Thursday, June 28, 2012

James Hilton's Tyrst with Tibet and Mount Kailash

When I was still in my late teens, I took a coverless, battered book which my sister had studied for her pre university course as a supplementary reader.

That book was " Lost Horizon' - a novel by the pre war English writer James Hilton. A strange feeling enveloped me as I went through the book. The initial curiosity gave way to awe and admiration. Then finally they also vanished when I was into the core of the novel.

It was more than a novel. It was a mystery. No, it was no mystery, it was a spiritual novel. Not a spiritual quest perhaps, but what awaits one when one faces the most bizarre and intriguing circumstances in life.

It is about a group lost in the wilderness of Tibet.  Hilton coined the now famous 'shangri la' in this book only. Now it is meant to denote any sanctuary for a noble cause.

This book is noble. The cause for which the party lost themselves in the wilderness is noble. This book is not for understanding. It is for experiencing.

I am sure that the Mountain that Hilton talks about is Kailash. The pyramid shaped pinnacle, and the sheer inaccessibility all point to Kailash only where we still believe life originated and where lies the key to all divinity.

It is this Mountain that Hilton uses as a setting to elaborate the keys to immortality, though rather in an occidental way of explanation. But, that exactly was what  made me an eternal fan of this book. An eastern philosophy emerging out of a western writer. James Hilton is an accomplished fiction writer but his inadequacy in philosophy has made him look odd especially to an Indian reader. His narration of buddhist philosophy is like the enthusiasm of a school boy who thinks he has a measure of the whole world after taking a good look at an atlas.

I reread the book at periodic intervals just to relive my original admiration. Now I have a new copy which I intend to pass on to my son after he comes out of school.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the book available online for free download. Get the book at

You might be required to register at scribd site before downloading. Do it. It is worth it. If you find your palms perspiring, feet cold, and sighing in admiration and excitement, it is all a sign you are the most suitable one to receive this gift.