Sisters Sarah and Moira travel from Bombay to Stanton Station, a whistle-stop in the midst of the dry forests of the Deccan in India, where several generations of their family have settled. Since Granny Watkinson is dying of cancer, the girls are spending their Christmas holidays with Aunt Hilda and Uncle Cyril instead.
Daddy arrives from Delhi; he brings news of unrest in the capital as India inches towards independence. Aunt Hilda oversees the preparation of meals in between sips of gin and lime, accompanied by a steady stream of gossip. Sarah revels in the atmosphere, and listens with rapt attention as old stories are recounted, ancient grudges explored, and family history comes alive once more.
Mummy hates postings, and I see it in her weary smile and by the way she runs her fi ngers tiredly through her hair. I hate them too, although sometimes I fi nd the prospect of new places and fresh faces fascinating. Moira doesn't mind either way; so long as we all stay together, it's okay with her. I chase after her, up and down the platform, dodging the many stalls, jumping on and off the huge platform scales.
That is our life. Army brats, governed by the whims of HQ, our schooling constantly disrupted by postings.