Climate Change, dating, libraries, brand Bhutan and Everest on day one

Renowned author Amitav Ghosh kicked off the seventh edition of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival with a hard-hitting session on climate change, in The Great Derangement: Politics of the Carbon Economy.

Amitav pulled no punches; when asked if he saw himself as part of the solution to climate change, he said that he didn’t think there was a solution. As he narrated stories of global disaster, he held the audience, spellbound.

Amitav remarked that the lack of literature on climate change was not only due to indifference, but about finding ways to tell these difficult stories, often with no human protagonists.

With traditional resilience being lost and all institutions concerned saying one thing and doing another, Amitav predicted that the urban middle class would be disproportionately affected in the years to come.

His Eminence Gyalwa Dokhampa Jigme Pema Nyinjadh discussed deep philosophical questions with characteristic humour and charm in Story of the Lotus Born Guru.

The New Romantics – Ira Trivedi, Monu Tamang and Meenakshi Reddy – deliberated on dating and love in India and Bhutan. Ira, having done extensive research on sex and marriage in India, said that now there are several permutations to what was once a single formula – get married, have sex, and hopefully fall in love.

Monu, though nervous, entertained the audience with his explanations of ‹night hunting›. On a more serious note, they debated the problem of sexual violence and the precautions women have to take while actively dating.

Libraries are more than just repositories of books, they are community spaces. Discussing this larger idea of libraries was Mridula Koshy, Karma Lhazom and Natsuo Miyashita in Shelfies: Libraries in the Digital Age. Mridula and Karma agreed that community libraries were de facto shelters, inclusive spaces where people can explore information for free. “Community libraries are alive with the ideas in the books they contain,” Mridula said.

Network News: The Online Buzz generated a lot of debate, with Odd Harald Hauge, Malavika Jayaram, Bharat Bhusan, Jairaj Singh and Kunga Tenzin Dorji weighing in on the merits and pitfalls of online journalism. They all agreed that for all the positives, online journalism was a very different creature from traditional journalism. The problems of accountability, objectivity, privacy and advocacy were all raised. It was a dilemma faced by all online journalists, Jairaj said, the balance between sticking to your ideals and getting enough views.

Ugen Tsechup Dorji, Piyush Pandey and Debarshi Dasgupta came together on Brand Bhutan. Piyush said that for him, Bhutan was not mountains or greenery, but purity, pride and passion. Ugen Tsechup said that it was the vision of His Majesty The Fourth King that has made Bhutan what it is today, but now the country stood at a crossroads and had to decide which path to take.

Odd Harald Hauge, Dhamey Tenzin Norgay and Jairaj Singh transported the audience to Mount Everest in Of Everest and Unclimbed Mountains. The panelists painted a complex picture of the nature of mountaineering today, the plight of the Sherpa community, and the motivations for people to climb the peak.

Dhamey said that the disproportionate risks taken by the Sherpas was an unfortunate effect of the thirst for conquest.

Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje in conversation with Malvika Singh talked about her government’s people-friendly initiatives in Of the People, For the People. From her childhood observing her parents engaged in social work, she learned that politics is about caring.

She spoke of how, on assuming office, she took her officers to remote districts so that they could observe first-hand the concerns of the people.

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