Land of lamas, dragons and GNH – Bhutan to host first lit fest

Kolkata Observer,4 May, 2010


Land of lamas, dragons and GNH – Bhutan to host first lit fest

The hills of Bhutan will soon be alive with literature as renowned authors and poets gather in the tiny kingdom to participate in a literary festival focussing on the magic and mystique of writings off and from the Himalayan regions.

Indian writers like Gulzar, Chetan Bhagat, Bulbul Sharma and Omair Ahmad will be joined by international names like British author Patrick French as well as local writers and poets from Bhutan for the three-day festival “Mountain Echoes” in Thimphu from 17th May.

The fabled kingdom of dragons known recently for its policy of promoting Gross National Happiness (GNH) over the economic Gross Domestic Product (GDP), provides the perfect setting for writers from different tracts of trans- Himalayan belt to sharing their ideas and literary traditions, say organisers.

“This is the first time that Bhutan is hosting a literary festival. It is a collaborative venture between the governments of India and Bhutan and will focus on the wealth of mountain writing from these countries as well as other international writers,” Mita Kapur, who heads Siyahi, one of the organisers told a news agency.

The shortlist of speakers at the festival “Mountain Echoes” includes among others author and Indian ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K Varma, poet Temsula Ao, Namita Gokhale, Omair Ahmed, Bulbul Sharma, Urvashi Butalia and Leila Seth.

While bestseller Chetan Bhagat would converse with Jai Arjun Singh in session “Young Writers, Young readers,” a different session “Scripting Cinema” would have filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani in discussion with Bollywood actor Boman Irani.

Lyricst Gulzar will read out poems from nature in the session “Aur Neeche tha Dariya (And the River below). Although we have not given it a direct focus, yes obliquely the festival which has a separate segment on travel writing will focus on literary tourism which has become a new genre of tourism,” says Kapur.

Around 40 speakers have confirmed participation at the literature festival which organisers say is expecting a lot of enthusiastic participation.

“The land of the lamas provides a fascinating and mystical backdrop to writers and tourists and we plan to make this event an annual affair,” says Kapur.

Conceptualised by current Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma “Mountain Echoes,” is held under the India Bhutan Foundation.

The foundation was established in August 2003, with the objective to enhance exchange and interaction among the peoples of both countries, through activities in the areas of educational, cultural, scientific and technical fields.

Sessions at the festival include Bhutan through the Ages, Grandmother’s Tales, History and Biographies, Language and Identity, Poetry and Archery, Shared Dreams and Shared Metaphors, Writing about Mountains, Architecture and Heritage, Music, Love, Poetry, These Hills called Home, Beyond the Frame, Of Women, By Women, Travellers and Magicians, Winds of Change, and Languages of Belonging which shares the stories, tales and folk narratives.