This novel – epic in length – tells the story of four people in Mumbai, India who come together during The Emergency of the mid-1970’s. They are:
- Dina Dalal – a young widow who takes up clothing manufacture to maintain her independence from her controlling brother.
- Ishvar Darji – a kindly tailor from a low caste background who comes to Mumbai to work for Dina.
- Omprakash – Ishvar’s more unruly nephew who works with him as a tailor.
- Maneck – a young man from a mountain village studying at the university and staying with Dina as a paying guest.
In the first part of A Fine Balance, Mistry tells the life stories of each of these characters which actually could be four gripping novellas in their own right. Then the story is told of how they all come together under one roof and after a rocky start forming a friendship.
This novel is marked by stark descriptions of poverty and injustice in India which Mistry none-too-subtly lays at feet of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s corrupt regime. This novel does not have a happy ending, but there is joy and love in the brief time of friendship of the principal characters that shows that their is some hope in the most dire of circumstances.
She envisioned two leaky faucets: one said Money, the other, Sanity. And both were dripping away simultaneously.