Bhutan calling for third edition of literary festival

New Delhi: Into its third year, Mountain Echoes, the literary festival of Bhutan is back with yet another power packed edition scheduled to be held in Thimpu later this month.

The festival between May 20th and 24th this year has lined up some of the most impressive authors writing from and on South Asia, including Vikram Seth, Patrick French, Wendell Rodricks, William Dalrymple, Kalpish Ratna, Ali Sethi and Gulzar.

Conceptualised in 2009, the festival began its journey in the pristine city of Thimpu in May 2010, as a joint effort by Pavan K Varma, India`s ambassador to Bhutan, co-directors Namita Gokhale and Pramod Kumar K G as wells as Mita Kapur, CEO, Siyahi.

The festival also has the support of the India-Bhutan Foundation and the patronage of Bhutan`s queen mother, H M Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, who is herself a published author. "The festival has grown organically. The focus this year is on travel writing, photography, Sci-fi, food writing and writing music. Films would also be screened," says Mita Kapur.

Mountains, particularly the Himalayas, are an important factor for the South Asian region encompassing within them other themes such as travel, environment, spirituality and philosophy all of which feature in sessions programmed for the festival.

Sessions on cinema are being organised with veterans like Vishal Bhardwaj, Mushtaq Sheikh, Amitabh Bhattacharya and Shakun Batra. Sharmila Tagore hasd been scheduled to speak about Satyajit Ray.

In the session "Dreaming of Prayer Flags", Karma Singye Dorji talks about what it means to write about his own land, the grand Himalayan vistas, the unhurried village life, and the significance of prayer flags. He also reads a few passages from his book. "So its a fun mix of some great sessions. We have an international bent with Stephen Alter, Ali Sethi, Shazia Omar Ashok Ferrey as well as loads of Bhutanese writers like Keunga Tenzin, Kuenzang Thinley, Karma Singye Dorji Kunzang Choden Sonam Jatso, Tshering Tashi, Lily Wangchhuk all accomplished writers," says Mita.

In "Rolling Clouds: Dreaming Mountains", a session on travel writing with Vikram Seth, Patrick French and William Dalrymple will see these eminent writers share personal anecdotes and readings from their works.

In "Blessings of Bhutan" Karma Phuntsho and Sonam Jatso will examine the unique balance of tradition and modernity that exists in the social structure in Bhutan and the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, in its material and spiritual context.

Namita Gokhale and Kishwar Desai are expected to read from their recent books and discuss the impact of gender on their writing in the session called First person Feminine.

Popular Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden would be in conversation with Swati Chopra on a session discussing spirituality and how it reflects in the process of writing in the session called "Writing the Spirit."

The program also includes a round table discussion between writers, journalists and media persons from both India and Bhutan, where they brainstorm on the relationship between media and democracy, and the roles and responsibilities of print, electronic and social media. Apart from these sessions, the festival has also organised a writers` retreat in Paro.