MWMF 2015: WOMEN AND MOUNTAINS | 22-25 October 2015

The Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival celebrates Himalayan culture, natural history and exploration while inspiring students and mountain enthusiasts of all ages to discover, appreciate, enjoy and learn about the Himalaya.

Every year for the past six years, the festival has brought together 20-25 eminent authors, mountaineers, conservationists, artists, musicians, filmmakers and photographers from all over the world. A series of short talks, performances, workshops and exhibitions are held over three days at Woodstock School campus and Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study in Mussoorie.

The festival showcases and supports literary, educational and environmental projects in the Himalaya, especially related to the Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study.

Steve Swenson, MWMF 2012

The festival´s primary audience is students and teachers from educational institutions in Mussoorie and Dehradun, as well as local residents and mountain enthusiasts from India and abroad. Over the past 6 festival editions more than 6,000 people have attended MWMF.

Previous editions have been sponsored by WWF, Australia-India Council, The Himalayan Club, the Embassy of the United States in India, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Italian Cultural Centre, Penguin Books India, The Outdoor Journal and the Winterline Foundation, amongst others.

The MWMF receives broad media coverage, both in India and abroad. Some of the media houses annually covering the festival include: Times of India, Hindustan Times, Jet Airways, Outlook India, The Indian Quarterly, The Hindu, The Outdoor Journal, India Today, Outlook Traveller, The Tribune, Wild Films India, and a vast collection of blogs by guest authors and artists.

Gabrielle Walker MWMF 2008

The theme of this year’s festival is “Women and Mountains,” highlighting the important role of women in Himalayan exploration, conservation and mountain culture. Nanda Devi, both the goddess and the mountain that shares her name, will be a central feature of the program, with speakers like Dr. William Sax and folk performances by D.R. Purohit’s Sricala.

Freddie Wilkinson MWMF 2013

Among the confirmed speakers are eminent activists, mountaineers and writers including Dr. Vandana Shiva, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Bernadette McDonald. Slovenian climber Silvo Karo, journalist and author Basharat Peer, young adult writer Amrita Tripathi and Paro Anand are among the list of more than 20 participants.

Martushka Fromeast

This year´s festival program includes a concert by acclaimed blues band Soulmate with singer Tipriti Kharbangar from Shillong, photography by Martushka Fromeast and paintings by Tobit Roche, the exhibition of MWMF´s first Photo Essay competition, wildlife and nature films by Sandesh Kadur.

The formal program is accompanied by a “mela” with stalls selling Himalayan foods and crafts, as well as interactive activities, all of which draw attention to this year´s theme.

The festival will close with the annual edition of the Mussoorie Half Marathon.

“At a typical litfest, the heroes and heroines you come across are the ones the writers have created, alive only on the pages of the books they write. In Mussoorie, however, the writers themselves are the heroic protagonists: mountaineers who have stared death in the eye, adventurers who sail treacherous waters and ecologists who live isolated lives in remote areas to conserve the environment.”

– Madhu Jain, India Today

MWMF 2015 Line-Up

Dr. Vandana Shiva

ShivaDr. Shiva trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India. In 1982, she founded an independent institute – the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Dehra Dun – dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, working in close partnership with local communities and social movements. In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade.

In 2004, Dr. Shiva started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K. Dr. Shiva combines sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism, and her work spans teaching at universities worldwide to working with peasants in rural India. 

Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental ‘hero’ in 2003, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia. In November 2010, Forbes Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe. Dr. Shiva has contributed in fundamental ways to changing the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Her books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind pose essential challenges to the dominant paradigm of non-sustainable, industrial agriculture. Through her books Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest and Water Wars, Dr. Shiva has made visible the social, economic and ecological costs of corporate- led globalisation. Dr. Shiva chairs the Commission on the Future of Food set up by the Region of Tuscany (Italy), she is a Board member of the International Forum on Globalisation (IGF), and a member of the Steering Committee of the Indian People’s Campaign Against the WTO.


Dr. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

Her interest in mountain climbing developed at a very young age. It was Reverend Dr. Erich Tischler, a youth group leader in her hometown of Spital am Pyhrn, Upper Austria, who introduced her to the fascinating world of mountains.

GerlineAt the age of 13, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner ventured on her first easy climbing tours at the local „Sturzhahn“, which sparked off her enthusiasm for climbing and paved the road to alpinism. During the following years, she never skipped an opportunity to go climbing. Ski, ice and climbing tours became her main fields of interest, which she enjoyed besides completing her nurse training in Upper Austria and Vienna. Her greatest dream – climbing an eight thousand peak – came true at the age of 23, when she succeeded in climbing the fore summit of Broad Peak in Pakistan, with a height of 8.027m. 

