The book arrived in a neat package and I was really impressed with what I saw, when I opened it.
The book was titled,”SPITI-The Grace of the Sublime”. and co-authored by Pratik Sharma and Kshitij Bader. It was a Coffee table book, with an interesting front and back cover. The front cover featured the colorful image of a Buddhist prayer wheel set against a light brown background. The back cover was split into two vertical halves, one half featured a little girl against the backdrop of white fluffy clouds at Spiti Valley while the second half featured a blurb. Instinctively, I smelled the book and inhaled the fragrance of the freshly printed book, before quickly leafing through it. I was pleased with the stunning pictures I saw and resolved to set away a couple of hours to go through the book in detail.
Now that I have finished reading the book, I would like to share my thoughts about the book here. At the outset, let me tell you that this is a Coffee Table book and hence is a testimony to the adage that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. The book is full of pictures and interspersed with text in the form of captions for the pictures as well as a brief narrative. With my passion for travel, I found the book gripping, specially so for it was about the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, one of the Northern States of India. I had never been to Spiti, but was fascinated about it as it was one of the least populated areas of India and was supposed to be a paradise high up in the shadow of the Himalayan ranges.
As I pored through the pages of the book, the beauty and serenity of Spiti seemed to dance bewitchingly before me. As I read the narrative, I realized the passion the authors had for their subject and how they were swept away by the enchanting beauty of the place. They aptly mention in the Foreword, “Spiti valley is a land that is lost in time and space, feels like a place that humanity forgot about.”
The narrative begins with how the author was first smitten with love for Spiti when he saw some photographs of the place clicked by a friend. He had to wait for an agonizing period of six years before he finally got the call from the sublime valleys of Spiti. The author feels that it is no less than divine intervention which decided as to when was the opportune time for him to visit the place. Finally one day all the pieces fell into place and off he was embarking on a journey of discovery that would begin from the Indian capital city of Delhi and culminate in a place that was literally close to heaven, Spiti.
The book takes the reader on a mesmerizing journey through spectacular landscapes that range from lush green coniferous forests, apple orchards, Snowy Mountain slopes to barren stretches of rocky land.
One can glimpse the markets of Manali and then move on to the famed Rohtang Pass that connects the valley of Kullu with the Lahaul and Spiti valleys. As the author mentions metaphorically, it is a journey from the terrestrial to the transcendental.
As you progress through the book you feel one with the author as he progresses on his journey passing through sparsely populated villages. You can feel the simple flavors of a meal that he has in one of the pit stops in the journey which in spite of its simplicity seems to him to be the most gratifying meal he has ever had. As the journey continues, the coniferous forests of Himachal Pradesh start to recede and slowly this is replaced by wide expanses of barren land covered with snow. The road becomes harder and the terrain tougher. The path to heaven is obviously not paved and is full of obstacles in more ways than one. As the group travels higher and higher, they seem to be serenaded by white, fluffy clouds and they try to catch the clouds by putting their hands out of the car they are traveling in.
The narrative is generously interspersed with photos that bring to life various aspects of the Spiti valley. White clouds against a deep blue sky, brown and barren stretches of land, Monks deep in meditation, children with their divine innocence, animals in blissful ignorance, colorful temples and monasteries, all and much more are captured lovingly by an awed camera’s lenses and reproduced on paper as a silent ode to the tranquility of nature and the seamless harmony of Man and nature.
The book gives a good idea of what one can experience in Spiti, as well as on the journey that leads to this pristine destination. The narrative borders on the metaphysical and appeals to one’s innermost feelings of spirituality. The authors succeed in creating the image of a divine destination with some stunning pictures and lyrical prose. They succeed in describing the mystical and sublime aura of Spiti by weaving a web of images and words around the reader and ensnaring him in a magical world where one can feel the force of an unknown power in the air, a power close to divinity.
I liked the descriptive narrative and it blends harmoniously with the pictures and the destination itself. However I would have loved to see more of the Human angle in the book. There are references to local life in the narrative and the pictures too include images of local people going about their daily chores, but it would have been really great if the book had included more of this as it would have made the narrative more interesting and absorbing to the readers. An element of human drama would have definitely enhanced the book’s narrative and made it more gripping.
On the whole the book is really worth a read as it is definitely going to take the reader on an epic journey from the mundane and boring plane of everyday life to a magical and esoteric plane. The sum effect of the book is to leave you yearning and pining for a place called Spiti. To wait for that moment of reckoning when the grace of the sublime blesses you and you hear the call of the divine and packing your bags, you head out towards a blessed destination called Spiti.
About the Authors
Pratik Sharma is a professional photographer and interior designer as well as an avid traveler. It is his photographs that bring alive the beauty of Spiti on the pages of this book.
Kshitij Bader is the wordsmith whose lyrical style transports the reader into a world filled with the music of flowing rivulets, undulating pine trees and wildly beautiful landscapes. Kshitij is an Engineer with a Masters degree in Mass Communication.
About the Publisher
The book is from the stable of Notion Press, a technology start-up which provides publishing services to authors in India.
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