A sutra is a string of aphorisms on behaviour and philosophy. Mehta's narrator is a civil servant who renounces the world in order to meditate beside a sacred river. But he expands the notion of the sutra's wise and pithy sayings into a series of linked moral tales heard by the bureaucrat from pilgrims who come in search of enlightenment, forgiveness or justification. They include the story of a music teacher who believes he has murdered the thing he loves, a girl pursued by kidnappers, and a city gent who thinks himself possessed by spirits. This is a most agreeable, good-humoured way to learn about the many facets of Indian spirituality.