Mistry’s second novel, A Fine Balance, is a long, complex work, with four protagonists and a variety of settings. Moreover, although most of the events in the novel take place in the mid-1970’s, there are also lengthy passages tracing the early lives of the major characters, thus placing them within the context of their families and their communities. These accounts are also important because they explain why the three men left home to come to what is assumed to be the city of Bombay and also why the widow, Dina Dalal, whose older brother has a home there, is living alone, attempting to support herself.
The first chapter of A Fine Balance is devoted to Dina. She was born Dina Shroff, the daughter of a Parsi physician, a good man too idealistic to have earned much money or to have saved anything for the future. Dina’s brother, Nusswan, who is eleven years her senior, viewed his father with contempt; by the time he was sixteen, Nusswan had already decided to go into business and spend his life looking after himself. By contrast, Dina wanted to be a doctor just like her father, and she was bright enough to fulfill her dream. However, when Dr. Shroff died on one of his mission trips to a remote area, Nusswan took charge. There was no question of further schooling. Dina became the household drudge. Then she met and married Rustom Dalal, a pharmacist. They made a home together and were blissfully happy. However, on their third anniversary, Rustom was run over and killed. Dina cannot live with her tyrannical brother. She returns to Rustom’s flat, starts a tailoring business, and, when her eyes begin to fail, she decides to find two tailors to work for her, though she must conceal them from the rent collector,...
(The entire section is 712 words.)