This novel is divided into two broad sections: "The Ebb:Bhata" and "The Tide:Jowar." The Hungry Tide is set in the Sundarbans, an archipelago of hundreds of scattered islands, some densely populated while others completely uninhabited, at the mohona of several rivers in the Bay of Bengal. Here there are no borders to divide fresh water from salt, river from sea, even land from water. For hundreds of years, only the truly dispossessed braved the man-eating tigers, snakes and the crocodiles who rule these fragmented islands. Often whole islands are washed away by the cyclones that sweep in from the Bay with huge tidal surges. Thousands of human beings and animals routinely die here in natural disaster. This is a place where floods continually inundate the land and whole forests lift their heads above the tides and then disappear. This is a liquid landscape where surging cyclones can wipe out thousands of lives with the flick of one giant wave. Some even call it as bhatir desh, the land of eighteen tides. The land itself is inconstant, subject to radical transformation as a result of late summer storms and tide water.
At the beginning of twentieth century, a rich and visionary Scotsman, Sir Daniel MacKinnon Hamilton, who believed in the dictum 'labour conquers everything,' founded. Utopian settlement where people of all races, classes and religions could live together 'without petty social distinctions and differences.' He wanted to establish a new society, a new kind of country. It would be a country run by co-operatives, here people wouldn't exploit each other and everyone would have a share in the land. The news was spread and people from Orissa, eastern Bengal and San-thal Parganas rushed to the tide country in search of free land. Villages sprouted on the islands and Hamilton gave them names. Everything was provided for them such as electricity, telephone, bank and currency.