Mountain Echoes litfest kicks off in Bhutan

Thimphu: This capital city of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan came alive on Thursday evening with the seventh edition of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival kicking off. Inaugurating the festival, Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the Royal Patron of the festival, said that Mountain Echoes was the one constant event that brings a smile to her face and lifts her heart. “Apart from improved reading habits, the nation had also seen a great leap in the number of publications, in particular those commemorating the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan,” she said. Citing the influence of the festival, Wangchuck said that Pema Yoden, a young Bhutanese author, wrote her first book at 12 and her second book, at which was released recently, at 19 years. The three-day festival is an initiative of the India­ Bhutan Foundation, in association with Siyahi, powered by the Rajasthan government's Department of Tourism The power-packed line-up includes renowned authors like Amitav Ghosh, Pico Iyer and Graeme Simsion, among others.  Speaking on the occasion, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said that being a nervous air traveller, it took two years for her to attend the festival. “Though Rajasthan and Bhutan appear very different geographically, we share respect for nature, a simple lifestyle and a commitment to the happiness of the people,” she said. Raje added that she was excited at the prospect of listening to authors like Chador Wangmo and Pico Iyer, and it was a relief to disappear into different worlds through books. Speaking at the occasion, Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar said that the festival offered a chance to Bhutan and its writers to converse with the rest of the world. For the first time, Bhutanese authors outnumber the Indian panelists, festival director Tshering Tashi noted. Tashi also spoke of the early ties forged between India and Bhutan during a visit by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Just as Nehru said that he had left a part of his heart in Paro, Tashi hoped that all the visiting artistes would leave behind a piece of their hearts in Bhutan.