‘Heat and dust’ is a story of two different women of two different characters and from two different times in history. A young English woman comes to India to reconstruct the life of her grandfather’s first wife Olivia. Olivia is said to have married Douglas in England round 50 years back and had come to Satipur in India. Here she met the Nawab in a dinner party in Khatm and expected him to visit her within a week. She was not wrong as the Nawab did visit her and in this way they became friends and after some ime passed they became lovers.
When she became pregnant she told the Nawab and her husband about it. The Nawab’s mother arranged for an abortion and after that Olivia went to the palace to live. Nawab purchased a house for her in a village in the foothills of Himalayas where she stayed till her death in 1950s. Olivia was so much in love with him that after her death her body was cremated and her ashes spread over the Himalayas, which is against British custom.
The young woman who came to India wants to know more about Olivia and lives in
Satipur, visits the house in which her grandfather Douglas and Olivia used to live. She visits the Nawab’s palace with her landlord, Inder Lal. She also visits the shrine of Baba Firdau with Inder Lal’s mother and family on an annual fertility day. The next time when she goes there with Inder Lal both of them become lovers and that was near to the spot where Olivia and Nawab had become lovers in 1923.
Then the narrator arrives in the same village where Olivia had stayed for rest of her life and stays in the same house.
She oo has become pregnant and the story ends with the narrator deciding to carry her child to term. She has also heard about an ashram where she plans to stay but has no idea for how long she would be there. The story of two women is in two different times in history because Olivia had loved Nawab in a society where men were superior and the interaction took place between two different cultures. At that time British got transferred to India and they restricted to interact only with royal Indian families and hence the love story of Olivia with Nawab ook place.
But when the narrator comes to India, it is a liberal state and all are free to travel and interact with anyone they want. So the narrator gets friendly with Inder Lal who is a civil servant and falls in love with him. However the situation and place all are same with both the women and it seems the same old story is getting repeated. In spite of few differences due to discrete situations and circumstances, it seems that the narrator is following the footsteps of Olivia.
The time is different for these two women with dissimilar society rules but the reader has he impression that narrator is unknowingly following the footsteps of Olivia. The intercultural interaction is the same along with the marriage vows. Any relationship outside marriage was considered immoral at that time and in modern times as well. It seems not much has changed like the dos and don’ts for a woman were present in pre- colonial India and in post times too. The description of the two different times with similar situations helps the readers to understand both the women and their feelings properly.