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Echoing the "Mountain Echoes"

Photo: Mountain Echoes 
Mountain Echoes is over and I am already feeling nostalgic about it. But I am sure 2014 will bring in even more engaging and interactive Literary Festival. The organizers have nominated two Bhutanese writers - Ashi Kunzang Choden and Aum Pek Dorji - as the co-directors of the festival. And for the same reason I feel that the forthcoming edition of the festival would have a well-balanced representation from both the countries.

Talking a little more about the festival – it is like living in the moment. My Uncle, who faithfully attended the festival, told me that this was shown by the nature of conversations - light and casual. And interestingly there are no written records of what have ensued from these discussions. There are no academic papers written or submitted and no records of the festival proceedings. People just appear on stage and talk. That’s unique and I find it quite comforting. After all who records what happens in our Tshechu grounds – year after year, right?
Photo: Mountain Echoes

Maybe all festivals are same in that sense. One change this year’s edition of Mountain Echoes was in the way it was conducted. In the earlier years, there were parallel sessions happening. Of course that provided choices of sessions for the people to choose from. But the old format limits one’s choice when two interesting sessions happen simultaneously since one is unable to attend both. This year the organizers, mindful of the suggestions, tweaked the format a bit. That’s laudable!

But this year’s Mountain Echoes (like the three more in the past) had me thinking and reflecting. The Literary festival was attended – well attended by Bhutanese who love literature and knew a great deal about the outside world. They are the so-called Bhutanese elites! And elite book-lovers are by far the marginalized section in our society. You will agree. The majority of Bhutanese do not know what the Mountain Echoes is all about.

Photo: Mountain Echoes
Now think of Bhutanese music industry. In the recent past everywhere you went, foreign songs and music dominated– be it in a school cultural shows or someone’s house warming or even national events. I am talking of urban centers here. Today that trend is reversed. There are now so many people who love Bhutanese songs and music. This is marvelous. The credit goes to our popular and new faces in the music industry. And sadly not many of the so-called elites listen to Bhutanese songs. That is pity. But that’s okay – that’s a small section of society really!

Photo: Jambay Dorji
Likewise is the case with Bhutanese movies. Today our people love, as some surveys suggested, watching Bhutanese movies compared to those made on the foreign soil. But (again) sadly –not many of the so-called elites would have watched a single Bhutanese movie. Still I think that is okay – that’s a small section of society really!

Yes, we have a long way to go when it comes to making people read and making reading an enjoyable hobby and habit amongst our young people. But our music and movie industries have amply shown that we can change this. 70% of Bhutanese, we were informed, are young people below 30!  

And that’s where we need to focus. Of course how we do it is altogether a different ball game, they say!

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