IT IS THE DREADFUL SUMMER OF THE 2020 PANDEMIC, AND INDIA IS IN LOCKDOWN.
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.