In 1932 Nurullah a teacher aged twenty-three comes to the city of Akbarabad. He teaches literature to first-years at the university and encounters a non-violent resistance movement against British rule. It seems to him a bizarre way for an occupied country to confront an empire in a violent unequal world - one more wrong turn among others that Indian history has taken.
During the ten years from 1932 that he lives with a non-violent family in the 'national monument' that their doomed mansion has become Akbarabad educates him in varied ways leaving him stubbornly resistant to non-violence. The book ends in 1968 with a look-back and a reconsideration by the man Nurullah has now become.