Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Shiva Pushpati

The story behind the story

A continuation of an ancient culture that lives even today in the hearts and minds of its people. A story that takes you deep inside its rites and legends. The mystery of a secret wisdom. A journey to India.

Many scholars believe that the figure carved on this steatite seal produced by the Indus Valley Civilization lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE represents Shiva (National Museum of Delhi)

In 2010, I first visited the Oriental Research Institute at Mysore (an architectural heritage building) founded in 1891 by the then Maharaja of Mysore. I got the opportunity to learn how palm-leaf manuscripts were produced and preserved.

Dating back to sixth century BCE or much earlier, dry palm leaves were used as writing material in South Asia. Beautifully inscribed using a stylus, natural colours were then applied to the surface so the ink would stick in the grooves and excess ink was wiped off with a clean cloth. A palm leaf text would typically last about eight hundred years before it decays. Every eight hundred years or so, the document must be copied onto new sets of dried palm leaves.

(The image shown here is a manipulated imitation of an ancient Sanskrit manuscript)
A snapshot of a modern-day mystery that takes you to the Old World from Varanasi to Venice. Inspired by the Vedas, Indian history and mythology, it is a story within a story and magical realism. A tribute to India, the country where I was born.

Writing this book was like ‘coming home’. I was lost for a very long time. Like many of us, I asked myself questions like - Where is my home? Where do I belong? I think, I have an answer - I am an Indo-European and proudly so!
No one has ever entered the summit of Mount Kailash to this day. Mountaineer Reinhold Messner would have had a unique opportunity, but he refused. Why? ‘I did not climb Mount Kailash out of respect,’ Messner says. ‘One of the greatest legends surrounding the Kailash is the story of Yogi Milarepa, who lived alone at the foot of the mountain in the 11th century. Milarepa is said to have reached the summit and the mountain was not touched since then. It would be sacrilege to conquer him. The locals do not want that. So, I circumnavigated the mountain twice, but did not climb.’ ‘Rather than faith itself, I am interested in the origin and history of religions and beliefs,’ he says. ‘The idea of Nirvana seems attractive to me, because for me it means that one gets lost in the infinity of space and time. For Tibetans, the Kailash is a last anchor point that connects them with their culture. The people I spoke to had completed the 500-kilometre-long trail that took them through deserts to the mountain to circle Mount Kailash, to be freed from rebirth. As you march around the sacred mountain, leave everything behind. Everything becomes unimportant, not because this mountain is there, but because you go there and walk around it.’
Mount Kailash is a 6,638 m (21,778 ft) high peak in the Himalayan mountain range.

https://www.geo.de/reisen/reisewissen/2023-rtkl-interview-reinhold-messner-und-der-kailash
Publishing a book is like giving birth - pleasure and pain, excitement and exhaustion - all at the same time. One takes 9 months and the other 9+ years with a prolonged labour! I am proud of this book that is soon to be born and I am also nervous – a similar feeling just before giving birth! 
Ten years… It has been ten years since I started writing a book – a novel. A long journey… My son was as tall as my shoulder, now I am as tall as his shoulder. My mother never wanted me to be a writer, ‘You sit with your laptop for hours as if no one else exists in your world,’ she complained. My father said, 'We are South Indians, you are supposed to be an engineer, not a writer.' I reminded him how active he was in a theatre group during his younger days. A friend told me, ‘Don’t make writing your full-time job. It will hardly feed you.’ My mother-in-law stopped asking me when I will publish my book. My friends gave up on me because I missed all our meetups. A relative told me, 'You know that the publishing industry would bog you down, don’t you? Publishing is like a lottery; you might win or not. Many good books have never seen success.' Despite of all these warnings, I wrote, trusting myself, believing in the power of storytelling and there is something therapeutic about writing. Success does not matter to me. Then, what is it that I want? Persevering day after day, I edited, re-edited, changed, corrected, rewrote, and started it all over again. The story I wrote became so much part of my life that I began living in the world I created. I became my story… 

Copyright © Anu Kay 2022