Benares, India 1920. A Bengali priest, Harihar, his wife, Sarbajaya and their restless ten-year-old son Apu, live in the holy city. When Harihar dies, Sarbajaya becomes a cook in order to support herself and her son. Apu spends all of his time on the streets and so, when an uncle suggests they stay with him in Bengal, his offer is accepted. There, an older Apu studies to become a priest, but his mind is engaged by scientific questions rather than religious ones. He struggles with his mother over this but, ultimately, she agrees to let him study in Calcutta via a scholarship when he promises not to neglect his religious training. After much struggling, he returns to his village upon learning of his mother's failing health. He arrives a day after her death. Rejecting his uncle's attempts to persuade him to stay in the village and resume his priesthood, Apu returns to Calcutta.