SCENIC locales, hot cups of suja and a whole host of discussions, interactions and literary performances. The seventh edition of Mountain
Echoes—the aptly-named literature festival hosted in Bhutan’s capital—has all this and more on offer. Talking about its conception, Mita Kapur, the producer of the event, says they started off in 2010 with 52 authors and have since seen an increase in the number of Bhutanese voices. “In seven years, we’ve managed to tilt the balance. This year, we have over 70 speakers—out of which 31 are Bhutanese, 26 are Indian and the rest are international,” says Kapur, a published author herself, adding that hosting Amitav Ghosh and Pico Iyer has been on the cards for a while, but their dates worked out only this time. With 350 to 400 people attending each session last year, Kapur expects the numbers to go up this time.
The three-day festival in Thimphu stands apart for its focus on “personlised interactions” and not packing in too many speakers (the Jaipur Literature Festival hosts more than 300). Besides themes like wildlife conservation, Buddhism, travel writing and women’s voices in the public domain, this year also sees a major bent towards climate change, with Amitav Ghosh’s session on The Politics of Carbon Economy, with his excellency ambassador Jaideep Sarkar, kick-starting the festival (August 26). Along similar lines is the session, Of Everest and Unclimbed Mountains (August 26), with Tenzing Norgay’s son, Dhamey Tenzing Norgay, Norwegian writer Odd Harald Hauge and Delhi-based journalist
Jairaj Singh. The latter says the session will include “the environmental concerns that have come up in the last 20-30 years”. It being the 400th year of the unification of Bhutan, the country’s history will feature in the session, Retelling Our Stories and Histories (August 27), where author Omair Ahmad will address the story of “Bhutan’s transition to a democracy.”
? Catch fusion rock band Indian Ocean performing live at the Clock Tower (August 27) — with Rahul Ram (bass, vocals), Amit Kilam (percussion, drums), Nikhil Rao (guitars), Tuheen Chakravorty (tabla) and Himanshu Joshi (vocals).
? Check out the interactive session with author Ira Trivedi on yoga and meditation (August 26). Trivedi says, “Yoga and writing
have many commonalities and, in fact, go very well together because writing is such a sedentary profession.”
? Celebrate Bhutanese culture with a workshop (August 26) conducted by Yeshi Lhendup, which will explore the usage of Bhutanese cursive writing, Jog-yig.
? Join some of the speakers at Mojo Park, for an open mic night, on the last day of the festival. Get a chance to recite your poetry, too.
If you are a fan of Pico Iyer’s description of Bhutan, in Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of The World, then head to Amankora Lodges. Ideally located for the annual Tour of the Dragon (for serious cyclists), the hotel’s offer includes 10 nights (divided between their five lodges), along with all meals, private sightseeing, race day support and a post-race massage. August 27 to September 6. Details: 975 23313334 for your checklist
In Her Notebook
Actress Tabu on visiting the mountain kingdom for the first time, her talk and trekking plans One of the sessions at the festival will have veteran actress Tabu in conversation with model-actor Kelly Dorji. Speaking about what to expect , the Mumbai -based actress—who has worked in several literary adaptations from the works of Shakespeare (Haider, Maqbool) to Charles Dickens (Fitoor)—says that since she has known Dorji for a long time, “it’s going to be a little more organic. We have still not decided about what we are going to talk about, but, of course, it’s going to focus on my journey, my films, my work and the path I have taken”.
The Haider actress is brimming with excitement about going to the Buddhist kingdom for the first time. “I am a big mountain person and Bhutan has always been on my ‘to go to places’ list,” she says, adding that she wants to learn everything it has to offer—from the art of Mandala painting to the national sport of archery. She also has trekking plans while she is there.
Speaking about writers who have had an impact on her life, Tabu recounts a meeting with Life Of Pi author Yann Martel—where she learnt how he lived his life, what moved him and why he wrote the Booker Prize-winning book. However, the 44-yearold admits that it is lyricist-poet-filmmaker Gulzar who has had the most profound effect on her. “He has impacted my whole life because of who he is and his writings. He is one person who has helped to actually bring out the writer in me,” she says, recounting how the Dadasaheb Phalke awardee encouraged her by giving her notebooks to fill. “Every time I met him, he would ask me if I had finished the earlier one (notebook), and if I had finished it, he would give me another one to write in,” she smiles, adding that although she has offers on the table, she has no plans of coming out with her own literary works just yet.