At the age of 20, Malik is a well-spoken young man with the benefit of a boarding school education, courtesy of Samir Singh. He has become involved with a young tribal woman in Shimla. Wanting Malik to have a solid career, Lakshmi arranges an apprenticeship at the Jaipur Palace for him, which does not make his beloved very happy.
Malik soon finds that not much has changed in the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s royalty, but only if certain secrets remain buried.
When the Royal Cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, Malik sets out to uncover why it happened. In the end, he has to enlist Lakshmi’s help to untangle the web of lies that Jaipur’s elite would prefer to hide.
Escaping from an arranged and abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone from her 1950s rural village to the vibrant pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the henna artist—and confidante—most in demand to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.