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Set in the sleepy sea side town of Gopalpur-on-Sea on the East Coast of India, this is the story of the mock-colonial world of the Coromandel Villa Hotel, whose owner, Arjun Roy tried to escape from the urban life of Calcutta, and his girl Friday Jennifer Da Costa. The story goes back in time and place to trace the early childhood years of Arjun and his beautiful older sister Bula, as well as the unhappy past of Jennifer in Calcutta.
It is also the story of Shanti the demented beggar girl who scavenges food from the hotel and of Feni, her foster mother who picks rags for a living and who had been branded a ‘witch’ in her native village. Gopalpur is a refuge for them too.
On the “accursed day” Appaya the grizzled old cook of the Coromandel Villa Hotel finds a plastic doll on the beach, which he brings back as it might make a present for his daughter back home. This seemingly irrelevant event, sets in motion, in his mind, a chain of events that will eventually change the Coromandel Villa Hotel for ever…