The story begins with Arzee playing cards with his friends in the small room of Shinde, the driver. Arzee is a dwarf and one day, while walking at night aimlessly, he meets his friend Dashrath Tiwari, who is a taxi-driver by profession and has sired seven children – all sons whenever he went home for three weeks a year. Arzee stops by Phiroz’s house and meets his daughter Shireen who is blind.
After being jilted once, Arzee falls in love with a Christian girl called Monique and both decide to get married. But when her father sees Arzee the dwarf, he does not approve of the match and along with his daughter leaves Bombay to settle down in Goa.
Phiroze tells Arzee about his daughter’s marriage within two days and about his depression, wondering if she would ever come to visit him. Arzee then realises for the first time that life is soon going “to be puffed with empty time not just for him, but for Phiroz too.” Soon Phiroz would be left with only his gods and his birds for company and a “box of memories to mull over as he shuffled around his flat on his arthritic legs, murmuring his conclusions to himself.”
Arzee goes to see his mother and discovers how she has aged. Her strength is ebbing. Deep inside, she is as lonely and as vulnerable as old Phiroz. Just like him, she longs for old time; she wants back the world of photographs adorning the room and which she keeps looking at to amuse herself. All of a sudden his mother reveals a secret to Arzee saying that she is not his real mother. A stunned silence follows her words. His real parents had drowned in the sea years ago and so he had been adopted by her. She tells him that as they did not have any children for long they adopted him, “except that you never grew and you suffered for it; and while your poor father left this world and found his peace, I suffered with you. So absolve me of this one thing, Arzee. It’s not from my womb that you’re a dwarf, son; it’s not from my womb that you’re a dwarf.”
A great knocking is felt in Arzee’s chest as if it would break out of his body. She also tells him that he was born to a Christian family who had named him Joseph before she and her husband adopted him. Arzee is shocked and he walks away to discover that he is not Arzee. He is not his mother’s real son. Then who is he?
(Harper Collins Publishers, A-53 sector 57, Noida-201301.)