During the following years, she put all money earned as a nurse into different trekking and climbing expeditions to the Himalaya. After climbing the Nanga Parbat – her fifth eight thousand peak – in 2003, she decided to finally become a professional mountain climber.

Today, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has climbed all fourteen main peaks in the eight thousand series as well as two fore summits higher than eight thousand metres.By reaching the summit of K2 (8,611m), the second highest peak in the world, she has become the first woman to scale all 8,000m peaks without the use of supplementary oxygen. 


Basharat Peer

Basharat-PeerBorn in Anantnag, Kashmir in 1977. He studied journalism and politics at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

He has worked as an editor at Foreign Affairs and served as a correspondent at Tehelka, India’s leading English language weekly. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, New Statesman, The Nation, Financial Times Magazine, N+1, and Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. Curfewed Night, his first book, won one of India’s top literary awards, the Vodafone Crossword Book Award for English Non Fiction. Peer is a Fellow at Open Society Institute and lives in New York and New Delhi.


Bernadette McDonald

Author of nine books on mountaineering and mountain culture, including Freedom Climbers (Rocky Mountain Books, 2011), the story of Poland’s golden age of Himalayan climbing. McDonald has been awarded five literary prizes for Freedom Climbers, including the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature and the Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize. She was awarded Italy’s ITAS Prize for mountain writing (2010) and is a three-time winner of India’s Kekoo Naoroji Award for Mountain Literature (2012, 2009 and 2008). In 2011 the American Alpine Club awarded her their highest literary honour for excellence in mountain literature. Freedom Climbers has been published in eight countries and translated into five languages.

She was the founding Vice President of Mountain Culture at The Banff Centre and director of the Banff Mountain Festivals for 20 years. She has received the Alberta Order of Excellence (2010), the Summit of Excellence Award from The Banff Centre (2007), the King Albert Award for international leadership in the field of mountain culture and environment (2006), and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002). Bernadette is an honorary member of both the Polish Mountaineering Association and India’s Himalayan Club.

Bernadette lectures and consults for universities, museums, festivals and cultural institutions around the world. She currently serves on the international advisory committee for National Geographic’s Expedition Council. Bernadette spends most of her discretionary time in the mountains: climbing, ski touring and hiking.



D.R. Purohit

PurohitProfessor of English at H.N.B. Garhwal University in Srinagar, Uttarakhand, and was Founding Director of the Centre for Folk Performing Art and Culture. Born in Queeli village in Rudraprayag district, he went to a local primary school and was taught by the famous teacher Hari Ram Purohit.

As a scholar he has researched and written a comparative study on Medieval English Folk Drama and Garhwali Folk Theatre. One of Uttarakhand’s foremost authorities on folk culture and drama, D.R. Purohit has written and directed numerous plays and musical performances , including versions of the Pandavlila and Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra. He has served as an advisor for the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, SPICMACAY and the SangeetNatak Academy, and is a member of the Uttarakhand Sanskriti, Sahityaevam Kala Parishad. Vidhyadhar SRICALA, of which Professor Purohit is director, is devoted to do research in folk performing arts.

It has for the last ten years been working to restore and revitalize the folk theater forms of central Himalayas.

Vidyadhar’s society for regional and indigineous culture, Arts, Literature and Artiste came in to existence in 1998 in Srinagar Garhwal. Devoted to research documentation and experimentation of folk art form of central Himalayan region, it has been working on the forms and performer that are fast dying out. The society has documented hundreds of folk songs, ballads, theatre forms and festivals. It began its journey in 1999 by organizing Garh Natya Shivir in collaboration with the National School Of Drama, New Delhi .


Mirella Tenderini

MirellaAuthor and translator, specializing in mountaineering and exploration books. She has been working since a long time as a managing editor for Italian publishers and she has written for mountaineering journals contributing occasionally also to the British Alpine Journal and the American Alpine Journal.

She shares her time between the Italian Alps and South of France. With her late husband, Luciano Tenderini, a climbing instructor and Alpine guide, she climbed on the Alps and travelled extensively in Africa, climbing mountains and exploring deserts, where she still journeys to gather documentations for her books. She is the author of several biographies (The Duke of the Abruzzi, Gary Hemming, Ernest Shackleton, Paul Gauguin, Isabelle Eberhardt), some of which have been awarded important literary prizes and have been translated into several languages.

