Port Lightning would have been an important pitstop along the Silk Road or an alternate sea route. During the immediate pre-history of Feral City, the Island would have been played a prominent role during the Iran-Iraq war and Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan. As the story progresses (1989-1999), the island would have been at least a refueling depot during the first gulf war. One possible partial model for Chiragh Pattan is Diego Garcia, an airbase and naval port owned by the United Kingdom, approximately 1000 miles south of Ceylon.
From looking at major island city states (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Monaco etc), almost all are just off the coast of a conjunction between two or more big cities. In this vein, Port Lightning might be a few miles off the coast of Karachi – a major Pakistani city with approximately 12mm people.
Arvind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations has its shortcomings, I think there’s something disingenuous about the way he portrays the subaltern – where’s the horror? – and he isn’t much of a prose poet, plus he’s mindlessly anti-BJP, but he does have a nicely articulated chronology of a made-up Indian resort town between 1987 and 1991 (i.e. between the assassinations of the Gandhis). Takeaways: foreign remittances, city corporations, and the proliferation of satellite television.
Here’s mine (very much a work in progress):
1989: Khomeini dies. Julian arrives in Port Lightning.
1990: Gulf War begins. (USS Vincennes might drop by – later when the city starts to erupt in violence I’d like to have a gunboat drop by like). Chapter 5 begins here. Julian is recalled from a school trip when the bombs begin falling.
1991: Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in India.
1992: End of British rule, beginning of self determination. Treaty ends, colony reverts to local rule.
1993: WTC bombing.
1996: Kabul captured by Taliban. US Special Forces probably begin interdiction.
1998: Iran masses 250,000 troops on Afghan border.