The story of the book focuses on the experiences and perception of the central character, Mira Kannadical. After four years as a student in England, Mira returns to India to teach and write, hoping that ‘by writing a few poems . . . I could start to stitch it all together: my birth in India, a few years after national independence, my colonial education, my rebellion against the arranged marriage my mother had in mind for me, my years of research in England.’
But the India that Mira finds, teems with confusion and unrest. At the heart of this novel, is the gang rape of Rameeza Be by the police. The towns people rise up and burn the police station. As the conflict between the townspeople and police reaches a boiling point, Mira realises that the unrest in the souls of Indian men and women is ‘too visible, too turbulent already to permit the kinds of writing I had once learnt to value.’ Turning from poetry, Mira looks to people around her to help define herself: Durgabai, practical and devoted to her patients; Old Swami Chari, preaching that this world’s sufferings are only an illusion; and her rebellious lover Ramu, urging her towards dangerous political action.
This novel has a powerful resonance with the recent tragic events in Delhi. When it was first published in 1991, it was a Voice Literary Supplement Editor’s Choice.
Haunting and lyrical, Nampally Road vividly portrays contemporary India and one woman’s struggle to piece together her past.