Book Review of Essential Items and other tales from a land in lockdown by Udayan Mukherjee

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Essential Items and other tales from a land in lockdown

Neelam Sharma,

Writing Style


A British climber stranded in the Himalayan border town of Munsiyari forms a bond with his host’s seven-year-old grandson. Two funeral workers at a Benaras ghat try to work their way out of the dwindling business of cremations. A domestic worker, sent on paid leave, grapples with the shifting landscape for people on the margins of an urban metropolis. Hundreds of returning migrant workers turn up unannounced at the gates of an erstwhile Rajbari

in Kolkata in the wake of a devastating cyclone.

In Essential Items, Udayan Mukherjee examines oft-overlooked human attributes – resilience, faith, endurance – put to test by a pandemic-forced lockdown. Written in stark, minimalist prose, these poignant but darkly funny stories expose deep cracks in our societal structures, papered over by the myth of growing prosperity.


Shattered to the core but still standing tall…


Really, the period of the pandemic, especially the first lockdown, has been one of the most life-changing periods as far as our lives are concerned. Initially, the idea of having to be tied up completely at home, away from work, from your loved ones and all other things which make life worth living and breathing, it was unnerving to let go of all that was what constitutes a ‘normal’ daily life.

The constant discouraging news reports of the virus wreaking havoc across continents along with the economies being steamrolled by the economic repercussions did little to soothe the overstretched bundle of nerves we all had become.

At such a testing time, this collection of short stories attempts to examine the prevailing precariousness of our lives, by Udayan Mukherjee, An Indian journalist and economist par excellence.

Udayan who currently lives in Uttarakhand has anchored live market shows and has been a Managing Editor at CNBC India until 2013, following which he has taken up writing.

His style of writing encapsulates the deep cracks in the social structures which are often shrouded by the myths of the so-called growing prosperity. Each of these short stories has been poignantly written with razor-sharp, minimalistic prose while attempting to bring out the true vantage and essence of the tale via a dark yet funny method of writing style. Painting a rich and vividly detailed picture of our lives during the pandemic and especially during the lockdown is the captivating tool employed by him to capture the attention of the readers and leave them yearning for more.

Insightful and introspective, they are written in a crisp and lucid manner, aimed to strike a chord not only with the mindset of the common man but anyone who reads these life-altering snippets. Anyways, that is what true life-changing fiction and literature are all truly about. If it manages to stir your soul deep down and also strike an impact powerful enough for you to get inspired to help bring about a substantial life change then that piece of literature is a sure classic, a winner all along the way.

I also felt that the characters which were created giving utmost importance to the minutest of the details were extremely closer to life. It almost felt as if you knew each one of them, having met them when you go about your chores daily, having encountered them along your way, having acquainted yourselves to their simplicity, discerned their true inner personas, you might just feel that you happen to alight on the same platform as Udayan does, beginning to resonate with them personally whilst ending each story on a note with a positive hope to a better future.

Feels kinda surreal, this fabulous piece of writing from the monologues of a man who is an economist and who has probably been in and around the hardcore number games and economically viable cause and effect theories and strategies all his life. Such a minute examining of human emotions such as faith, resilience, hope is absolutely brilliant coming from this professionally inclined personality.

Promising to put a genuine smile on his readers face with his work, here’s wishing Udayan the very best for this enigmatic, stellar piece of writing designed by him. My personal favourite from the collection is ‘A life or death situation’ where the deep-rooted caste system prevalent in the society, even in times of contagion, rears its ugly head, baring its fangs upon the society at large. The scorn, the dark satire is simply effervescent through the narrative bringing forth Udayan’s uncanny yet strong writing skills.

That is it for now for all of us here at Booxoul. Stay safe, take care and remember to follow, like, share and subscribe to our blog and newsletter to stay updated with the latest, trendiest, exciting content only here @Booxoul. 

Hope you like the book review of Essential Items and other tales from a land in lockdown by Udayan Mukherjee. Do let us know what you think in the comments below
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