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Literary fever grips Thimphu as Mountain Echoes enters 2nd day

By IANS Updated: Aug 26, 2017 11:09 pm

Thimphu, August 26 (IANS): It is the second day of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival and a literary spell has gripped this Bhutanese capital as heavyweight writers engage in discussions and share their perspective on a range of issues.
A warm Saturday morning saw Thimphu come alive in its full spirits as the festival kicked-off quite early. Young students could be spotted on the streets handing out pamphlets of the festival, the only event of its kind in this small Himalayan country. This annual gathering, according to Bhutan’s Queen Mother, has greatly impacted the young minds of Thimphu and is eagerly awaited by the local people.
In a veranda, right next to the Royal University of Bhutan auditorium, students from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts enthralled the audience with a spectacular dance performance. No, there is no loud thumping and hip-hop; instead it was a traditional Bhutanese performance, soaked in silence, mediation and prayer. This simple yet refreshing performance kicked-off the day’s programme but there was an anticipation of another kind among the younger Bhutanese audience.
Just as the dance performance ended, the audience rushed inside the auditorium to attend one of the most anticipated sessions of this year’s programme. It was “Inglorious Empire,” where Indian MP and writer Shashi Tharoor continued his relentless attack on the legacy of the British Raj.
A regular face at most literary events in India and abroad, Tharoor has presented the same arguments at a number of venues and there was nothing new that he had to offer. But the audience was different and it was the first time that Tharoor was speaking in Bhutan. He also faced some interesting as well as tough questions. A young student asked him about the “historical amnesia” about Sikkim’s inclusion in India while another student questioned him on “the big brother attitude” that India sometimes has towards its neighbours. With wit and a dash of sarcasm, Tharoor’s same old responses were welcomed with thunderous applause by the new audience here.
Markus Zusak, the force behind the internationally acclaimed novel “The Book Thief”, earlier unravelled the thought processes that help create unconventional characters, stories within stories and best-selling books. In conversation with author Linda Leaming, he led the audiences through his journey as a writer and what inspires him every day.
The session saw stimulating conversations on gripping the readers’ minds through captivating storytelling techniques. The author also threw light on the rigorous technicalities that went into adapting the book to screen.
There are several other interesting sessions during the day but one that is most anticipated is the launch of the “India’s Indira” book by the Queen Mother, who will be in conversation with Shashi Tharoor. And then finally, it’s going to be a treat for Bhutanese readers as India’s most-loved author, Ruskin Bond, will address the last session of the day. Titled “Tales of Mountain Roads,” it is Bond’s first address in Bhutan and the students here are already queuing up the small book shop at the venue to chose from at least a dozen different titles of his that are for sale. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, the Mountain Echoes Literary festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation, in association with India’s leading literary consultancy, Siyahi. The festival concludes on Sunday evening.

By IANS Updated: Aug 26, 2017 11:09:03 pm