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‘Listen to me, child. You will be a woman soon and must behave well and with modesty. The Kazi will ask you three times whether you will marry Kalloo Mian. Now don’t you be shameless, like these modern girls, and shout gleefully “Yes”. Be modest and cry softly and say “Hoon”.’

Telling of the lives of servants and children, of conflict between the old traditions and new ways, and exploring the human repercussions of the Muslim/Hindu divide, these twelve stories present a moving and vivid picture of life in India in the mid-twentieth century. To each episode Attia Hosain brings a superb imaginative understanding and a sense of the poignancy of the smallest of human dramas.

A marriage is arranged between a little servant girl and a middle-aged cook with an opium habit; an idealistic political worker faces disillusionment; a man returns from years studying in England to a wife he scarcely knows; a conventional bride has her first encounter with her husband’s ’emancipated’ friends.