Bhutan's Mountain Echoes Festival 2019: Your guide to the authors and must-attend events at this 10th edition
The tenth edition of Mountain Echoes, held from 22 to 25 August this year at Thimphu, and will feature several discussions on literature, music, the environment and history, among other subjects.
Literature festivals are marked by a flurry of activity, and chatter, whether it is the rush to meet eminent speakers and get one’s books signed; or waiting in serpentine queues to attend talks and performances; or the confusion over which venue to spend the day at; controversial remarks and statements made by speakers (there can be plenty of those); and the constant discussions – before and after. This is what encompasses the experience of going to a lit fest, for the attendee and the culture journalist (especially if you are made to stand in line).
So when I asked my colleague about whether I should expect the same bustle at Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes festival, she almost scoffed at me; no, much like the country that hosts it, this festival is more serene than others. But that doesn’t take away from the excitement of the proceedings – especially when you have Abhishek Chaubey, Arundhathi Subramaniam and Raj Kamal Jha in attendance.
The tenth edition of Mountain Echoes, held from 22 to 25 August this year at Thimphu, and will feature several discussions on literature, music, the environment and history, among other subjects. The itinerary also includes film screenings, music performances and an exhibition on Bhutan’s music, curated by Kheng Sonam Dorji.
On Day 1, British art historian and former museum director Neil MacGregor will be in conversation with Dasho Tshering Tobgay in a session titled ‘Chaaros, Drukpas, Countrymen’. Sanjeev Sanyal, the Principal Economic Adviser to the Indian government who has also written the fiction book Life Over Two Beers And Other Stories, will hold forth in a session titled ‘The Ocean of Churn’; the impact of the Indian Ocean on human history is the subject of another book by him.
Vanessa R Sasson, a professor of Religious Studies, will be speaking with Dr Tashi Zangmo about Yashodhara, the wife of the Buddha – the subject of her latest book. One of the highlights of this day is the performance of a monologue titled ‘The Real Terma’, which has been written by Charmi Chheda.
Day 1 will also see Tony Joseph, whose book Early Indians received praise from all quarters in 2018, speaking about ancient Indian history. Pavan K Varma, Vani Tripathi Tikoo and Rahul Mahajan will be part of a discussion titled ‘Hindinama’. For those who would like to hone their storytelling skills, there is a workshop by Neelesh Misra, titled ‘Kahaani Express’.
Day 2 promises a diverse range in terms of subjects, from a performance by the students of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts to a discussion on artificial intelligence featuring Toby Walsh.
Celebrated photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani will be speaking with Nishtha Gautam about her book We Are Like Air, where she documented the lives of migrants – including her own mother – in Hong Kong. Abhishek Chaubey and Richa Chadha will be discussing the subject ‘Script to Screen’. Raj Kamal Jha and Manjula Narayan will answer the question ‘What is it like to be a novelist in a newsroom?’; The City And The Sea, the latest of many novels written by Jha was released in 2019.
Notably, Day 2 features two film screenings: Searching for Wives by Zuki Juno Tobgye, a New York Times op-doc about an Indian migrant, who works as a truck driver in Singapore, and his search for a wife, and The Next Guardian by Arun Bhattarai, which situates itself in a Bhutanese monastery, where the opposing dreams of two generations clash.
Arundhathi Subramaniam, whose collection of poetry Love Without a Story was recently released, will be speaking to Anindita Ghose.
On Day 3, Chador Wangmo, Chand Moxksh Bhattarai and Tej Narayan Pradhan will dissect the many elements that make a poem. The session ‘Defining Our Times’ will feature Sonia Singh, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, Sanjeev Sanyal and John Zubrzycki in conversation. John Zubrzycki, who wrote a book on the history of magic in India, titled Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns, will also hold forth on the subject on Day 3.
The closing address will be delivered by festival director Kelly Dorji.
The 2019 edition of Mountain Echoes will be held across various venues: Royal University of Bhutan, Hotel Taj Tashi, Clock Tower, City Cinema, Multipurpose Hall YDF and Mojo Park.
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