As the second edition of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival started yesterday in Thimphu, Indian Ambassador Pavan K Varma, who conceived the festival, talks to Phurba Dorji on the event and also about his writing career
I strongly believe that over and above the exceptionally close relations between India and Bhutan, we need to encourage people-to-people relations at the cultural level. We thought a stage where Indian and Bhutanese writers could come together would be enriching.
Q. Last year’s festival had received overwhelming responses. What are your observations on the Bhutanese audience and the Bhutanese literary culture?
I have rarely met a more enthusiastic and intelligent participation anywhere in the world. Mountain Echoes 2 is a result of the Mountain Echoes 1. Mountain Echoes 1 was a huge success with so many talented writers and personalities visiting Bhutan. The festival has now become a land mark in the literary calendar of both India and Bhutan.
We were successful in bringing writers of different genres in the festival. I think Bhutan is on the threshold of a literary reminisce which is rooted in its soil and carries the flavor of the beautiful Himalayan kingdom. The Bhutanese literary culture is exceptional in contemporary fiction and nonfiction as also its literary legacy of Dzongkha.
Q. You have been a major player in the literary scene in India. What difference do you see in the response of people in Bhutan and India?
The unique difference I have found was that for the first time we created a platform for literary minds of both the countries. I feel many of Bhutan’s writers have benefitted from the exposure that came from the festival. Equally, Indian writers discovered something to their surprise the confidence and talent of the Bhutanese literary heritage and contemporary writing.
Q. Your books are really popular in Bhutan especially after you took over as the ambassador, what are some of the comments you have received on your works.
My latest book called ‘Becoming Indian’ subtitled ‘the unfinished revolution of culture and identity’ has a special resonance with Bhutan because of the emphasis Bhutan gives to the preservation of culture and identity. Many of my Bhutanese friends who have read the book have spoken to me about its relevance to Bhutan’s own attempt in fighting the challenges towards culture and identity. My other books like ‘Being Indian’ and ‘the Great Indian Middle Class’ have also been appreciated for insights they provide to changing yet eternal Indian and to understanding the changes unfolding in Bhutan.
Q. We have heard that you are writing a book on Bhutan. Can you share with us come of the glimpses of the book?
I have written a couple of books in the past but this time I have attempted something different. I have for the first time written a novel. The novel is titled ’When Loss is Gain’ and more than half of the novel is based in Bhutan.
Q. What can we expect from Mountain Echoes 2?
We will have over 50 writers both form India and Bhutan where a wide range of subjects including fiction, non-fiction, food, textiles, films, and the craft of writing will be discussed. There will be two major workshops. One of the workshops will be with a leading Indian film maker Imtiaz Ali on script writing and the other will be on the crafts of writing with Anita Roy. The occasion will be graced by Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. It will also include interactions with the Lyonchen. There will also be the presence of Indian, Bhutanese and international media. I am confident that the Mountain Echoes 2 will receive more success than the previous festival.