Dang­phu Ding­phu : The art of tra­di­tional story telling at Moun­tain Echoes

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Sonam Pen­jor

“It’s hard to be moved when you’re run­ning around,” said Pico Iyer, set­ting a con­tem­pla­tive tone for the sec­ond day of the seventh edition of Moun­tain Echoes Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val, held at Royal Univer­sity of Bhutan in Thim­phu yes­ter­day. Re­mark­ing that he thrived on anti-so­cial me­dia in­ter­ac­tions, Pico, who was in con­ver­sa­tion with Nam­gay Zam in The Art of Still­ness: Ad­ven­tures in Go­ing Nowhere, said that you can gain per­spec­tive on your life only when you sit still and step back from it.

Train­ing the mind is as im­por­tant as train­ing the body, he said, talk­ing about soli­tude, writ­ing and con­tem­pla­tion. In Bhutan af­ter 28 years, Pico said, “All the bless­ings I as­so­ciate with Bhutan (from my visit in 1988) are still here.” When asked whether the na­tion had changed from what he re­mem­bered, he said that want­ing some places to stay un­changed was an act of ‘imag­ina- tive colo­nial­ism’.

With writ­ers dis­cussing the idea of iden­tity over the var­i­ous ses­sions on Day 1, Pico weighed in by say­ing that if he de­fined an iden­tity, it im­me­di­ately cre­ated an­other, which was some­thing he didn’t want to do. Re­call­ing His Emi­nence Gyalwa Dokhampa Jigme Pema Ny­in­jadh’s words, he said that the goal would be to free our­selves from du­al­ism and enter a com­mon space of iden­tity.

Kuenga Wangmo, Ney­phug Trulku, Dasho San­gay Khandu and Tsh­er­ing Tashi were in con­ver­sa­tion in Zhab-

drung Rin­poche. Beacon From Four Cen­turies. The ses­sion ad­dressed the spir­i­tual, po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal sides of Zhab­drung Rin­poche, even as Ney­phug Trulku warned that the ses­sion did not do jus­tice to the legacy of the founder of the na­tion­state of Bhutan.

The pan­elists dis­cussed the idea of na­tional iden­tity, which had been brought to Bhutan by Zhab­drung Rin­poche in 1616. Four cen­turies later, his ideals still res­onate in the country, which is why he is of­ten placed on an al­tar along with the Bud­dha and Guru Rin­poche. The sense of tra­di­tion re­mained strong, as was proved when Dasho San­gay Khandu showed a clip of Goen Zhey, a dance re­port­edly per­formed wel­com­ing Zhab­drung Rin­poche to the Gasa re­gion of present­day Bhutan, which is still per­formed to­day.

The ques­tion of na­tional iden­tity car­ried on in the next ses­sion, with Dasho Tsh­er­ing Wangda, Rahul Ram and Kunga Ten­zin Dorji prov­ing that mu­sic knows no bound­aries in On A Mu­si­cal Note. The jam ses­sion had Dasho Tsh­er­ing Wangda singing Bollywood hits like Chau­di­vin Ka Chand and the Bhutanese hit Jalam Gi Ashi, ac­com­pa­nied by Rahul and Kunga, de­spite never hav­ing per­formed to­gether. Rahul spoke of the un­escapable in­flu­ence of Bollywood, even as Dasho Tsh­er­ing Wangda talked of how he had de­vel­oped a sort of mu­si­cal diplo­macy over the course of his years as a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

Dis­cussing the in­ter­sec­tion of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal mu­sic, Dasho Tsh­er­ing Wangda and Kunga spoke of how, be­fore the 1990s, Bhutan, though a mu­sic-lov­ing na­tion, did not pro­duce con­tem­po­rary mu­sic. There­fore, most peo­ple grew up on a diet of Hindi, English and Nepali mu­sic. In In­dia, when he was grow­ing up, English mu­sic was all the rage; now, he said, there was a resurgence of in­ter­est in mu­sic in In­dian lan­guages.

Rahul ended the ses­sion with the rous­ing Maa Rewa, com­posed as a re­sult of his ex­pe­ri­ences with the Nar­mada Bachao An­dolan.

The Mem­ory Pro­ject brought the ques­tion of iden­tity into the home, with Renuka Narayanan and Lily Wangchuk giv­ing the au­di­ences a glimpse of their fam­ily lives while in con­ver­sa­tion with Sonam Wangmo Jha­lani. Il­lus­trated with pho­to­graphs, they looked at his­tory through the lens of the fam­ily, which, Renuka said, is a ris­ing new genre called mem­oir-in­formed nar­ra­tive non-fic­tion. In at­tempt­ing to learn about her fa­ther, Lily Wangchuk ended up learn­ing about the jour­ney of Bhutan over the years. Renuka echoed her, map­ping so­cial re­al­i­ties of Ta­mil­ian Brah­mins for over a cen­tury in a quest to un­der­stand her own iden­tity.

The A to Z of De­tec­tive Fic­tion was stud­ied by Zac O’Yeah and Venita Coelho, as they dis­cussed how crime fic­tion al­lowed the writer to ex­plore places and ex­am­ine hu­man­ity. Dis­miss­ing the no­tion that de­tec­tive nov­els were merely pulpy tit­il­la­tion, he said, “If you read a novel which deals with the same anx­i­eties you have, it’s like ther­apy.” As for his un­usual pen name, he said that apart from want­ing a name that sounded cool and was easy to spell, Zac O’Yeah sounded much bet­ter than Zac O’No.

Iden­tity popped up again when Omair Ah­mad, Witi Ihi­maera, Kun­zang Cho­den and Sadaf Saaz talked about Re- telling Our Sto­ries and His­to­ries. Kun­zang spoke of how, when she was sent to a con­vent school in In­dia as a child, she be­gan to tell her­self sto­ries of home to pre­serve her iden­tity and san­ity. “All of us pivot be­tween the past and the present,” said Witi, who be­gan by de­liv­er­ing a spir­ited mono­logue in Maori.

