Mountain Echoes culminates with unexpected ideas and unstoppable voices
Day three of the Festival saw Padma Lakshmi, Francesca Beard, Imtiaz Ali and Tsokye Tshomo in attendance three days, 70 speakers and 50 sessions later, the eighth edition of the Festival wraps up.
The last day of threeday literary, arts and cultural festival, Mountain Echoes Literary Festival, engaged audiences in a series of insightful sessions and workshops. Audiences were in for a treat, as Day Three of the Festival witnessed a stellar line-up of Bhutanese, Indian and international speakers last Sunday.
The Royal University of Bhutan and Taj Tashi played perfect hosts to the day-long sessions and workshops around Business and Leadership, Buddhism, Natural History and Food.
The day commenced with a traditional performance of ‘Neyla Dangpa Micha’, by the students of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts, an initiative of Department of Culture to preserve traditional Bhutanese culture.
The performance was followed by the first session of the day, ‘Speaking Volumes’, which saw aacclaimed Indian author and Sahitya Akademi award winner Jerry Pinto in conversation with Tess Lewis, writer and translator. The duo spoke about Jerry Pinto’s diverse body of work, including translations, crime thrillers and his bestselling books, and the relevance of humorous characters and poignant prose in his works.
The following session ‘Virtual Memory: Digitizing the Past’ saw writer and Editor Ashi Kesang Choden talk to Pema Abrahams, founder of Project Denjong. The intriguing session discussed digitization and virtual archives as the means to reach a larger audience in today’s day and age.
‘Fantasy No More: Living in Dystopia’ witnessed eminent journalist and author Prayaag Akbar in conversation with Australian author Markus Zusak, where the former discussed the darker sides to our homes and relationships as it veers between fantasy and prophecy in his highly acclaimed novel Leila.
The subsequent session, ‘Write Out Loud’, interlaced conversation with performance. The conversation between renowned British poet Francesca Beard and Lilia Khousnoutdinova, advocate and advisor on gender issues, discussed the medium of spoken word poetry and its importance in a world where honesty is a luxury.
In parallel, Taj Tashi witnessed a series of sessions on ‘Business and Leadership’. Starting with ‘Taking The Lead’, the first session of the business capsule, Chewang Rinzin, Director of the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies; Tshering Cigay Dorji, CEO of Thimphu Tech Park and Justice Tashi Chhozom, who served as the chairperson of the Royal Judicial Service Council, were in conversation with Mohini Gupta to discuss the present and future of Bhutan’s culture, economy and business, and the key role the youth will play. The panel discussed how festivals of this nature help in fostering friendship between both nations; promote love for reading and knowledge, especially among the younger Bhutanese population.
The subsequent session, ‘Woman Up’, saw a panel of dynamic independent women - Amrita Tripathi, freelance journalist and novelist; Kuenga Wangmo, Bhutanese archaeologist; Barkha Dutt, renowned Indian journalist and TV host, food expert, model and award-winning author Padma Lakshmi – discuss and deliberate the role women play in the workforce, with Tandin Wangmo, CEO and Executive Director of RENEW. Issues such as how women are still perceived differently than their male counterparts, how they have to work twice as hard to achieve half of what men have to, and fight even harder for their place and recognition, were raised.
The third day of the Festival also engaged audiences with two interesting workshops, ‘13 Steps to Luck, Wealth and Success’ by Ashwin Sanghi, one of India’s most celebrated contemporary authors and ‘Business Sutra’ by Devdutt Pattanaik, leading mythologist and author.
‘Working Your Way Up’, saw Palden Tshering journalist and founder of the first education consultancy in Bhutan, discuss the dilemmas faced by every young entrepreneur and the unusual ideas that can start off a successful enterprise, with Thinley Palden Dorji, Chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan. This was followed by the session ‘The Making of a Conscious Leader’ by Gopilal Acharya, Freelance journalist and author; Needrup Zangpo, Executive Director of Journalists Association of Bhutan; Nishtha Gautam, Senior Editor at The Quint; and Sujeev Shakya, author of ‘Unleashing Nepal: Past, Present and Future of the Economy’.
The highlight of the penultimate day of the festival, was ‘Mistress of Spices’, where TV host and food writer Padma Lakshmi spoke to acclaimed journalist Barkha Dutt about growing up brown, the kitchen gods that inspire her and her go-to recipes. The selfconfessed gastronome explained her philosophy of food and how she translates that into the written word as a food writer.
The next session ‘The Inner Life of Trees’ saw Pradip Krishen and Rebecca Pradhan in conversation with Phuntsho Namgyel, where Pradip and Rebecca drew on their personal experiences as nature lovers and professional expertise on ecology to discuss the sentient nature of trees.
The day also saw three book launches – ‘Facts About Bhutan’ written by Lily Wangchuk, and ‘Echoes of Bhutan’ by Barbara Shaffer and Barry Shaffer were unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen Mother followed by the launch of‘Adolescence Spirit’ by Deebash Bhattarai and Seeksha Bhattarai.
Audiences were delighted with ‘Romance Aaj Kal’, an entertaining session that saw acclaimed Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali at his candid best. He charmed audiences with his sense of humour, and discussed his growing up years, deep association with theatre, love for writ- ing stories and travels and inspiration as a filmmaker, with actress and former Miss Bhutan Tshokye Tshomo. Confessing his love for Bhutan, he promised audiences that he will be back soon.
Formally closing the eighth edition of the Festival, Siok Sian Dorji, Festival Co-Director, thanked Her Majesty The Queen Mother for her personal and inspiring support, and said that the festival celebrated the stories that each one of us carry within our hearts.
The 8th edition of the Festival wrapped up at the iconic Mojo Park, located in the heart of the city, where audiences let loose with an open mic session.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, Mountain Echoes Literary Festival, an initiative of the IndiaBhutan Foundation, in association with India’s leading literary consultancy, Siyahi, promises to grow the literary tradition between both nations, and return next year with a bigger line-up of speakers and many more engaging and thoughtful discussions.
Jaypee group presents Mountain Echoes literary festival is an initiative of the India Bhutan Foundation, in association with Siyahi, powered by Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan. It brings together writers, biographers, historians, environmentalists, scholars, photographers, poets, musicians, artists, filmmakers to engage in cultural dialogue, share stories, create memories and spend three blissful days in the mountains. Mountain Echoes enjoys the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
The eighth edition of the festival is being organized in Thimphu, Bhutan from August 25 – August 27 with the inaugural on August 24.