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View from the roof of the world

In her travelogue `Here Be Yaks', Manosi Lahiri traces the source of the Sutlej river to Rakshas Tal, considered inauspicious by most pilgrims visiting Mount Kailash, says APS MALHOTRA

BOOK LAUNCH Kapila Vatsyana (second from left) releasing Manosi Lahiri's book `Here Be Yaks' at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre

It is a measure of our insignificance that even as we conquer new horizons, there are still places (and secrets) of pristine beauty, concealed in the bosom of our tiny blue oyster. `Here Be Yaks' - the first travelogue written by Manosi Lahiri, a doctorate in urban geography and a pioneer in the field of geo-informatics, documents her two visits to the largely unexplored, brutally barren, but exquisitely stunning tracts of Tibet.

Released this past week at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi by well-known scholar, Kapila Vatsyana, it is a travelogue that manages to generate interest, without obviously leaving an "already been there" feeling in the reader.

In his foreword (which was read out by Vatsyana at the book launch function), His Holiness, The Dalai Lama says, "visitors to this remote and challenging part of the world are invariably filled with awe and respect, perhaps because pilgrimage through wild, open lands often provides visions that help shape the proper attitude and awareness for spiritual practice", adding that it remains "my cherished aspiration that Tibet becomes a sanctuary, a zone of peace, a place of harmony between people, animals and environment".

Spiritual awakening

As per Lahiri, "after the first sojourn in 2000, which covered the sacred Mount Kailash and the remote lakes of Mansarovar and Rakshas Tal, I was overtaken by a feeling of spiritual awakening and decided to return in 2002, determined to find the present source of the river Sutlej, after we came across a map of the region that indicated two different sources of the river."

The wisdom of hindsight with her, this trip was longer (about three months) involved an inner kora- circumambulation of Mt. Kailash, and a kora of Lake Mansarovar in the footsteps of ancient sages and monks.

After completing the arduous expedition covering over 2500 km, treks of over 200 km at high altitude, sometimes at heights of 19,000 feet, Lahiri says, "I felt that if the results of the exploration are not documented, they would be lost to humanity; so I decided to write this travelogue."

Published by Stellar Publishers, this eminently readable book contains some good photographs and brings to life the trials and tribulations, and triumphs of undertaking such explorations.

Jyoti Sabharwal, editorial director of Stellar, says, "I wanted the book to be a product of class, which we managed to achieve, going by the response of the guests at the release function." A proud Lahiri says, "I have concluded that there is only one source of the Sutlej today, which lies west of Rakshas Tal, and I wanted to share this fact with the world." On being asked about the possibility of her undertaking a third `voyage' to this immense expanse of snow covered wilderness, she replies without much batting of an eyelid, "Why not?"

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