Situated on the southern fringes of Calcutta, the bustling, sunny Deshbandhu colony, a settlement of refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), has a lot going on.
In the evening market, two thieves swoop on Ananya's long plait and chop it away. Atin, the dreamy poet and Ananya's secret admirer, is worried not to find her anywhere the next day. He seems oblivious of the fact that his home is facing demolition. Meanwhile, their friends make preparations for the coming spring festival.
The two poachers of Ananya's plait want to sell it to raise money for a computer course. They are desperate to pursue higher education - by any means.
Five boys on a roadside perch make desultory observations on the goings on, losing no chance to confuse Atin. Two old men, original immigrants, sit at the local grocery philosophizing on commodities, life and desire.
As Atin, along with his only friend Dipankar, sets out in search of Ananya, and the two thieves embark on an increasingly absurd journey to try and sell the plait, the story travels from the colony of the day to the neon districts of the night, and then to the ghostly New Town under construction, tracing out the map of a city through realism and delirium.
Somewhere along the path, Dipankar tells Atin about Ananya's family buying an apartment in the new building that is about to raze their colony tenements to the ground.
By daybreak, they are on the eastern fringes of the new Calcutta. Draped in the midnight fog stands Mr. Paul, the visionary land shark, whose demolition team is warming up for action at Deshbandhu colony. As his house gets destroyed in the small hours of the morning, Atin comes and greets Mr. Paul...