married. Sita is given a perfunctory welcome by Jatin's family. Jatin is in a typical joint family arrangement. He lives with his older brother Ashok, his sister-in-law Radha, his invalid mother (Biji) and the family servant Mundu. Their apartment is on the second floor of a two story dwelling in a crowded marketplace in New Delhi. Ashok and Jatin run a small store (on the first floor) that sells food (for takeout) and rents videotapes.Sita is gradually exposed to various difficulties. She is also in a typical arranged marriage, but she learns that Jatin married her only to put an end to Ashok's incessant nagging. Jatin continues to date his Chinese girlfriend. Sita does not rebuke him for fear that it may bring dishonor to her parents.