Climate concerns and more at Bhutan Litfest

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) As the land of the Thunder Dragon is all set to host the seventh edition of the Mountain Echoes Literary festival, global issues, including climate change and women’s voices, will top the agenda.

The three-day festival from Friday is an initiative of the India­ Bhutan Foundation, in association with Siyahi, powered by the Rajasthan government’s Department of Tourism.

One of the greenest countries on the planet, the mountain kingdom will be the apt venue to discuss climate change, the biggest worry encountering the world at present, according to the organisers.

“Mountain Echoes in its seventh edition brings back an acute focus on issues relating to the environment and climate change whilst widening its ambit to include the visual arts and new media. These are ubjects at the forefront of the interests of the youth that are redefining our cultural experiences and fostering new dialogues,” said Festival Director Pramod Kumar KG.

As the festival also looks at the 400 years of the kingdom’s history, the Chief Royal Patron, Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangchuck, feels that it serves as a catalyst for literature in the country.

“To discuss and debate the key issues facing Bhutan today, education, climate change, rural-urban migration, and to consider our history through the medium of literature, art and culture is a wonderful prospect. The festival has been a great catalyst for the appreciation of literature in Bhutan,” said Wangchuck.

The power packed line-up includes renowned authors like Amitav Ghosh, Pico Iyer and Graeme Simsion, among others. Women’s voices will be represented by Bangladeshi author and women’s rights activist Sadaf Saaz; Kunzang Choden, the first Bhutanese woman to write an English novel; Indian actor Tabu; and authors Mridula Koshy and Anjum Hasan, among others.

The opening session ‘Great Derangement: Politics of the Carbon Economy’ will see Ghosh exploring the challenges of climate changes with Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar.

Graeme Simsion fans are in for a treat as the author discusses his two books, New York Times bestseller ‘The Rosie Project’ and its sequel ‘The Rosie Effect’, and the quest for the perfect partner and the DNA that works behind it.

Authors Anjum Hasan and Ira Trivedi will discuss an anthology ‘Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories, looking at what it means to be a woman in India at a time of intense change.

Another session ‘In I for Identity, Çiler Ilhan, Anjum Hasan, Mridula Koshy and Sonam Wangmo Jhalani will debate the maxim “write what you know”, discussing how they have drawn upon personal experiences in their writings.

The audience can also look forward to a session by actor Tabu with Kelly Dorji on asserting her position in the cutthroat Bollywood industry.

While the idyllic location provides a perfect backdrop for Pico Iyer’s talk, ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’, for the more intrepid adventurer, Dhamey T. Norgay, Odd Harald Hauge and Ravi Singh will share experiences of the fear and thrill of climbing in ‘Of Men and Mountains’.

Another attraction is the inaugural edition of “Bonfire Tales”, a cultural journey that travels by motorcycle to the Phobjikha valley in the mountains of Bhutan and then onto the warm climes of Punakha. Participants will be led by Kelly Dorji, on a tour designed to provide an authentic experience of Bhutanese culture, discovering religious sites, old monasteries and their art, while sampling delicious local cuisine throughout the journey.

Apart from the brainstorming debates, the festival will also host an exhibition of artworks by the Jogi family, an exhibition of photographs capturing the essence of a vibrant living Rajasthan by renowned Indian photographer Sudhir Kasliwal and photographs by Dorji Dhradhul providing a glimpse into the history, culture and natural splendour of Bhutan’s Gasa region.

Participants can sign up for workshops such as ‘How to tell a Good Story: Creative Writing Workshop by Sonam Wangmo Jhalani, ‘In Focus: The World of Fashion Photography by Maneesh Mandanna and ‘Sculpting the Spirit: Yoga Workshop by Ira Trivedi, among other programmes.Last but not the least, an Open Mic night and a special concert by fusion rock band Indian Ocean will bring the curtain down on the festival.



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