Home Chennai Looking beyond the fine print at Bhutan’s literary festival

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    Why the fifth edition of  Mountain Echoes is more than a literary festival

    LL ROADS lead to Thimphu Valley in Bhutan this summer  for a conglomeration of literature and culture at the fifth edition of Mountain Echoes. The three-day festival will witness an exchange between writers, biographers, literary enthusiasts, scholars, poets, musicians and filmmakers in a town that has only one ATM machine and one traffic crossing, but a culturally-rich audience.

    Anuja Chauhan

    Anuja Chauhan

    Five years past
    An initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation, in association with Siyahi, a literary consultancy, the event will be hosted at three locations in Thimphu. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is the Chief Royal Patron of the festival who will address the audience on the value of compassion in daily life. Festival director, Namita Gokhale says, “I have been involved with the Mountain Echoes festival since its inception five years ago. It gives me great joy to observe how it has taken root in Bhutan, and how the tales of the Himalayas, its music and folklore, as well as contemporary ideas, books and dialogue are finding resonance there.”

    Miniature impact
    The valley will bustle with five workshops, 10 movie screenings, visual arts exhibitions, plenty of musical performances and discussions with key speakers. One of the key discussions this year will be based on the two faces of democracy as India and Bhutan both emerge from landmark elections. Government official Pavan K Varma, politician Lily Wangchuk and others will discuss this in details while Singaporean writer Robert Yeo will tell you how to use humour to tackle difficult political issues. Other themes include the human-wildlife conflict and role of civil society.

    For beauty’s sake
    Siyahi has expanded the scope and variety of the festival to showcase all genres of literature and music, especially the beauty of

    Ashok Vajpeyi

    Ashok Vajpeyi

    Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. The likes of novelist Advaita Kala, prolific writer on Indian asthetics Alka Pande, advertiser Anuja Chauhan, Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi, writer Ira Pande and French journalist Florence Noiville, are among the 70 speakers this year. Attra-cting students and writers from countries like Nepal, Philippines and Indian cities like Mumbai, Patna and Delhi over the last few years, the festival continues to draw the crowd. “I would strongly recommend visiting Thimphu for the beauty and serenity. You will get to experience a quaint and charming town where a traffic jam is front page news. That’s how simple, small and deeply-rooted the society is. Apart from the cultural exchange that the event aims to facilitate, you can visit their monasteries, take long walks or go on treks,” says organiser Mita Kapur of Siyahi.

    At Tarayana Centre, Hotel Taj Tashi and the Nehru Wangchuck Cultural Centre in Thimphu, from May 22 to 24. Details: mountainechoes.org

    —Preethi Ann Thomas

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