Dis­cussing how im­por­tant it was to have a voice in the globalised world, Kun­zang Cho­dens added, why should the world know all our mys­ter­ies? Omair, who showed pho­to­graphs of Prime Min­is­ter Nehru’s 1958 visit to Bhutan, added that some ex­pe­ri­ences could not be trans­lated into lan­guage.

Ev­ery­one grew nos­tal­gic about lis­ten­ing to sto­ries from their grand­par­ents as chil­dren as Angey Na­gley, Agey Dre­gang, Dorji Gyelt­shen and Dor­jee Tsh­er­ing brought the art of tra­di­tional sto­ry­telling to Moun­tain Echoes in Dang­phu Ding­phu: Once Upon a Time. The ses­sion was in Dzongkha, with Dor­jee Tsh­er­ing trans­lat­ing into English. As Angey Na­gley and Agey Dre­gang spun their sto­ries, Dorji Gyelt­shen men­tioned that it was very im­por­tant for the au­di­ence to re­spond, be­cause it is be­lieved that if lis­ten­ers aren’t responding, then demons and devils will re­spond. This is why the ses­sions usu­ally ended with pat­ting each oth­ers’ backs and say­ing ‘vic­tory of good over bad’.

Idyl­lic child­hoods were left be­hind as Anish Sarkar, Çiler İl­han and Zac O’Yeah dis­cussed The In­cred­i­ble Dark­ness of Be­ing: Cel­e­brat­ing Noir. When Zac asked Çiler and Anish why they wrote such macabre sto­ries, both of them agreed that real life was of­ten far more grim than any­thing one could imag­ine in a book. The writ­ers ad­mit- ted that it was dif­fi­cult writ­ing about such dark themes, and stressed the im­por­tance of step­ping back and let­ting the char­ac­ters speak.

Ami­tav Ghosh brought the sec­ond day of Moun­tain Echoes to a close with his thought­ful, beau­ti­ful prose. He was speak­ing to Nam­gay Zam on Cir­cles of Rea­son, where they dis­cussed his breadth and depth of his oeu­vre.

When he first be­gan to write fic­tion and drew in­spi­ra­tion from his peri­patetic child­hood, life on the move seemed un­usual to most. “Now peo­ple re­alise that we are all in a pat­tern of end­less move­ment,” he said. The sense of dis­place­ment is strongly ap­par­ent in his books, and he ad­mits as much: “The mem­ory of hav­ing roots else­where, in a for­eign country, has al­ways stayed with me.”

Deeply at­tached to his char­ac­ters, he said that they never quite leave and are al­ways speak­ing some­where in his mind. In fact, the rea­son for his Ibis tril­ogy was be­cause “I was sick of hav­ing these char­ac­ters and hav­ing to let them go”.

His­tory fea­tures heav­ily in his books and he adds a note of cau­tion that you can’t use present dif­fi­cul­ties to jus­tify an un­just past, like the Bri­tish Em­pire. But pri­mar­ily, he adds, his re­spon­si­bil­ity is to his char­ac­ters, not to his­tory.

On writ­ing, he said, “Tal­ent isn’t the hard part; it’s get­ting it done.” Writ­ing a book is an act of phys­i­cal labour, a test of en­durance and re­quires dis­ci­pline, like any of the arts, he con­cluded.

The day be­gan and ended with per­for­mances. Stu­dents from Royal Acad­emy of Per­form­ing Arts ded­i­cated Lama Zhab­drung Druk Lu Joen to Zhab­drung. The evening had a Ra­jasthani fla- vour as Jamna Devi, Mali Devi, Karna Ram and Bhan­var Lal per­formed folk mu­sic from the state be­fore an en­thu­si­as­tic au­di­ence.

Moun­tain Echoes opened its sec­ond day of work­shops at the Tarayana Cen­tre with fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher, Ma­neesh Man­danna, in In Fo­cus: The World of Fash­ion Pho­tog­ra­phy, pow­ered by Yee­wong. “Fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy for me is the art and tech­nique of un­der­stand­ing, in­ter­pret­ing and il­lus­trat­ing the de­signer or brand’s cre­ations in con­text to its per­son­al­ity.”

Man­danna urged par­tic­i­pants not to get dis­cour­aged if they don’t have the lat­est or best equip­ment. He told them to work with what­ever they have ac­cess to, even if it’s just a phone. “Fo­cus on the process.”

In Cam­paign Strategy: A Guide To Ad­ver­tis­ing and Brand Build­ing, Piyush Pandey pre­ferred to let his cam­paigns speak for him, show­ing a se­ries of suc­cess­ful tele­vi­sion ads that have run over the past two decades. Pandey says there are five things that an advertiser must do: Know where you want to go. Be very clear on your ob­jec­tive. Know who you’re talk­ing to; know their life­style, de­sires, fears. You can’t be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­body; pick one per­son and sell to them. Be con­sis­tent. Chang­ing things for the sake of chang­ing is the most dis­as­trous thing you can do to a brand.

Be re­fresh­ing.Use emo­tion.

Af­ter a day of in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing ses­sions and work­shops, ev­ery­one headed to Clock Tower to un­wind and lis­ten to Yangchen And The Able, af­ter which fu­sion band In­dian Ocean and their sig­na­ture earthy songs had ev­ery­one cheer­ing.

Her Majesty The Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck , the Chief Royal Pa­tron of Moun­tain Echoes in­au­gu­rated the fes­ti­val last Thurs­day in the cap­i­tal. The fes­ti­val will end to­day.

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