Barely managing to scrape a living gathering dead wood from the side of a busy road, Ranji accepts his destiny uncomplainingly. His one and only concern is to feed his beloved family and keep them safe in their hut beneath a banyan tree. His dream is to have enough money to buy himself a bicycle, although that day seems a long way off. And then a huge tyre falls from a passing truck, and his life is to change forever as he embarks on a quest to turn his good fortune into hard cash.
Ranji’s wife, the beautiful and still youthful Meena, loves her husband but finds herself irresistibly drawn to Ashok the wealthy local brick-maker. Although he is of a higher caste, he makes no secret of his desire for her and tries to get close to her whenever he gets the chance. Flattered by his attention, and feeling neglected by Ranji who has become more and more obsessed with selling his tyre, Meena struggles to control her growing feelings for Ashok.
When a sadhu tells Ranji how much his tyre could fetch in a shop, he becomes even more determined to get the best price for it and to change their lives for the better. But to achieve this is not easy. The tyre is brand new and undoubtedly valuable, but also rare and so finding the right buyer will be a huge challenge, especially for an illiterate untouchable such as him. He has been used to accepting his fate as an inescapable condition of life, but as he pursues his quest Ranji leaves his familiar world far behind. Often uncomfortable in this new situation, Ranji wonders if he wouldn’t have been happier with his previous simple life. And he is not the only one who has to change. Meena too faces up to new challenges which make her re-evaluate her own feelings, and move far beyond the role she has occupied till then, even setting up her own small business selling roasted cashews.
Months pass with no sale and the tyre has now become a swing for his daughter Surya. But it seems as much a catalyst for conflict as a blessing. Then a young broker arrives at Ranji’s home to negotiate its purchase, and suddenly the bicycle doesn’t seem such an impossible dream after all. But Ranji stubbornly insists on a very high price, and when the broker leaves with no agreement he realizes he may have lost his best chance to sell it. Meena’s frustration with her husband’s obstinacy is clear.
The monsoon is fast approaching and, with conditions worsening, Meena and her daughter take refuge in Ashok’s warehouse, despite her misgivings about her would-be suitor. Meanwhile Ranji stays behind to await the return of the broker. After a terrible night, he awakens to a scene of utter devastation. The floodwaters have destroyed everything around, and his life has only been saved by the tyre: hanging from the banyan tree it made a barrier which trapped branches and protected the hut. So Ranji has survived but the precious tyre is utterly ruined.
The next day Ranji discovers the body of the broker who had been on his way back to buy the tyre but had tragically drowned in the flood waters. Ranji despairs. It is impossible to make any sense of this ongoing sequence of good and bad luck. But, finally reunited with his family, he finds the strength to start again, to rebuild their home, and eventually to buy the longed-for bicycle, due to his successful new venture as a potter, ingeniously using the storm-battered tyre as an improvised potter’s wheel.
A French citizen, Christian was born in Morocco, and lived in India, Belgium and Luxembourg, before settling in Provence. After studying architecture and business in Marseille and Paris, he worked as an architect specialising in Roman and Greek marine archeology - the subject of his very first book, published in 1976. He then moved into industry and joined a major petroleum company with whom he travelled around the world for many years. His observations and experiences from this time formed the basis of a number of award-winning short stories, as well as his first novel, Lignes de terre, wh...
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After completing a Psychology degree and spending a few years teaching English in Greece, Liz returned to England and started a sales career in educational publishing. She now works as Head of European Sales for a major international publisher and makes regular visits to about a dozen countries every year. While in the UK she divides her time between her home in North London and her seaside flat in East Devon.
She has always read widely and realises that the novels that have stayed with her have all been set in exotic locations with strong characters at their heart. Creating the Engl...
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