HT Picks: The week’s most interesting reads

This week’s reading list includes a book on the monsoon, another on the hippie trail, and one on Rajneesh in the US

books Updated: Jul 21, 2018 00:10 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times


MONSOON FEELINGS; A HISTORY OF EMOTIONS IN THE RAIN EDITED BY IMKE RAJAMANI, MARGRIT PERNAU AND KATHERINE BUTLER SCHOFIELD

479pp, Rs 1750; Niyogi Books

The monsoon is the season of pouring rain and intense emotions: love and longing, hope and fear, pleasure and pain, devotion and joyous excess. Through a series of evocative essays exploring rain-drenched worlds of poetry, songs, paintings, architecture, films, gardens, festivals, music, and medicine, this lavishly illustrated collection examines the history of monsoon feelings in South Asia from the twelfth century to the present. Each essay is written by a specialist in the field of South Asian arts and culture, and investigates emotions as reflections and agents of social, cultural and political change across borders of language and religion and between different arts and cultural practices. This history of emotions in the rain is as rich, surprising, beautiful and devastating as the thundering monsoon clouds, and will delight general and scholarly audiences alike.*


THE RAJNEESH CHRONICLES BY WIN MCCORMACK

358pp, Rs 450; Hachette

One of the most controversial spiritual leaders to have emerged from India in the twentieth century, godman Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, amassed thousands of followers from across the world in the 1970s, preaching a mix of free love and mysticism from his ashram in Pune. When tensions between him and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to a head, Rajneesh was forced to move his followers to Oregon in the United States, where his disciples toiled day and night to build the fanciful city of Rajneeshpuram, complete with its own police and fire departments, schools, malls, town houses, as well as an airstrip and a reservoir.

But as the ‘Rajneeshes’ began to invade the surrounding towns, locals registered vehement protests, causing the Oregon state government to intervene and call into question the legitimacy of Rajneeshpuram. What followed was a bizarre series of events, with the cult being accused of launching the first campaign of bioterrorism in the history of the United States, poisoning 71 people in the town of The Dalles, Oregon.

Here is the astonishing story of the happenings, from beginning to end, told in real-time dispatches from reporters on the ground.*


THE HIPPIE TRAIL; A HISTORY BY SHARIF GEMIE& BRIAN IRELAND

246pp, Rs 399; Aleph

This is the first detailed history of the Hippie Trail in the 1960s and 1970s. Going beyond the dozens of personal memoirs and travellers’ accounts that have been written about the legendary overland route between the West and South Asia, the book records the joys and pains experienced by the huge numbers of (mostly)young hippies on their travels to India and other ‘points east’ such as Nepal and Afghanistan. Written in a clear, simple style, it goes deep into the motivations and experiences of hundreds of thousands of hippies who made the journey.

Watch more: Last week’s #Bookstack

This account is structured around a few key questions: Were the travelers simply motivated by a search for drugs, or was there something deeper that they were looking for? What was the truth about the love and sexual freedom that was supposed to be an integral part of the hippie subculture? Were they basically just budget tourists? Or were they pilgrims in thrall to the mysticism of the East? Besides an insightful analysis of the various aspects of the hippie phenomenon, the authors also take a look at how the travelers have been represented in films, novels and autobiographical accounts. In sum, The Hippie Trail should appeal to all those interested in a fascinating moment in cultural history, and its far-reaching effects on the generations that followed.*

*All copy from book flap

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 00:09 IST