A literary festival that started this year in Bhutan brought together an amazing mix of ideas, individuals and experiences, writes Malvika Singh
Way to Bhutan: the Samshi gate at Dhupguri
It was poetic, lyrical and most unusual. There was none of the hype, the pushing and shoving, the endless public relations jig. Instead, there was a sense of camaraderie and of a gracious respect for one another. For me, it was a privilege to attend the first ever literary festival in Thimphu, with the Queen as its patron. The inauguration of Mountain Echoes by Her Majesty, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, at the auditorium of the Indian embassy, hosted by the ambassador, Pavan Varma, was charming, replete with happy welcomes and poetry readings from both the nations, Bhutan and India.
Her Majesty lit the lamp, and welcomed the participants, establishing Mountain Echoes as an event that will bring writers and poets together in Bhutan every year. This was followed by an address by the prime minister, Jigme Y. Thinley, on Gross National Happiness and Bhutan’s quest for an inclusive governance of the kingdom where growth is marked on indicators of happiness. As a young nation that functioned as a ‘democracy’ even under its much-loved monarch, Bhutan is experimenting with a way of life that could become the mantra of the future in a fast globalizing world. We all have a great deal to learn from its chosen path, particularly in a greedy and strife-ridden world. This was followed by a series of readings that set the mood for the days ahead.