Looking Back: Mountain Echoes 2013



“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Better still we didn’t just drop a “Hello” but also discussed things nearest to our hearts.

Juicing for Dummies

Juicer_JC3240 copyA glass of juice is refreshingly healthy, unlike anything else. And you don’t need a Doctor to tell you its benefits. Nevertheless, here is one single reason why you should start Juice Therapy! It helps you absorb all the nutrients in a very efficient way. The biggest problem with veggie juicing is that people don’t know which vegetables to begin with and are often put-off because they find themselves with a too strong or too boring juice. So here we are with a Beginner’s guide to Veggie Juicing.

Begin with veggie juices that are palatable. Right now, you need to get used to the idea of vegetables as juices rather than going for vegetables with the most nutrients. The first five on your list should be: Celery, Fennel (anise), Tomatoes, Carrots and Cucumbers. They are the easiest to digest and tolerate.
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5 Summer Must Haves

Indian Monsoons are legendary, doesn’t matter where you look: the streets, hills, Vedic literature or popular culture. However in between winter and the rains stands the monolithic summers. In recent years, (all thanks to global warming) it has taken on an even more horrific proportion. Hence, here we present you with 5 summer must haves. Don’t be fooled by the title – we are not going to talk of clothes or accessories which fashion magazines try to push down your throat with glitz and glamour. Instead for once take the title literally; these are the real 5 must have foods to beat the heat.

  1. Curd: Come summer or winter Indian cuisines across the country’s multiple cultures would be incomplete without this daily dairy favourite.  Having a lot of it really helps to beat the heat. Doesn’t matter how you are consuming it from North Indian Raitas to South Indian Curd Rice.
  2. Watermelon: A favourite of fruit lovers, the Watermelon is nature’s way of saying “Sorry about the heat, but you could have some melon and stop cursing me!” With 91% water by weight and another 100% by taste, watermelons really help to keep ones cool.
  3. Mango: There are two ways of having the king of fruits – ripe and unripe.  The former taste amazing and does you good, but it is the latter that will help you beat the heat and yes they taste great too. The easiest and tastiest way to consume unripe mangoes is through Aam Panna (juice).
  4. Coconut water: Don’t fear the adage “You are what you eat” Coconuts won’t make you go all nuts. Instead Coconut water helps you not only to fight the heat but also by having a high concentration of vitamins and minerals helps your metabolism.
  5. Kokum: Just as you will find Koala Bears only down under, you will find Kokum only in India. A native fruit that tastes like tamarind, Kokum juice prevents dehydration, loss of nutrients and improves your appetite.


Coffee Quirks

There are so many myths and legends surrounding this beverage that it has become impossible even to point to the origin of Coffee. A Yemenite Sufi mystic, a Sheik’s disciple, an Ethiopian Goat herder and an entire African ethnic group, all lay claim to the beverage’s discovery. We are not here to take sides, but to put to words some very unique Coffee phenomenon of our times, before myths and arguments take over.

At some point in time or on a regular basis we all have had Cappuccino. But how many of us know what exactly does Cappuccino mean?  The word comes from the resemblance of the drink to the clothing of the Capuchin monks – the Catholic order of Capuchin is an offshoot of the Franciscans. As for who designed their gowns, that again is open to speculation like the origin of coffee.

It was during colonial times that the various Arabica varieties of coffee such as mocha and Java got their names. These various coffee beans are named after their ports of origin.  Mocha is the name of the largest port in Yemen, where nearly all African coffee beans are traded and later transported. Similarly Java is the name of an Indonesian island with trading ports.

The custom of tipping waiters in restaurants also has its roots in coffee. During the 16th century coffee found its way into Europe through Venice, as the trading city state had very good links with both African and Arab merchants. Introduced as a drink for the wealthy, it spread across the various strata’s of society with the establishment of Coffee Houses. Soon such Coffee Houses began to mushroom all over Europe, loud, dirty and hectic places where customers needed to tip big to the waiters in order to receive good service.


Call Of the Wild


A recent social media article doing the rounds showcases great photographs that tell stories. Of the many well shot tales one photo features a monk and a tiger living in harmony. It is an image that evokes the very spirit of Buddhism universally, from the jungles of Thailand to the mountains of Bhutan and Tibet. However, human wildlife conflicts are a harsh reality – a topic that will be discussed by Sonam Wangchuk, Lily Wangchuk and Lyonpo Paljor Dorji. Sonam Wangchuk has spent 24 years with Bhutan’s Department of Forest and Park Services; while Lyonpo Paljor Dorji, is the founder of the only Bhutanese Environmental Non Governmental Organization, the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN). Both of them will be speaking at the 5th Bhutan Literary Festival- Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014.

