Review by Ryan Joshua Mahindapala
The ‘Other’ Shangri-La by Shivaji Das is a work of narrative non-fiction that features Tibet’s famed monasteries and their legends.
This travelogue is an ode to the beautiful alpine region of the Sino-Tibetan frontier in Sichuan, China. Shivaji gives minute observations of his travels through this rarely visited part of the world and describes to us, the readers, all the meaningful moments of his travels through this region together with his wife, Yolanda Yu (fondly called Lobo).
Their journey starts in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province in southwest China, in October 2016. They then travel to a town called Kangding, famous for giving China the popular love song, “Kangding Love Song.” They go to Tagong to experience life living with Tibetan nomads and then to the town of Litang, which is known to be the “world’s highest town.” Travelling south to Daocheng, they explore the mysterious place known as the “Shangri-La”. Heading North, Shivaji and Lobo make their next stop at Sertar and Larung in Chengdu to visit a massive monastery complex located there and then end their journey in the beautiful valleys of Danba.
Through his writing, Shivaji brings the reader along with him on his journey as he vividly explains what he sees, hears, and experiences along the way. The conversations he had with the locals and his thoughts on what he observed about the people, linking it to the turbulent past of the region evokes the environment and history of the place, connecting the present and the past. Shivaji is an excellent storyteller. He blends simple history, well-known anecdotes, and personal experiences to bring his book to life. He connects with the reader by presenting facts and the harsh realities of the people that he met along the way in the most humane and empathetic way possible.
Not only entertaining, but this travelogue expands the reader’s horizons as it brings a new and fresh perspective of the world. This book is a well-structured travelogue with pictures of the Sino-Tibetan frontier included. Although more pictures could have been inserted to give readers a more holistic visual representation of the places that he and his wife visited, “The ‘Other’ Shangri-La” is a great book that gives you a glimpse into the western Sichuan region and the Tibetan highlands.
Title of book: The ‘Other’ Shangri-La
Author: Shivaji Das
Publication date: 23 July 2020
Publisher: Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd
Print length: 159 pages
**This story was originally published as part of our digital Freshers 2021 edition on 20/09/2021. Read the full edition here.**