Before mother left, in a long-ago time, we had been very rich-. My grandmother had been a great singer, a kothewali whose voice was more liquid and beautiful than Lata Mangeshkar's. Eleven nawabs and two Englishmen were besotted with love of her-.' From these great heights Gudiya's world plunges into the depths of almost complete penury when she arrives in Delhi with her ancient grandmother, Ammi, fleeing small-town scandal and disgrace. Just when all seems lost, Ammi works a miracle: a slab of green marble stolen from a building site, and five rounded pebbles from a sahib's garden, are transformed by the power of her singing voice into an inviolable place of worship. From here on, Gudiya's life takes on an extraordinary momentum of its own. Ammi dies a small-time saint, Pandit Kailash Nath Shastri predicts a future of impossible luck, the irrepressible Phoolwati becomes an unlikely guardian, and the inhumanly handsome Kalki rides in on his white horse and steals her heart. As we follow the twists and turns of Gudiya's story, we see unfold before us the peculiar dance of chance and will that is human existence.