Animals have always held a special place in eastern culture and mysticism, often used as a medium of communication through their stories – for instance the Jataka Tales, a collection of stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. Sanjay Wangchuk, Rebecca Pradhan and Manju Wakley will be exploring this world of Himalayan animism through their session on Wild Spirits.

A different aspect of the elemental world of nature will also be explored by Gavin Francis in the session Sounds of Silence and A love Letter to Antarctica. Having spent a year in the South Pole with Emperor Penguins, Francis accounted his experience of ice and silence in his book Empire Antarctica.


The Call of the People


The Newspapers rightly call it The Dance of Democracy; our 2014 elections are being quite the spectacle – a step to the right, a twist in the left, going round and round at every turn, it would give any Bollywood dance sequence a run for its money. And there is social media, where everyone has a view and a picture with ink on their fingernail. Yes, it was very kind of you to vote like 1 billion other people did. Sarcasm aside, we are glad you voted.

Such a wave of euphoria is natural when it comes to democracy, one such swept Bhutan recently when the country formed its first elected government. There is something about ‘the will of the people’ that does that. Lily Wangchuk, Mihir Sharma, Dago Tshering and Pavan K. Varma will be discussing the very same on the first day of the Bhutan Literary Fest: Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014 on the 22nd of May.

Lily Wangchuk is the first woman president of a registered political party in Bhutan, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa; while, Lyonpo Dago Tshering has served the Royal Government of Bhutan in a number of capacities from a former Home Minister to Ambassador of Bhutan to several countries, including India. His counterpart Pavan K Varma once served as India’s ambassador to Bhutan and has been awarded the country highest civilian award The Druk Thuksey; and all of us of who read papers do know Mihir Sharma as the editor of the opinion pages of the Business Standard.
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Who-dun-it in the Mountains

Everybody loves a good mystery. The only problem with great thrillers is that they are hard to find and far between. If you are a fan of the good old noir days of Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, the time has come to head to the Bhutan Literary Fest – Usha Presents Mountain Echoes 2014. Not one, two but…guess how many detective fiction writers are going to be there?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Frølich and Gunnarstranda, are distant cousins of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. To begin with they don’t go around saying stuff like “Thou-how” or “here comes Hamlet, talking total crap, as usual.” They happen to be two iconic figures from Norway and completely fictional. Created by author Kjell Ola Dahl, Frølich and Gunnarstranda are the two protagonist detectives who appear in 5 of his mystery novels. You probably haven’t heard of them because not all of Dahl’s work has been translated into English, but the ones that have been are gritty page-turners. If you love detective fiction and police procedural drama, Dahl is reason enough to head to Bhutan.

Not all great mysteries borrow from the 1920’s hardboiled genre. Some of the greatest mysteries happen to be historical. Just ask Christopher C. Doyle, who made his debut with The Mahabharata Secret. He talks about an ancient secret very much based in scientific reasoning, unlike the fantasy-tactical speculation that makes up Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code! Now let us put Mr Dahl and Mr Doyle together. Wonder what will you get? The answer my friend will be blowing in the mountains. (Chorus please, Head to Bhutan!) 🙂

Both the authors will be in conversation with Somnath Batabyal talking about “Dark Night of Crime” (Hold on Batman fans). Batabyal a long time journalist is the author of The Price you pay – a kidnapping thriller which follows the adventures of a young crime journalist in turn-of-the-millennium Delhi.  Apparently Batabyal “looks likely to do for India what Raymond Chandler did for LA,” and that’s coming from William Dalrymple.

Then there is Karma Tenzin ‘Yongba’, for those outside Bhutan who may know Yongba simply as a detective fiction writer will be surprised to find out that he also founded and once headed the Crime and Special Branch of the Royal Bhutan Police! Fancy hearing where real police procedures meet witty down-on-luck Private Eyes? Chorus Please.


The Mountains Are Calling

A trip to the mountains is sheer joy add to it a Literary Fest – Usha Presents Mountain Echoes 2014, in the picturesque town of Thimphu and it becomes jubilant Catharsis! Where else will you find a balanced mix of peace, religion, words, thoughts and beauty?

For those of you, to whom ‘Catharsis’ sounds Greek, it is! The Greek Geeks defined it as “the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art” (yes, that quote is from Wikipedia).

In the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, Catharsis happens on a daily basis. The people of Bhutan through their arts have cultivated a culture that tends to give rise to a peaceful jubilant joy every time you visit a Monastery or the time when Ani Kinley or Dolma C. Roder’s words get through your thick busy skulls. By the way both of them will be speaking at the fest. Add to that a host of Bhutanese luminaries from HM Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Dr. Froncoise Pommaret, Dr. Karma Phuntsho to our very own Namita Gokhale, Alka Pande, Sonia Khurana, and we just can’t wait.