Her latest book (2014) is the history of K2 starting from the earliest exploration in the Himalayas and Karakorum.


Mandip Singh Soin

A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, UK, Mandip holds a Master’s degree in History from St Stephens College, Delhi University. He began his pursuit of adventure at age 14 while studying at The Air Force School, Delhi. Since then, he has embarked on innumerable expeditions and journey’s traversing varied terrains, places across 40 countries and 6 continents.

Mandip-Singh-SoinHe was nominated India’s Most Versatile Adventurer by The Limca Book of Records since 1992 and in 2012 was awarded the Arjuna award for adventure –Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award for Lifetime Achievement by the President of India. Mandip is the only Indian to be awarded the Ness Award by the Royal Geographical Society, UK, for mountaineering and polar expeditions and encouragement of youth exploration. He is the Founder President of the Ecotourism Society of India and a Judge for the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Mandip Singh Soin is a passionate Sikh who has walked on the wild side in life for over three decades. He sleeps with ease in a tent or a palace hotel, has a photographers eye for zooming in on a Tickell’s Flycatcher or at a target in Competitions with a rifle. He lectures worldwide on Ecotourism & Responsible travel, Expeditions & Adventure Travel. Together with his wife Anita, they own and manage Ibex Expeditions. Himali & Himraj, their ‘children of the Himalaya’, who completed their education from Middlebury College and Colorado College in the US, share the same passion of the outdoors and being good trustees of the Earth.


Manjari Mehta

Manjari-MehtaA social anthropologist and independent researcher who has worked on a range of mountain development issues, including social/gender analysis and training with reference to disaster preparedness and management, rural livelihoods diversification and poverty reduction, and micro-credit and community-based water projects.

Dr. Mehta received her PhD in anthropology from Boston University and taught anthropology at MIT for many years. Her present research focuses on communities in the low and middle hills of Uttarakhand that are increasingly peri-urban in nature, no longer pursuing rural livelihoods but still a far remove from being urban in terms of the insecurity of their footholds in the urban- based economy. She has recently finished working on a book revisiting research in the lower Himalayan region of Tehri Garhwal in light of the tremendous changes that have been brought about by economic liberalization over the past two decades. She is a Woodstock graduate (1974) and lives in Dehra Dun.


Martushka Fromeast

Martushka-FromeastA photographer and storyteller, born in Warsaw, Poland, currently based in New Delhi. Describing herself and her work, she writes: “People and their stories fascinate me. I am interested in storytelling as a collaborative phenomenon. My projects are created in the process of interactions. I have background in cultural anthropology, photography and design. I crave to understand the diversity of people’s lives and believe that any attempt of understanding is an on-going process, which requires constant questioning and self-reflection. I aim to get an understanding, which can subsequently lead to social innovation.

My creative process includes collaborations with a wide range of people from different communities, cultures and professions: from Roma children in Easter European Roma Settlements to a Himalaya Guide in India or Shamans from a small village in Nepal.

I believe that we live surrounded by different and sometimes compelling narratives and contemporary art is a means of creating dialog between them. Arts should not be concerned with establishing general truths, but rather help to re-tell individual and group stories, in particular stories of those, whose voices are not sufficiently represented in mainstream discourse. In 2004 I founded the Click Academy (, an art group using pinhole photography as a means of social change through empowering communities to address the issues they face. Click Academy undertakes innovative projects, proving that it is possible to make “something out of nothing” with minimal expenditure.The results of my projects were exhibited internationally in various locations in UK, Poland, Austria, Nepal, India, Italy and China. I also participated in Austrian Parliament in Vienna, in 2nd Roma Pavilion “Call the Witness” during Venice International Arts Biennale, Delhi Photo Festival 2013, Xishuangbanna Photo Festival 2014 in China.”


Mukti Datta

Mukti-DattaSecretary for Jan Jagran Samiti in Almora, Uttaranchal. Mukti initiated a weaving project for women that started with ten women and two trainers, from the leprosy rehab centre in one village. The project grew organically to over 700 trained women who were then able to make marketable shawls and accessories. The Panchachuli Women Weavers transformed into a private company with women as shareholders and on the board of directors, with upmarket hotels in India buying retail outlets, and a growing market in the US and Europe. This economically self-sustained industry is the largest in the hills of Uttaranchal and functions with a credit line from a bank. The second institution Mukti launched is the Dena Hospital, which today is the best-equipped secondary health care facility in the state.

In addition, she also runs an intermediate college for girls, where 126 girls from rural families get the opportunity for vocational training after they graduate (as nurses, accountants, and weavers) as well five primary and two junior high schools. She is a Fellow of the inaugural class of the India Leadership Initiative and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.


