This is a story that explores simple human emotions such as loneliness, love, jealousy and also describes how people change drastically over time. The title is drawn from this paragraph from the story: “'He used to be so different. I don’t understand how a person can change so suddenly. It’s just hell-heaven, the difference,' she would say, always using the English words for her self-concocted, backward metaphor".
Pranab Chakraborty, a graduate student at MIT, Boston is contemplating returning to Calcutta due to homesickness. On the streets of Boston he sees Usha, a little girl and her traditional Bengali mother Aparna. He follows them and ends up befriending them. Aparna, herself homesick and lonely, can empathize with Pranab and she is happy to feed him. Pranab Kaku (uncle) now becomes a regular visitor at Usha's house. He calls Aparna as "Boudi" (boudi means elder brother's wife). Over time Aparna looks forward eagerly to Pranab's visits and develops a unique kind of love towards him. Adding to the situation is Usha's father's (Shyamal da) aloof and detached attitude towards her mother. Aparna's love for Pranab turns into jealousy when Pranab brings home an American woman, Deborah, whom he eventually marries. Aparna keeps blaming and criticizing Deborah and keeps reiterating that it is just a matter of time before Deborah leaves Pranab. After twenty-three years Deborah and Pranab finally divorce. The reasons behind the divorce are revealed. The story also recounts the unique mother-daughter relationship that develops between Aparna and Usha, after much struggles and squabbles where the mother placates her daughter by relating her own experiences about a foolish decision that she would have made.