Leela is the spoiled daughter of rich parents in India in the 1940s. According to the custom of the time she is already married although she does not live with her husband. She will soon join her husband's family in a customary celebration. But before she gets to enjoy this celebration her husband dies from a snake bite. Although she has never enjoyed any of the privileges of marriage she now finds herself a widow and must live accordingly. The rules of widowhood in India at that time state that she cannot wear jewelry or bright colors, she can never marry again, and she must spend one year inside her house. With the help of a tutor who comes to the house Leela begins to learn more about her country and finds hope for her future in the teachings of Mahatma Ghandi.