Paro Anand

Paro-AnandWriter of books for children, young adults and adults. She also works with children in schools and NGOs, through her program Literature in Action. She is a world record holder, for helping over 3000 children make the world’s longest newspaper. She has been awarded for her contribution to children’s literature by The Russian Centre for Science and Culture. Her book, No Guns at my Son’s Funeral was on the IBBY Honor List.

Some of her books that have been recently published are Wild Child and Other Stories, Pure Sequence, Wingless, Jungle Book Early Days – Disney, School Ahead, The Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Genius, The Puffin Book of Folktales and Bhabloo Bhaloo’s Adventure.


Sandesh Kadur

Sandesh-KadurHe has a passion for visual imagery and has made his mark as both a wildlife photographer and documentary filmmaker. His films have been shown on television networks including National Geographic, BBC, Discovery and Animal Planet. Currently based in India, Sandesh is documenting the Eastern Himalaya, another endangered ecosystem in critical need of conservation.

He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers and director of Felis Creations, a visual-arts company based in India, which focuses on creating content that inspires conservation.


SoulmateThis blues rock band from Shillong, India, is primarily made up of Rudy Wallang (guitar/vocals/songwriter) and Tipriti TIPS Kharbangar (vocals/guitar), although they frequently team up with session musicians (on drums, bass, organ and possibly other backup instruments) when on tour.Tipriti is considered as one of the finest female singers to have emerged from North East India and Wallang is considered one of the most respected blues guitarists of India.

Since then the band has performed many concerts all over the Northeast as well as in different parts of India, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the USA. Soulmate gained nationwide recognition and popularity within jazz and blues circles in India after they became the only blues band to represent the country at the 23rd International Blues Challenge organized by The Blues Foundation of America (Memphis, USA) in 2007 and 2010.


Tobit Roche

Roche was born in Manchester UK 1954, early childhood spent in Hong Kong then later in Canada, teenage years in India where he attended the American International School Art school at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and at Camberwell College of Art in London.

Tobit has been under the spell of India since his teenage years which were spent in Delhi. Painting en plein air, gives him the pleasure of sitting on a hill top in Rajasthan or the Himalayas, as the spirituality of the land inspires him.

His Indian paintings are about longing and nostalgia, he shows a view of India which is intensely personal and is based on his emotional reaction to that country.


William Sax

Sax studied at Banaras Hindu University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Washington (Seattle), and the University of Chicago, where he earned his PhD in Anthropology in 1987.

William-SaxFrom 1987 to 1989 he was lecturer in Anthropology at Harvard University, and post-doctoral fellow in the Harvard Academy. After that he taught Hinduism in the Department of Philosophy and Religious studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, for eleven years. In 2000 he took up the Chair of Anthropology at the South Asia Institute in Heidelberg. He has published extensively on pilgrimage, gender, theater, aesthetics, ritual healing and medical anthropology.

His major works (all published by Oxford University Press, New York) include Mountain Goddess: gender and politics in a Central Himalayan Pilgrimage (1991); The Gods at Play: Lila in South Asia (1995); Dancing the Self: personhood and performance in the Pandav Lila of Garhwal (2002); God of Justice: ritual healing and social justice in the Central Himalayas (2008); The Problem of Ritual Efficacy (2010, with Johannes Quack and Jan Weinhold); and The Law of Possession: ritual, healing, and the secular state (with Heléne Basu, in press). He is currently working on a book about archaic polities in the Western Himalayas, tentatively entitled In the Valley of the Kauravas: from subject to citizen in the Western Himalayas. His 1991 book Mountain Goddess is being translated into Hindi under the title Himalaya ki Nanda Devi (Dehra Dun: Wimsar).


Amrita Tripathi

Amrita-TripathiTripathi is a novelist and senior journalist. After 9 years in TV news and almost 2 years in print, Amrita is on a break from mainstream journalism, except for the freelance kind.

Her first novel Broken News tracks the dysfunctional side of life in the 24/7 news wheel. Fractured identities, fragile egos and misplaced priorities take centre stage, a direct counter-point to the high-adrenaline, glittering world of TV news. The Sibius Knot, published in 2015, deals with the devastation of growing up in an emotional wasteland, as a group of friends find themselves at odds with everything, including their very environment. Convinced they’re in a battle against the Devil, they have to confront their worst fears and come to terms with the death that is haunting their tight circle. Ultimately a tale of love and redemption, The Sibius Knot is a book about how fragile relationships – and lives – really are.