Jaipur literature festival, the place to be
Under pink, orange and yellow shamiyanas, Jaipur hosted the largest literary festival of Asia from January 20 to 24th. Over 300 national and international authors and artists thronged to the Diggi palace to witness the extravaganza of literature, attracting foreign and local VIPs and celebs as well.
The festival saw some very interesting talks, sessions, debates and workshops with world renowned, award winning writers, novelists etc. Book releases were common throughout the program and the chilly Jaipur evenings were served to the guests on a hot platter of music concerts and spicy Rajasthani cuisine.“Its amazing to see so many writers under one roof and more so to see so many book and literature lovers” said Nikita ,a student of the English Department of the University of Rajasthan who came with her classmates to meet authors like Ruskin Bond whose books they read in class. From 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening, students from schools, colleges, and people from all the other walks of life embarked towards Diggi palace where amongst the 5 sessions running simultaneously, one had to quiet unwillingly choose one to attend.
People here, there and everywhere, reading, eating and discussing was a sight which thrilled and an aura which inspired.“ I could get my copy of William Dalrymple’s book signed. Last time I could not, so I am thrilled!” told Rajat, a Delhi based philosophy student, who came to Jaipur specially for the festival.
The literature fest started gaining ground since its commencement in 2008 where it was quite a hidden treasure which people started discovering in its real sense in the later years making it the biggest ever. The fest was in the news since a month ago, on the account of the arrival of the much awaited author of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, to Jaipur. Though the writer didn’t turn up, the festival saw the heaviest crowd possible during other dignitaries’ sessions such as Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host and the publisher of , O,The Oprah Winfrey, magazine, Barkha Dutt , Indian television journalist and columnist, Prasoon Joshi , Bollywood lyricist and screenwriter, Gulzar, poet and lyricist, Steven Pinker, Canadian-American psychologist and linguist, Shashi Tharoor, writer-politician, and writer-director, Girish Karnad to cite a few among others.
Several authors delighted the audience by answering their questions and reading the extracts from their books. One interesting session was that of the immensely popular Oprah Winfrey in conversation with Barkha Dutt, where Winfrey talked about how her arrival in the chaotic city of Mumbai and its video game like traffic struck her but also about the little girl she met in a slum and wanted to educate. Winfrey shared that coming to India was the second thing, after Barack Obama as the president, which she had put on her vision board with a picture of an Indian woman on a camel. Not to forget the incident that reminded her of the family traditions in India when Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on her show answered to her “How is it that you don’t” when she asked “How in the world do you live with your parents?”
Two of the other crisp sessions were supported by the french embassy, both dealing with translation as the grand theme. Sheila Malovany-Chevallier and Constance Borde discussed their new complete translation of the very famous feminist book “le deuxieme sexe” of Simone de Beauvoir. The other talk moderated by Urvashi Butalia, titled ’India in Translation: From the Exotic to the Contemporary’ had Oscar Pujol and Fakrul Alam in conversation.
The Shashi Tharoor, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat session on ’Survival Strategies in the Time of the Twitterati’ and social media, where they shared their experiences of the twitter born flowers and scars that they had received was a real delight too. As the social media breaks down the skin between the public and the private, Suhel suggested twitter to be an effective ransom device. When telephone and airline companies don’t stop bugging you with their advertisements just tweet them and they’d say “hey, we’ll solve the problem but stop tweeting”, he explained.
On a lighter note, Chetan Bhagat talked about how the whole world is up on its knees and talking and saying so many things on social media, that he really wished to make an application pacifying everyone and saying “please sit, please sit” as if it were the Indian parliament. However, the festival really felt literature in the air with writers, book shops and their readers all around. So, now you know, next January, Jaipur is the place to be!