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Friday 10 May 2019

ℚ♫ Walking in Clouds: A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar - Kavitha Yaga Buggana

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Walking in Clouds: A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar (, HarperCollins, 168 pages), a Non-Fiction Travel Memoir featuring over sixty colour photographs.

...a perfect summer read for those who love travel and spiritual travel in particular."
"A must-read if the thought of taking a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, considered heaven on earth, has ever crossed your mind." - Manju Latha Kalanidhi, The New Indian Express, Hyderabad, 9th April, 2019

"This book is the most enjoyable I have read on the Mountain and the Lake. In what is an intensely personal narrative, Kavitha has woven in most of the relevant historical and mythological elements. It is a great pleasure to read." - Deb Mukharji, Author, 'Kailash And Manasarovar: A Quest Beyond the Himalaya'

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Kavitha Yaga Buggana; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!
"Thanks so much for hosting me – I’m excited to be on your blog."
To begin, here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Walking in Clouds: A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?
"Unfortunately, I don’t listen to music while working. However, on my trip, I often heard mani chanting and it comes to mind when I think about my journey to Kailash and Manasarovar. Here is a mani chanting video:"

What compelled you to write Walking in Clouds?
"Kailash and Manasarovar was a childhood dream.   To my cousin Pallu and me, it represented adventure and freedom.  But life took over and when we finally set out to Kailash and Manasarovar, we were both over Forty.   It was a dream that had a gestation period of over two and half decades and that made it a special baby!

At first, I had no intention of writing about this journey, though I couldn’t forget it.  A year after I returned, I began working on a brief account of the trip for a writing class.  Writing about it brought everything back to life.  As I relived the wonder of the journey, the tranquillity, the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains and the enduring faith of the people who live in there, I found that my brief account had grown into a book.  That’s how ‘Walking in Clouds’ came to be born."

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Walking in Clouds?

"I was on the journey, so there were no surprises writing about it.  But I learnt a few things about myself in the process of writing.

First, though I’m an atheist I seem to be absorbed with spirituality.  This spills over into my fiction writing as well.

Also, though I love nature, I didn’t realize how much I’d love describing it.  Writing about nature comes to me more easily than writing about anything else.

The Hindu myths my grandmother told me were my favourite stories.  But I had heard them so long ago, and I was surprised at how well I remembered those stories and how much I still enjoy them."
Why should we read Walking in Clouds and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"I think, firstly, the writing.  The book has a dreamy, lyrical quality and the writing draws the reader into the place.  People have told me they feel they are walking with me in the mountains.

In addition to the accounts of travel, the book also has a mix of history, politics, geography, mythology, and reflections on faith and meditation.

Travel magazine, Outlook Traveler said “[Kavitha’s] mix of Oriental-Occidental wisdom can dot the readers' minds with the spray of sparkling Himalayan stars.”

This is an astute observation.  Books on Kailash and Manasarovar are mostly written either by Western travelers with an outside-in perspective (looking at Eastern cultures with Western eyes) or they are devotional accounts by Hindu/Buddhist pilgrims.  “Walking in Clouds” explores the age-old journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar and is written by an atheist who has been brought up in the Hindu cultural traditions associated with these places.

It’s an insider’s perspective with an outsider’s distance."
What has been your greatest challenge in writing this book? What was the hardest part to write?
"I needed to enforce some discipline on my writing life.  I needed to write every day, and block out distractions.  After writing the book, I needed the self-confidence to send my book out to the world, to be vetted by agents and editors and to steel myself against rejection.

I worked the hardest on the first sentence and the first chapter.  I needed to capture the mood of the book, I needed to introduce the people and context without bogging down the narrative with too much background information."
Can you share with us a favourite passage / section Walking in Clouds?
"The excerpt below forms the first chapter of the book."
These are places of wonder and the journey to see them will take many days. My cousin, Pallu, and I do not know if we will make it to these places or what drives us to go, but this is a journey we promised ourselves decades ago when we were still schoolgirls.

