HT Picks: This week’s good reads
This time, we pick the story of the Beatles in Rishikesh, a gritty look at Vidarbha’s farm widows, and short fiction set in Muzaffarnagar
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE BY AJOY BOSE
It is 1965, and John, Paul, George and Ringo have lost themselves. Beatlemania is at its peak and the boys are overwhelmed by screaming fans, more money than they can count, and fame beyond their dreams. But one day, on the sets of the surreal Help!, George discovers the sitar, starting the boys off on a journey filled with drug-induced introspection, transnational spirituality and some damned fine music.
It is 1968, and John, Paul, George and Ringho have decided to find themselves. Following an eerie series of events, as if devised by fate, the boys are brought to Rishikesh, India, in pursuit of eternal happiness through a secret mantra from Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Hoping to get the better of their personal demons, they seek to break the shackles of stardom even though it begins the unraveling of the band.
Across the Universe etches in lyrical detail a picture of the world’s greatest band torn apart by their inner dissensions yet bursting with creative genius. Full of characters and happenings delightful and evil, of comic excess and dark whimsy, the book traces the path the Beatles took to India and the dramatic denouement of their sojourn at the Himalayan ashram. It is a modern fairy tale about four people the world has loved like no one else.
WIDOWS OF VIDARBHA BY KOTA NEELIMA
Vidarbha - the parched heartland of central India - has become the foremost site of farmer suicides in the country. these suicides are the most striking indictment of the neglect of agriculture by the state. But the story of the farmers’ distress does not end with thier death - it lives on in the experience of their widows who struggle to survive in the shadows. ‘
Widows of Vidarbha tells the story of 16 such widows who have been invisible to the state, the community, and even their families, and talks of their lost dreams, their diminished world views, and their helpless surrender to the conveniences of patriarchy. These narratives throw light on the dark and desperate corners of their invisible world, one that reflects the state of farm widows across the country.
DIWALI IN MUZAFFARNAGAR BY TANUJ SOLANKI
Muzaffarnagar, the infamous north Indian town that’s a byword for unrest,and where skirmishes are prone to break out ever so often. This is a place where teenage love and friendships and tested by the violence that threatens to erupt at the slightest provocation. A town that always pulls you back into its ways, no matter how cosmopolitan the city has made you.
Read more: HT Picks: Last week’s most interesting reads
In Diwali in Muzaffarnagar – Tanuuj Solanki’ s new book of short stories after Neon Noon – young men and women straddle the past and the present, the metropolis and the small town and also the parallel needs of life: solitude and family.