Nirmala is brought up by her parents to be a modern educated woman who also pays due reverence to traditional values. She is a loving daughter and a diligent student. She has been betrothed to Loke Nath as per his late mother’s wishes. But Nirmala’s parents are concerned that the hard-hearted Loke Nath may not be a suitable husband for her. Nirmala comes first in the BA examinations along with another student Ram Das. Loke Nath grows insecure about Nirmala’s feelings for him and tries to force her to come with him one day. But Ram Das arrives to gallantly rescue her from his clutches. Unaware of these happenings her parents are busy arranging her wedding. When Nirmala’s friend Pratima confides in them about Loke Nath’s actions the wedding is called off.
Meanwhile, Ram Das’s friend Moti plays the match maker between him and Nirmala. Loke Nath, who is involved in many unsavoury activities, tries to disrupt the wedding by having Ram Das kidnapped. But Ram Das uses his wits to escape from his predicament and Loke Nath is arrested. Ram Das and Nirmala are happily married and retire to the countryside.
Their married life is blissful and they wish to have a child. But Nirmala undergoes two traumatic pregnancies and both her infants are stillborn. During her third pregnancy a yogi tells her that because of an old curse she cannot have a child as long as she is with Ram Das. Greatly affected by this, she leaves the house on a stormy night. She ends up in a beggars’ community where with the help and care of a beggar-woman she is finally able to have a child. She is believed to be dead by Ram Das and her relatives.
During the occasion of Sankranti, a fellow beggar takes her baby to aid in her begging when Nirmala (now known as Nimmi) is sleeping. On that fateful day, a depressed and restless Ram Das goes for a walk and encounters the woman with the child. Driven by pity when he learns that the child is an orphan, he pays the woman some money to let him adopt the child. Nirmala is traumatised by the disappearance of her child and never fully recovers from it.
Years later, Ram Das is out with his now grown up son and his family. His son is married and has a child of his own. Nirmala and her friend come to ask for alms, but a disturbed Nirmala mistakes her grandchild to be her child and tries to run away with him. In the ensuing altercation Ram Das realises her true identity and the two are finally reunited. The song Jeevan Hai Sangram sung by the beggars provides the major leitmotif for Nirmala’s story. She is finally able to overcome her struggles and be happy with her family.