The story has its origins in the sixties, when Mehta by chance finds his father weeping uncontrollably on his mother’s shoulder during a New York dinner party. As a result, the son begins to unravel a family mystery that takes him on a painful and revealing voyage into his father’s British past in Simla, the magical hill station. Step-by-step, he is forced to confront his father’s passionate clandestine affair with Rasil, an exquisite beauty who in her teens was abducted from her poor family and raped. She was subsequently rescued by a Hindu philanthropist, only to end up trapped in an abusive marriage to a rich businessman. Mehta’s exploration of his father’s love affair proves painful, as the son realizes that the entanglement, a passing episode in sixty-one years of a loving marriage, had shattering psychological side effects on his mother — a close friend of Rasil’s — and also on his own life. The Red Letters is Mehta’s masterpiece, a work of extraordinary intensity that perfectly re-creates the exotic, closed world of British India.
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