The arc of Upadhyay’s narrative is like that of a soap opera, though rather more lurid.
Things begin calmly enough in a village in Nepal, though they heat up quickly when Sulochana, otherwise known as Didi, finds out from a local gossip that her husband, the Masterji, has been having a relationship with a woman named Apsara and even has a son by her. This relationship has been made easier logistically because the Masterji, a renowned teacher, has been spending much of his time away from the village teaching in a city. Didi, who’s known more for her fiery temperament than for her pulchritude, immediately takes charge by seeking out Tarun, the Masterji’s son by Apsara, and bringing him home to live with her; the Masterji; and their two sons, Amit and Sumit. Didi is immediately struck by the beauty of her 11-year-old stepson and begins to favor him, much to the revulsion of Amit in particular. Soon it becomes clear that Didi’s relationship to Tarun is becoming increasingly abnormal and sexualized. She finds excuses to spend time alone with him, and as he grows older, their relationship remains highly charged though unconsummated. When Tarun gets married at age 23, he and his wife, Rukma, immediately have problems in the bedroom, and eventually Rukma discovers her husband’s appalling secret.
This is a story more sad than salacious, and the human cost of the quasi-incest is exceptionally high.