The hills are alive: hugged by the Queen, blessed by the Abbot
The sound of music resonated in the most unlikely fashion - After being treated to a dose of "high culture" music, if you'll allow me that distinction, on Sunday evening by Bhutanese singer Sonam Dorji and Pakistani musician and writer Ali Sethi, Monday evening saw Delhi-based band Eka rocking a pretty massive crowd of Bhutanese youth!
This at the picturesque clock tower in what seems to be the heart of town. Pockets of the crowd, sitting patiently on the steps at least half an hour before the concert began, went fairly wild - or as wild as we've seen in these parts. What's pretty amazing is that they knew almost all the songs - from Rock On to songs from Taare Zameen Par...Arshad Warsi got the crowd going, from on-stage as well.
I think it's interesting, a little disturbing? Not just for the older Bhutanese who talk of the "distractions" the young generation is faced with, but also when you realise that the predominant picture of India is via the Bollywood filter - at least for this latest generation, who unlike many of their parents, have not studied in boarding schools from Kalimpong to Sanawar... This may be all they see! Of course, like young people everywhere, all they need is a little rock n'roll!
Earlier in the day, we had a fabulous set of sessions - from Ali Sethi in conversation with Vikram Seth, on his collection of 4 libretti - Rivered Earth, which ended with the most surprising performance of Fire! (set to music, and featuring Seth as many of us have not seen him before!) Sethi was "the perfect foil", having read, absorbed and processd in quite profound ways Seth's latest work. Vikram Seth is also working on a "jump sequel" to A Suitable Boy (which he referred to hilariously as "the fat book"), so that's something keenly awaited.
Swati Chopra and Kunzang Choden had a fantastic session - on spirituality and women -- and were joined on stage by one of the royal family, who works with nuns here. Fascinating stuff.
I'm going to skip along, but really it's almost a sensory overload - fabulous conversations, and I did mention being hugged by the queen? No?
It was most unexpected - She was greeting people the first evening of our visit, and I was introduced most graciously by Patrick French, and a few brief words apart, she hugged me. That and a double handshake by the (let's face it) gorgeous King Jigme (the most gracious denial of an interview I've heard yet!) had me floored, actually.
So yes, the Queen Mother hugged me, I was blessed the next day by the Abbot (a reincarnate lama) - after witnessing the yearly pilgrimage of the monastic community that involves the shifting of residence. And thanks to a chance meeting with a scholar Dr Karma Phuntsho, who explained the significance and gave me a version of Bhutan "in a nut-shell" including several references to the Indian philosophical canon, I also got to visit a monastery in Thimphu. And there, was present for the once-a-year reading of the scriptures by monks. It's all quite heady, though I hastened on out of there for fear of unwittingly offending someone (some ignorant twit of a tourist had turned the prayer wheels anti-clockwise, not clockwise, I'd just been informed!).
Good omens and luck, hey? I'll take a blessing where I can get it!
It's an incredible place to visit - and clearly the journey's just begun...
I'm going to catch you up with today's fabulous sessions and what else is going on, including some of the issues, but for the moment, have to run! Tweet me your feedback @amritat and if you're here, do tweet the team @ibnlive with your input!
More about Amrita Tripathi
Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.