In those days we would climb the small, rounded hills that surrounded our school, nestled in a valley. It would take us an hour or two to reach the large rocks near the top. There, we stretched out on boulders as the clouds thinned slowly in the heat. We dreamed of adventures that seemed to lie waiting, just outside our sleepy world. And the greatest of all adventures was a journey to that lake and the mountain that were so far away – so beautiful that they seemed to belong more to the sky than to the earth.
The River Karnali, Humla, Nepal - Photo Credit: Ying
Who would you recommend Walking in Clouds to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Anyone who likes books on travel, spirituality, memoir, Tibet or Nepal, Hindu and Buddhist myths, or women’s writing might enjoy ‘Walking in Clouds’."
Yalbang Monastery, Humla Nepal - Photo Credit: Jeff
Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence?  
"I wish I had enough of all of them!  I’m still working getting more of them all."
What has been the worst advice you received as a writer? What has been the best?
"Worst advice for any writer – “Write when you feel the creative muse.”  Don’t wait for the muse, make writing a daily discipline and sometimes the muse will grab you and sometimes it won’t.  But the more you write, the better you get as a writer, so that when the muse does hit you, the quality of your writing will sparkle.

Best advice – “To be a writer, keep writing, keep reading, keep observing”."
Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger?  Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
"Where to start?  As George Bernard Shaw put it, “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world - and what a pity it has to be wasted on children.”

I’d advise my younger self to be fiercer and more tender; to embrace the world, to savour it, to write and write and write, and to go on more walks, and to not be afraid to speak my mind and to assert myself but also shut up.

Of course it’s no use.  To be who I am now, I had to travel the path of my life with all its beauty and wonder and love and missteps and failed opportunities."
If you were to revisit any one location on the journey shared with your cousin covered in your travelogue, what would it be and why?
"Lake Manasarovar.  Pallu, my cousin, and I had reached the lake at the end of the season.  That day, it was just her and me.  The beauty and tranquillity of the lake on that day still fills me with wonder.  Here’s an excerpt: "
We watch a small duck bobbing on the gentle waves. In Hindu myths, the birds of Manasarovar are creatures of such perfect purity that they can separate milk from water. The lake is a tranquil, luminous sapphire, cradled between mountains. The colours of the sky are mirrored and animated in its rippling waters. After the ferocious beauty of the mountain, the lake is soothing. It is a stretched-out oval of endless, radiant blue. Manasarovar is known as the sun lake, but to me it feels as gentle as the moon; it is a moon lake.

At the water’s edge, Pallu and I speak of small, desultory things without time or place in our normal lives. We gossip shamelessly. We talk about all the things we will do and the stories we will tell when we get back home. We take our shoes off and dip our feet into the water. The water is ice cold, yet sun-warmed. We shiver and laugh. This is what we had wanted to do during the trek in Humla, to take our shoes off and feel the soil, the water, the grass. This day feels like it has been stolen from time, and now as we take our shoes off and dip our feet into the lake, we dip it into time itself.
Kailash From Manasarovar - Photo Credit: Ying
Which would you say you enjoy the most: to write, research, or to read when you can?
"Reading is one of the great pleasures of my life."
Can you tell us about your writing process?
"I try to write every day, though I don’t always succeed.  It doesn’t matter what I’m writing, I just try to set aside some time (preferably in the morning) to write it."
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
"I feel I have everything I could wish for.  When I meditate, I send out loving kindness with the words:
“May all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be safe from harm, may all beings reach enlightenment.”
I suppose those would be my wishes."
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?
"A better nose."
What’s in store next for you as a person and writer?
"I’m working on a collection of short stories set in India.  I hope these will be out 2021 or earlier.  After that, I am thinking of writing a murder mystery.  I attended a writers’ retreat where everyone turned out to be mystery writers.  It’s a whole new world out there, and it seems like a lot of fun after the pretty serious stuff I’m usually writing."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"I’m not a dog person, but about four years ago we got a Golden Retriever for my son.  It’s my son’s dog, but I’ve fallen in love with it.  Our dog’s name is Sir Neo Bradman – a grand title for our excitable, lovable mutt."

Hello gorgeous Neo! Lots of head-scratches and belly-rubs to you from all of us at BooksChatter!

Kavitha,  thank you for sharing! And we are glad to hear that Sir Neo Bradman has grown on you :-) 

Walking in Clouds
A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar

Available NOW!

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