This story takes place in an unnamed coastal city in India during 1975-1984. This novel is told in third person and is about a chain of circumstances that tosses four very different people together into one small apartment. A college student, Maneck Kohlah, rents a room in the apartment of Dina Dalal, a widowed seamstress in her forties. Dina also has two additional boarders; Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash; tailors fleeing low-caste origins. They do not get along but as a series of unfortunate events take place, they continually become closer until the wall of caste, suspicion, age, and politeness has dissolved and friendships emerge unexpectedly.
Ishvar and Omprakash visit their village and an unfortunate event keeps them from returning right away. Maneck also had to leave Dina because his year at college was over and his marks were not good enough to return. He left for Dubai to work and didn't return until eight years later when his father passed away. He went to visit Dina and found her living at her brothers and he found out the two tailors were now beggars. When he saw them he pretended not to know them and walked on. He went to the train station and committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.
The title describes a moment in time when the lives of four very different people are in balance, when they find stability and happiness in the midst of chaos. For a time the uneasy relationship between the four holds together, and they experience a brief period of happiness. Horrible events intrude on the "fine balance" they have achieved and the end is unhappy for everyone.
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