Celebrating the bond between #India and #Bhutan – Mountain Echoes Literary Festival echoes shared cultural connectivity

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Thimphu: The Mountain Echoes literary festival saw speakers highlighting the nuances of Philosophy, Spirituality and Music amongst others on day One of the festival.

With an aim to celebrate Untouched Beauty, Unexplored Ideas and Unstoppable Voices from the heart of the happiest country in the world, Mountain Echoes began with the traditional Rapa Dance performance, an evocative chronicle of the fifty years of enduring friendship between Bhutan and India. This was followed by the mesmerizing chanting by the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, introduced by Dr Tashi Zangmo. The opening address was delivered by Festival Co-Director Pramod Kumar KG.

Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck spoke of her convictions, beliefs, ideals and aspirations. Drawing from her life and the spiritual and cultural values of Bhutan, she shared her thoughts on what shaped her commitment to the service of her country.

Putting the spotlight on the formal relations between India and Bhutan, His Excellency Ambassador General V. Namgyel and His Excellency Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar spoke of the partnership between both countries, chronicling the shared vision, mutual trust and cooperation. They shared their experience and insights with the Director of the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies, Zimpon Wom Chewang Rinzin.

‘Translating the Sutras’ saw writers Khenpo Sonam Phuntsok and Veer Singh talking about the spiritual wisdom of Buddhist texts in the contemporary world, and how the meaning of life can be derived from the Sutras. Following the session was ‘Bee Quest: Sibjam Ecology and Conservation’, supported by the British Council, that had author Dave Goulson discuss bumblebee ecology, conservation projects and agro-ecosystems with conservation expert Karma Samdrup. Karma highlighted the sound environmental and bee-ecology practices in Bhutan.

Veteran singer Usha Uthup and Kunga Tenzin Dorji, one of Bhutan’s best-known rock musicians, regaled the audience with stories of the influence of music across generations and across boundaries in ‘One, Two, Cha-Cha, Cha’. After reminiscing about her days singing in Kolkata to becoming a leading voice for actresses like Sridevi and Rekha, she upped the tempo with popular Hindi and English hits, receiving much cheer and adulation from the crowd.

Poetry took center stage with American poet Sarah Kay, who introduced the power of spoken word poetry on the first day of the festival. Part performance and part speech, Kay created magic on stage and mesmerised audiences with a power-packed performance that included her popular works ‘B’ and ‘The Type’ in her session ‘Considering Breakthrough: Connecting with Spoken Word Poetry’.

‘And Then One Day’ saw a candid chat between Vani Tripathi Tikoo and veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah, on his life, his journey as an actor, his love for theatre and his memoir. He also spoke about his relationship with his father, his formative years at National School of Drama and Film & Television Institute of India, and his admiration for Shammi Kapoor and Dara Singh.

‘The Wildings Meet Dawa’ had Nilanjana Roy, the author of The Wildings and The Hundred Names of Darkness, in conversation with iconic Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden, tracing their literary journeys from Animal Farm to the stories of warrior toms like Nilanjana’s Miao and extraordinary stray dogs like Choden’s Dawa. Nilanjana opened-up about living and decoding a city through the eyes of a cat in her narrative, while Kunzang spoke about the complex relationship shared between the Bhutanese and dogs.

In ‘Living Museums: The Fabric of Culture’, Tshering Uden Penjore, Aparajita Jain and Malvika Singh discussed how geographies and culture give way to human memories, places and symbols that are a perennial part of human existence.

‘Natural Treasures of Rajasthan: Blueprints for Revival’, powered by Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, saw environmentalist Valmik Thapar speak of his association with innovative interventions for wildlife in Rajasthan. He spoke of building communities and engaging greater human support for nurturing and protecting our natural resources.

A poignant tale of The Guru (Master) and The Shishya (Student) was presented in Gurudakshina. Through his performance, Aditya Roy explored his deep respect and gratitude for all his gurus who have brought him to the juncture of learning, being fearless and achieving the near impossible.

Two enriching workshops were held on the art of storytelling with Sonam Wangmo Jhalani that spoke on crafting elements of fiction: character, plot, dialogue, setting, and point of view. The workshop included fun writing exercises for the attendees. This was followed by ‘Stagecraft’ with Usha Uthup that delved deep into the nitty-gritties of sound production, choosing musical instruments and honing vocal styles among the young.

Rinzin Rinzin’s latest work, Dewdrops in the Sun: A Treasury of Poems was released by Dasho Dr Sonam Kinga, in a reunion of old friends and co-parliamentarians. Dasho spoke about Dr Rinzin’s work at length and with passion, symbolic of their long friendship. Revisiting history through an engaging manner was writer Nayanika Mahtani who spoke to middle-schoolers about her latest book, The Gory Story of Genghis Khan. Mahtani took the children through a delightful voyage into the history of the Mongols. The session was packed to the seams, both in numbers as well as excitement.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, Mountain Echoes literary festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation, in association with India’s leading literary agency, Siyahi. Presented by the Jaypee Group and powered by the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the three-day festival is on till August, with engaging and insightful discussions being held across five locations in the city.