Apart from the literary sessions on detective fiction/thrillers and democracy, film screenings and workshops, open mic and concerts, exhibitions and culinary demonstrations await; each day beginning with traditional and spiritual performances by Bhutanese musicians like Lhamo Dukpa, Ugyen Pandey and Sonam Dorji (google them, or better still check them out on You Tube).


62 Reasons to Attend Mountain Echoes


  1. Listen to Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck speak about the values of compassion in daily life.
  2. Share a Winter Evening with Navtej Sarna as he relates poignant tales about the human spirit.
  3. Find out where those Pricy Thakur Girls are headed next, from Anuja Chauhan
  4. Learn about the Bhutanese home and its architecture from Dolma C. Roder
  5. Take a step closer towards Buddhism with Ani Kinley
  6. Dorji Gyeltshen helps you explore the heritage of the mountain kingdom
  7. Understand  the Pema Lingpa tradition from Dr. Karma Phuntsho
  8. Meet detectives Frølich and Inspector Gunnarstranda. Courtesy Kjell Ola Dahl
  9. Time travel with Christopher C. Doyle to the days of Mahabharata
  10. Learn to write a murder mystery from Somnath Batabyal
  11. Follow Advatia Kala as she traces the Kahani behind every Kahani
  12.  Look at the world with a pair of travelling eyes with Namita Gokhale
  13. Receive Crazy Wisdom from Sonam Jatso
  14. Explore Realms of Happiness with Dasho Kinley Dorji
  15. Hear what Karma Choden has to say about the Divine Thunderbolt
  16. Share political experiences with Lily Wangchuk
  17.  Pavan K. Varma sheds new light on the Indian Middle Class
  18. Converse with Dago Tshering  about the will of the People
  19. Mihir Sharma gives you an insider’s view into  democracy’s backstage
  20. Attend a book launch: The Emerging Feminine – Discovering the Goddess Within by Rashna Imhasly Gandhy
  21. Laugh seriously with Robert Yeo
  22. Ruminate as Siok Sian Dorji brings to life tales from Bhutan
  23. Go behind the scenes of The Attachment by Florence Noiville
  24. Is French Literature gaining ground in the Subcontinent? Judith Oriol answers
  25. Start caring for the forests and wildlife with Sonam Wangchuk
  26.  Lyonpo Paljor Dorji  tells you the truth about Human wildlife conflicts
  27.  Learn the secret behind hundred years of Golden Rule from Damchu Lhendup
  28. Let Dasho Sangay Wangchug guide you through a pilgrimage
  29. Explore Bhutanese folk literature with Lopen Lungtaen Gyatso
  30. Get introduced to Silence, Snow and Penguins, all thanks to Gavin Francis
  31. Namgay Zam tells you all about Digital Bhutan
  32. Explore invisible cities with Malvika Singh
  33. Listen to ancestral whispers as related by Ira Pande
  34. Meet Kunzang Choden, the first Bhutanese female author to write in English
  35. Discuss the role of civil society and media with Umesh Anand
  36. Answer Kesang Chuki Dorjee’s leadership call to women
  37. Find Gandhi with Bernard Imhasly
  38. Find out your role in Civil Society with Siddharth Shriram
  39. Trail Wild Spirits with Sangay Wangchuk
  40. Explore Animism in Himalayas with Rebecca Pradhan
  41. Hike a road-trip with Manju Wakhley through the spirit world
  42. Get curious with Marie Venø Thesbjerg
  43. Go Blogging with Passang Passu Tshering
  44. Discover incredible Bhutan with Dr. Francoise Pommaret
  45. Take an aesthetic journey with artist Yoko Ishigami
  46. Interpret culture with Ashok Vajpeyi
  47. Pay homage to the epics and Gods with Arshia Sattar
  48. Learn the ABC of art from Alka Pande
  49. Discover new mediums through Sonia Khurana
  50. Pramod Kumar KG tells you a thing or a two about art
  51. Karma Tenzin ‘Yongba’ gives you a peek into real crime scenes
  52. Try your hand at being a master chef with Kunal Kapur
  53. Go all starry eyed and nostalgic with Waheeda Rehman
  54. Sathya Saran takes you across scenes from a memory
  55. Sujeev Shakya teaches you how Buddha can be your life coach.
  56. Listen to soothing music by Lhamo Dukpa, Ugyen Panday and Sonam Dorji
  57. Watch awesome movies like: The Red Door and No Problem! Six months with the Barefoot Grandmamas
  58. Discover the rich heritage of Bhutan through various exhibitions
  59. Appreciate the works of Sadon Lhamo
  60. Shake a leg with the Baby Boomers, Poisoned Apple, Zhaw and The Ngorigaps, Daydream Farmers and Langas
  61. Participate in Open Mic at Mojo Park.
  62. Find Happiness with Jemal Smith