Ronald Forrester is an English forester in Simla, India, where he came to see what life was like in, ironically, a country without trees. In 1918 during a violent storm which floods the country, this difficult and taciturn man encounters a young woman called Armrita in a cave. After an expert and violent sex scene, the Englishman is killed by the flood and Armrita is taken to Agra to be married to Razdan, a distinguished court pleader who belongs to one of the highest and most distinguished castes in all Hindustan. Some months later, Armrita gives birth to a son, Pran Nath, who is actually Ronald Forrester's child, and dies after delivering the baby. A few years later, when Razdan learns that is son is the "bastard child of a casteless, filth eating, left-and-right-hand-confusing Englishman", he dies of shock. Now an orphan, Pran Nath is thrown out of the house by the chowkidar and becomes one of the many homeless of Agra.
So begins the epic life of a young boy of six in India. His odyssey-like journey will take him from Agra to the red light district of Bombay, then to the brick cloisters of the University of Oxford and finally to Fotseland, in Africa. It is the sad story of a man never understanding who he really is, neither really Indian nor really English, despite all his efforts. Mr Kunzru meditates on the construction of identity, self deprecation, miscegenation and racism in an ambitious and remarkable first novel.