This map plots the settings and references in A Fine Balance

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Bombay

A Fine Balance is set in an unnamed "city by the sea" that is clearly Bombay, the capital of Maharashtra and a significant trading and entertainment centre for India. (The name of the city was changed to Mumbai in 1995 after the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party came into power).

Bombay
Public DomainBombay - Credit: Aam422, Wikimedia

The city was built on an archipelago of seven islands, which in 1862 were merged to form one long peninsula.

 

Slum
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSlum - Credit: bengarrison, Flickr

In 1975, 6 million people lived in the city, making it the most populated city in India and one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The population of Bombay grew much faster than the housing stock, and so slums developed to house the large number of economic migrants.

It is estimated that 16,500 people can live in each square mile of slum. This density of population means that hygiene is almost impossible to maintain; sewage runs through open gutters and clean water is difficult to obtain. Disease is rampant and life expectancy can be as low as 31 years.