Beyond mere literacy

Kuensel,18 May 2010


Beyond mere literacy

Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, inaugurates the Mountain Echoes literary festival yesterday evening as Indian ambassador Pavan K Varma (Right) looks on.
“Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity” is launched by Her Majesty
Mountain Echoes 18 May, 2010 – A reading of poems in Dzongkha, English and Hindustani by Bhutanese and Indian poets yesterday evening set the tone for Mountain Echoes, Bhutan’s first ever literary festival, that was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. 

Addressing the gathering at the India House auditorium after lighting the inaugural lamp, Her Majesty described the festival as a “meeting of minds to share ideas and literary traditions in an environment, which will produce stimulating and productive interactions”.

“They will enrich and inform all those who are looking forward to this unique literary event,” said Her Majesty, who is also the chief royal patron of the festival. “Events like this on an intellectual and creative plane are extremely important in furthering people to people contact.”

Her Majesty also said the festival was timely in that Bhutan’s rich tradition of oral literature was only beginning to be written down. “Recording such literature in the written form is becoming increasingly important in today’s age, when the interests of our youth are geared towards the visual world of television and other distractions,” said Her Majesty.

Extending a warm welcome to all the participants from India and beyond, Her Majesty expressed her happiness that Mountain Echoes was happening in Bhutan, and her hope that the event “will further infuse the love of reading and inspire creative writing in our youth”.

The prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, who gave the keynote address on Gross National Happiness (GNH), said that writers make us think and reflect on the monotony of everyday life.

“This is what literature, the space within and to which writers add, does,” said the prime minister. “This is what takes us beyond mere literacy – through refection and contemplation we are provoked, inspired and persuaded to transform ourselves and, sometimes, the very values that guide us. It is what makes us grow as human individuals and … be mindful of other’s sense and sensibilities.”

The inaugural also saw, on the insistence of the prime minister, the Bhutan launch of “Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity”, the latest of the many books written by the Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma, the brains behind the literary festival.

The festival, put together by the India-Bhutan foundation, will take place today and tomorrow at the Tarayana centre in Thimphu, with a musical performance by Soulmate, a Shillong based band, at the clock tower on the evening of May 19.