Nainital, Uttarakhand, Oct 7

Set in the lap of the Kumaon hills, the 2nd edition of the Himalayan Echo Kumaon Festival for Arts and Literature began here on Saturday.

Held at Abbotsford Heritage Homestay in Nainital, the first day of the two day lit fest, which is mentored by eminent writers like Namita Gokhale and Rishi Suri and produced by literary consultancy Siyahi, saw some interesting sessions -- from sharing memories of the curvy lanes of the hill station to the environmental threats faced by the town.

The first session began with Vani Tripathi and Gita Pande talking about the female literary voices from the hills and their writing. Then came Padma Shri winner Dr Yashodhar Mathpal who spoke on the need to protect the Kumaoni art and culture.

"It is very necessary for the schools to educate the students about the richness of the region, not just geographical wise but also the culture and heritage that Kumaon region has got. This may be a small step but can bring major changes in upcoming years," Mathpal, who has his own private "Folk Culture Museum" told IANS on the sidelines of the event.

The next session left the audience enthralled as noted author, journalist and radio show host Neelesh Misra took to the stage for a conversation with Dr Saif Mahmood.

Misra took the audience down memory lane when he recollected some golden moments from his days spent in Nainital.

"I learned to love here. I remember that time when I would run out of money or was short of it and wrote poems and songs for my mistress or lady love to impress her. My passion for writing grew here," he recalled.

The next two sessions saw some serious discussions taking place over issues like major threats faced by the lake district and the increasing conflict between man and wildlife.

"Tourism in Nainital has largely affected the environment. The percentage of illegal construction has gone up, tourists litter the place and not much is done to put a check on these issues," said Dr Ajay Rawat who was seen in conversation with journalist Hridayesh Joshi.

The day ended with environment specialists and authors MK Ranjitsinh and Prerna Bindra discussing with Janaki Lenin the tremendous conflict of animals and humans and the environmental laws.

Although the event saw a limited audience, organiser and eminent author Namita Gokhale said that they prefer to keep the fest a smaller event. She said: "The fest aims to promote the literary faces and social thinkers of Kumaon. We want to maintain a homely atmosphere."
The second day of the lit fest will be organised at The Gateway Resort in Corbett.

(Somrita Ghosh is attending the event on an invitation from Siyahi, the organiser. She can be contacted at somrita.g@ians.in)

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