Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Interview with memoirist Kavitha Yaga Buggana

My special guest today is Kavitha Yaga Buggana to chat about her travel memoir, Walking in Clouds, A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar.

During her virtual book tour, Kavitha will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Welcome, Kavitha. Please share a little bit about your current release.
My travel-memoir, Walking in Clouds, A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, is based on my trip to a mysterious mountain and a beautiful, tranquil lake in Tibet.  It’s a journey spanning ancient monasteries and verdant Himalayan pine forests, freezing slopes and bright sunlight, exhaustion and joy, sacrifice and gratitude.

Kailash and Manasarovar are deeply sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and others and as an atheist walking in these sacred spaces, I examine my judgements about faith. ‘Walking in Clouds’ is also about people - my cousin, who went on this journey with me, our fellow travellers from the world over. The book examines faith, rationality, myth, Tibet’s deeply troubled politics, the friendships formed, and the extraordinary landscapes of these places.

Interspersed with striking photographs and a rich storytelling style, the book is ultimately a mediation on beauty, faith, friendship, place, and journey, both the outer and inner. 

What inspired you to write this book?
For my cousin Pallu and me, the trip to Kailash and Manasarovar was an adventure we had dreamed of since we were schoolgirls. I had no intention of writing about this journey, but a year after my trip, I started working on a brief account of the journey. The more I wrote, I realized, the more there was to write about the wonder, tranquility and awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains and the enduring faith of the people who live in there. That’s how my book was born.

Excerpt from Walking in Clouds:
In this excerpt of Walking in Clouds, our group has reached the first campsite at the foothills of Mount Kailash. Fellow travelers Sperello and Jeff have both gone further up the slopes while the rest of us are at the campsite with our guide, Chhiring.

A little while later, the tall figure of Sperello descends down the path.
‘Where’s Jeff?’ Chhiring asks.
‘He should be down soon,’ Sperello says, his face pensive. ‘Something happened to Jeff in the mountain.’
When Sperello started up the slope, Jeff had already set out. With each step, Jeff felt that he was moving forward but the mountain was not getting any closer. Another step, Jeff told himself, one more step. But it was no use; the mountain seemed as distant as it had always been. At one point, Jeff stopped; he could not walk any further. As he gazed at the colossus of rock before him, he was shaken by a feeling that the mountain was rising from below, as if it were moving, growing from the earth to the sky. An inexplicable emotion coursed through his body, moving him so profoundly that he fell to his knees. Sperello, who was taking photos in the vicinity, asked if everything was all right. But Jeff could not speak. Still kneeling, he shook Sperello’s hands.
‘I will never forget it,’ Jeff tells us later. He can’t seem to explain what happened to him at that moment.
On his travels, Jeff is always an observer. He is a photographer, a chronicler of journeys, and a consumer of other cultures and geographies. But that day on the mountain, everything changed. The lens was forgotten. The need to observe and the process of thought vanished. Jeff was no longer an eye, watching and noting; he was being and doing and feeling. The same man who, a few days ago, had found it odd and eccentric that Mariene could meditate on the river bank had been overcome by an immensity of emotion that had brought him to his knees. He had been felled by a deeply spiritual experience that belonged only to him, and to the mountain.
The experience altered Jeff’s understanding of the world and of himself. The effect this vision had on him and the questions it raised for him were a profound kind of truth. Since ancient times, mystics of all religions have strived to reconcile their spiritual experiences with the parameters of the physical and material world. Many have come to understand that while reality and truth are not always the same, they do not necessarily oppose or preclude one another. The myths of Shiva, the lake and the mountain, Buddhist stories and visualizations, the feeling of a mountain rising: none of these need be literal in order to be considered truthful. Such moments simply point to a truth as complex as the people who seek to understand them.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a book of short stories. They are all set in India, but that’s about the only thread that connects them. The stories range from the light-hearted (such as a story about a young man who wants to buy milk for coffee and finds that everyone is gripped by the possibility of a milk miracle) to the introspective (such as the story of a woman and a talking bird which discusses reality versus perceptions of reality) to the socially sensitive (such as the story of a missing servant girl, which is a commentary on life opportunities and economic circumstances).

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After I published a couple of essays and short fiction in literary magazines and in newspapers.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t work full-time any more. When I’m not writing, I take care of family, I read, I volunteer.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I keep mussing with my hair when I’m thinking deeply about issues related to writing. At the end of the day, my hair looks like a nest.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Pippi Longstocking, the feisty redhead in the popular children’s books by Astrid Lindgren.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Walking in Clouds received some great reviews in the Indian press. Here are some quotes:

‘[Kavitha’s] mix of Oriental-Occidental wisdom can dot the readers’ minds with the spray of sparkling Himalayan stars.’
Aman Nath in Outlook Traveller Magazine, March 2019.

‘This book is the most enjoyable I have read on the Mountain and the Lake.’
Deb Mukharji, Author, Kailash and Manasarovar: A Quest Beyond the Himalaya

‘Walking in Clouds is not only [about] two women's extraordinary journey to the mountains, but rather an account where the author has captured every moment of surprise, shock and despair in detail.’
Priyanka Richi, The Newsminute, 31st March, 2019


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thanks for having me!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Kavitha Buggana said...

Thanks for hosting! Im excited to interact with all of your readers!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a good book.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rita! I worked hard on the writing, so it has a lyrical quality and I worked hard to make it very tightly written. Kavitha

Victoria Alexander said...

Sounds like my kind of book!

Kavitha Buggana said...

Thanks Victoria. Hope you enjoy it!