Vikram Seth, the winner of the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for one of his novels, A Suitable Boy, is a tremendous writer writing both in prose and poetry. His travelogue 'From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet' won the Thomas Cook Travel Book award as well. A touch of elegance is there in his writing. Vikram Seth is known as a famous Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children's writer, biographer and also a memoirist. Born on June 20, 1952 at Kolkata Vikram Seth spent his childhood in the town of Batanagar near Calcutta, Patna, and London. His mother Leila Seth was the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court as well as the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court. His father, Prem, was an employee of the Bata India Limited shoe company who migrated to post-Partition India from West Punjab in Pakistan. After doing schooling from The Doon School in Dehradun he took his undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University. He was enrolled in postgraduate economics courses at Stanford University and was also attached to Nanjing University for his intended doctoral dissertation on Chinese population planning. His poems were greatly inspired by the traditionally structured verse with formal rhyme by Timothy Steele.
'From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet' by Vikram Seth is a travelogue in which a boy travels through Sinkiang and Tibet. Written in 1983, the book is an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. This travelogue is his first popular success where he makes frequent asides in verse. This is mainly a journal of a traveller who has a broad outlook and a universal view of life, makes a rich reading experience. This crosses the length and breadth of a place with understandings of history, geography and local culture as well. It is a verbal album of direct, earthy images that characterize the essence of the areas. A small amount of culture, civilisation or customs of China or Tibet are discussed in this book while a personal account of an economics student's experiences is given more importance. The boy is returning home to Delhi from Beijing, via Tibet and Nepal, the novelty of the journey being that it is almost entirely hitchhiked, relying on luck and optimism alone against all odds.
The rest of the book narrates his experiences during the journey that has co-incidental and causeless events. The journey depicts a lot of obstacles, and these includes dealing with a belligerent shop girl, a suspicious mosque doorkeeper or a slightly eccentric truck driver, to major ones like trying to get a lift on a truck to Lhasa, going on an impromptu chase of lost luggage or being stuck indefinitely in deserted, and also muddy roads due to erratic weather. The author focuses a great deal on the unexpected gestures of kindness that he encountered in course of the journey.
'From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet' expresses that there are many options found for potential wanderers. It exchanges new ideas and ways of thought. New experiences, insights and interactions with peoples and cultures can also be shared through this piece of work. It also provides a greater understanding of people from the corners and the world around them.