Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was fathered in circuitous circumstances by an Englishman and passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. Growing up in luxury just downriver from the Taj Mahal, at fifteen the news of Pran's true parentage is revealed and he is tossed out into the street - a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an extraordinary, near mythical journey of a young man who must invent himself to survive - not once, but many times.Imprisoned in a brothel and dressed in women's clothes, his sensuous beauty is exploited as he is made to become Rukhsana, a pawn in a game between colony and empire. To a depraved British major he becomes Clive, an object of desire taught to be a model English schoolboy. Escaping to Bombay he begins a double life as Robert, dutiful foster child to a Scottish missionary couple, and as Pretty Bobby, errand boy and sometime pimp to the tawdry women of the city's most notorious district. But as political unrest begins to stir, Pran finds himself in the company of a doomed Englishman - an orphan named Jonathan Bridgeman. Having learned quickly that perception is a ready substitute for reality, Pran soon finds himself on a ship with Bridgeman's passport. First in London, then at Oxford, the Impressionist hones his chameleon-like skills, making himself whoever and whatever he needs to be to obtain what he desires.