28 Oct Shar Shares her Views on MWMF 2015
We asked Shar, Grade 11, to write up a review of Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival 2015 from a student’s perspective and though she was reluctant at first, she delivered her article in true Shar style – saying it like it is!
A clouded leopard stalks across the screen. A tiger munches on a rhinoceros. Meanwhile, I am entranced. This is 3rd session of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival, entitled ‘Wild Himalaya’. As someone who aspires to be a biologist, working with people and animals in amazing places, the combined presentation by Sandesh Kadur, a photographer and filmmaker, and Kamal Bawa, a scientist and author, was incredibly engaging.
Both presented very well, engaging the audience and interspersing what they were telling us with stunning photographs of people, places, and animals, and a few short film clips, showing us what they’d just described. Their presentation got a lot of ‘awwws’ from the audience with cute pictures. But it wasn’t just about adorable animals: they discussed climate change and it’s effects on the biodiversity we saw through pictures. They talked about how their career came to be, and what it is like to be a wildlife photographer (apparently, it involves a lot of sitting around waiting.) The use of pictures to spread an important environmental message that a lot of ordinary people wouldn’t listen to otherwise in an honest and beautiful presentation was simply inspiring.
What makes a presentation ‘good’? After the first day of the MWMF, a lot of Woodstock students have been asking themselves this. This festival offers us the unique privilege of seeing famous mountaineers, writers, and environmentalists present their adventures, discoveries, and ideas.
However, attending sessions of the festival is required. As many would agree, this makes the sessions far less enjoyable, and the audience less appreciative of the remarkable opportunity MWMF presents. On Friday, we heard from all sorts of incredible people: Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the first woman to summit all fourteen 8000 metre peaks. Patrick French, an acclaimed historical/travel authour. Silvo Karo, an incredible Slovenian climber. Bernadette McDonald, a biographer of mountains and the people who climb them.
It is clear that all the presenters were extremely accomplished in some area or the other. So it was expected that what they had to say about it would be engaging. Some presentations were, but in others, the audience struggled. Problems students voiced included not being able to understand the speakers, not being interested by the content and having to stay still and focus for more than two hours. “ If the sessions were broken up into half-hour chunks, everyone would have paid a lot more attention,” a friend told me.
For some people, it was hard to understand why we were required to go to ‘boring’ and unnecessary presentations. Like other people, I struggled to concentrate entirely on every presentation, even though I knew- I know- that this was a one in a million opportunity. But I still found the experience worthwhile.Why? Even though not every talk was about a topic that fascinated me, I know other people enjoyed them. ‘One person’s fish is another man’s poison,’ they say, and this is true. What seized me by the heart, what yelled in my ear, ‘This is what I want to do, what I was made to do,’ made people in the row in front of me doze. Different people I talked to enjoyed different presentations for different reasons. Some were inspired to climb impossible peaks. Others to write heart-wrenching, exciting novels or take pictures that really could capture one thousand words.
So while not every MWMF speaker inspired every member of the audience, I wanted to encourage my peers to take advantage of this opportunity. Many other people watching had come from far and wide to see the festival. The Wild Himalaya session absolutely inspired me. What could other people learn from other speakers? This festival brings incredible people together. They have incredible stories to tell, and we must take the time to listen. Many students won’t be inspired by this chance. But if just one student – a single person- is inspired to live their lives a different way, learn something they’d never imagined, try something extraordinary, then MWMF has succeeded. That’s what will have made it entirely worthwhile.
-Shar, Grade 11.
( Photo credits: Bernadette McDonald: Lalitha Krishnan; Kamal Bawa and Silvo Karo: Marta Lopez)