India is the second most populated country in the world and the seventh largest by geographical area. It covers a great diversity of ecologies and climates, from the mountainous regions in the north, to the beautiful beaches of Goa in the south.

The teardrop shape of the country divides the Indian Ocean into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. India also shares borders with Pakistan to the west;  China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. 

Indian Flag
GNU Free Documentation LicenseIndian Flag - Credit: Marc Mongenet, Wikimedia

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).

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.

Google Map


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.

Indian Village
Indian Village
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeIndian Village - Credit: Sistak, Flickr

The tailors, Ishvar and Omprakash, come from a poor, rural village.

The exact location isn't specified. All we know is that it:

Takes a whole day by train - morning till night - to reach it. (p7) 

Himalayan Foothills


Yumthang Valley
Creative Commons AttributionYumthang Valley - Credit: Shayon Ghosh, Flickr


Himalayan Foothills
Public DomainHimalayan Foothills

The Himalayas form the highest mountain range on the planet.  They include Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. Their immense size and expanse makes them a natural barrier to immigration between countries.

The foothills make for a rugged, isolated place to live. Small villages nestle on steep slopes, and most people live by subsistence farming with small herds of animals.

Maneck's family live in this beautiful place.