Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mussoorie Writers' Festival Opening

This past week was the 3rd writers' festival held in Mussoorie. When Steve Alter coordinated the first two of these in 2007 and 2008, I badly wanted to come, but neither coincided with our times in India. I was very happy that this one did. And, even better, I bagged the assignment of attending all the sessions to take notes for our Communications Department. Over a period of four days, we heard approximately 32 presentations. Every one was fascinating. I took copious notes and some photos. There is so much information that I will need to divide it into quite a few posts. Steve did a terrific job of organizing the entire program. The Festival was supported by the Winterline Foundation and other groups. You can see full biographies of all the presenters and the program here.

The opening of the exhibition was held on Tuesday afternoon at the Hanifl Centre, with tea served on the veranda.

The theme of this Festival was “Mountain Literature.” Two visual exhibitions were included: photographs by Coni Horler, a Swiss living in Bangalore, and ink drawings by David Wagner WS ’63, a botanist from Eugene, Oregon.

Coni’s photographs of mountain scenes were nearly 36” square, mounted on the walls of the hallway at the Hanifl Center. They are incredibly evocative of the high Himalaya. His website has many beautiful pictures to see. Click on the mountain scene at the right end of the second row to see several other mountain scenes similar to the ones exhibited. You can also read more about him and his work here.

David’s drawings of plants, insects, and small animals are meticulous and beautiful. He produces a calendar that includes his drawings and natural history notes for the Willamette Valley area. You can see many of his drawings (and order the calendar) here.

The late afternoon view of the Winterline to the west was beautiful.

After high tea for all the participants and Woodstock staff, we walked (or rode) back to the school for the official gala opening ceremony in Parker Hall. A string quintet of staff and students played the Indian national anthem "Jana Gana Mana" while we all stood (and some sang) at both the beginning and the end of the event.

The chief speaker was Her Excellency Margaret Alva, Governor of Uttarakhand. Unlike the U.S., the state governership is a centrally-appointed position. The Chief Minister of the state is the highest state political office. Mrs. Alva gave the official book release for “Mussoorie Writers’ Anthology,” edited by Surendra Pundeer. The book contains short pieces by 18 Mussoorie authors, 6 in English and the rest in Hindi. She and David Laurenson, Woodstock Principal, presented a copy of the book to each of the authors.

Following the book release, Mussoorie’s most famous author, Ruskin Bond, read his story, “Road to Badrinath.” I have enjoyed his writing for many years and own at least 20 of his 75+ books. More about him: Ruskin Bond

Mrs. Alva then addressed the packed house, focusing on the beauty of our area and how important it is to keep it unspoiled. We need to explore, study and preserve the environment of Uttarakhand, which is mostly mountainous. She said that writers open our eyes to see better and this is a special need of politicians. She has had a remarkable career. You can read more about her here.

And that was just the beginning. More to come.


  1. Looking forward to further installments. I was especially pleased to learn that a photographer was invited to exhibit at this conference. It is very difficult for photographers to get useful outlets for their work other than websites. Although I don't know any of the writings mentioned , I can imagine that at least some of the philosophical outlooks could well be shared by writers and the photographer. His photographs are superb and remarkably varied; thanks for linking to his site.

  2. I had been to Mussoorie a wonderful place....and Thanks for your philanthropic work in that beautiful place....nice and informative blog.
    Rajen Upadhyay
    Visit me at


Please send me your thoughts about my posts.