Mountain Echoes 2012
Day 1: India Center, Thimpu
May 20, 2012
May 20, 2012
The third edition of Mountain Echoes, The Bhutan Festival of Literature, Arts and Culture kicked off on 20th May, 2012 in the presence of HM Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Hon’able Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley, HE Ambassador Pavan Varma, Festival Directors Namita Gokhale and Pramod Kumar KG and a host of eminent authors, artists and performers at the India House, Thimphu.
Siyahi CEO, Mita Kapur, opened the inaugural function by welcoming all the authors, story tellers, travel writers, biographers, film makers and myth makers from Bhutan, India and other parts of South Asia who have come together to share their thoughts and ideas. She spoke of how this festival will provide a platform for the visual and performing arts to show their confluence with literature and commended the Bhutanese people for the loyalty that they show towards their culture and language.
This was followed by the lighting of the lamp by HM Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley, HE Ambassador Pavan Varma, Namita Gokhale and Pramod Kumar KG.
Pavan Varma then gave his welcome address, where he spoke of how the festival, which started as an experiment to bring together the best of creative writing from both India and Bhutan, has grown in three years. Mountain Echoes is now a landmark event on the literary calendar. This fact was further endorsed after the organizers received a request from Nobel Laureate Orhan Pahmuk to attend the festival. Unfortunately, last minute scheduling problems prevented him from coming.
He spoke of how the festival has become a concrete manifestation of the people to people contact, which is important to the relations of all countries. Mountain Echoes has led to a new sense of understanding between an important constituency of people from both countries – of creative people, artists and performers.
An important consequence of the festival is that it has created a bridge between cultures. Since the time that the festival began, the participation of the Bhutanese counterparts has increased tremendously. Also, the festival has led to the discovery of the beautiful royal kingdom of Bhutan, a country still so deeply rooted in its culture. The festival, according to Pavan Varma, carries an echo of the message of friendship, trust, joy and happiness.
HM Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck in her speech, acknowledged the efforts and devotion put in by the two ambassadors, the India Bhutan Foundation, Namita Gokhale, Pramod KG, Mita Kapur and the Siyahi team for making Mountain Echoes a success. She spoke of the diversity of the festival, which showcases a wide array of arts, literature, cinema and music, and is growing in scope and popularity in both India and Bhutan.
She started by welcoming Sharmila Tagore, whom she said she greatly admired and expressed her happiness in Hindi by saying, ‘Main bahut khush hoon ki humare sapno ki rani humare desh mein ayi hai.’ She also thanked Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Patrick French, Gulzar and all the other luminaries who have been coming to the festival contributing to its success and increased participation. She talked of how Mountain Echoes is proving to be an event where old friends reunite and new friendships are found and she looks forward to the next few days of exciting exchanges.
A landmark achievement of the festival was also the launch of the book, ‘Bhutan: Through the Lens of the King’, a collection of photographs taken by the King of Bhutan. Her Majesty and the Prime Minister launched the book and the Queen Mother talked about how the book is symbolic of the King’s vision of his kingdom and his caring and sensitivity towards his country and its people. The festival will also host an exhibition of the photographs from this book.
Festival director Namita Gokhale, in her welcome address said that as somebody from the mountains she understands the mystery and majesty of the youngest and highest mountains of the world. She spoke of the growing representation of writers from other parts of South Asia including Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and how the festival celebrates the continuum of Himalayan cultures across regional and national boundaries. She expressed her gratitude for the enduring connect with the Bhutanese writers and the contribution of the festival to the Gross Literary Happiness of the world.
This constant exchange between these porous regional borders then took a musical turn as Pakistani writer Ali Sethi invoked the celebration of creativity by singing an Urdu Ghazal by Pakistani singer Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum. The ghazal, which is an expression of joy that celebrates union with the beloved, the divine, and also the muse that inspires creative endeavor, set the mood for the coming days of the festival.
The evening was concluded by Bhutanese singer Sonam Dorji as he gave voice to the rich flavor of hill music simultaneously adding fascinating improvisations with Hindustani music notes, showcasing the collective dialogue between the two traditions of music.