North Calcutta—a place of jostling alleyways and people and tall, crumbling houses inhabited by squabbling families and divided by the whims of inheritance. Add to this the explosion of the Naxalbari revolution—with its fulcrum in the city on College Street, also in North Calcutta—which steadily infiltrated the homes of the middle class, depriving them of young, many bright, men. Neel Mukherjee stays away from the landed zamindari backgrounds and turns instead to business families, those directly affected by trade unionism and the steadily growing grip of Communism on West Bengal. For Bengalis, the family Mukherjee describes inThe Lives of Others and the minutiae of their lives, except for some gross aspects, is very identifiable. The girl tiptoeing up to braid her hair on the terrace in the early evening, secure in the knowledge that a young man on the opposite terrace will be eyeing her, was an inextricable part of growing up in the city.