The tenth edition of The Jaipur Literature Festival was about honing the art of writing, new authors and ancient stories.
I walked downstairs with a copy of Free World’s in my hands, and waited for my Uber. In front of me was a familiar looking face with his eyes already focused on a book. It was Dr Jon Wilson.
This is the beauty of the Jaipur Literature Festival; it brings bibliophile, new and acclaimed writers, historians, Booker Prize nominees and a feeling of inspiration that comes with all of them together on a single platform. The Jaipur Literature Festival completed a decade this year.
This was celebrated with a massive opening at the Diggi Palace. The crowd chanted along with the tunes of Shillong Chamber Choir’s performance of Vande Mataram. William Dalrymple talked about how there were just 70 people at the 1st Edition out of which 12 were lost Japanese tourists who were actually trying to find Fort Amer. After a decade, there are thousands of people and everyone is scudding for the schedule to pick an event to start their day with.
This was my first time at the Jaipur Literature Festival. I was amazed by the amount of people who were running around so that they don’t miss any part of the sessions.
Never in my life have I been this enthusiastic about attending morning sessions. One of the sessions was titled ‘Migration’, which had authors of Iranian plummet Lila Azam Zanganeh and Sholeh Wolpe, along with Belarusian artist Valzhyma Mort in discussion with Tishani Doshi about living far from home, crossing outskirts, and how all their work gets influence by all that. I could feel their agony through their splendid readings. Be that as it may, torment isn’t what Kashmiri scholars Naseem Shafaie and Neerja Mattoo discuss in How Green Was My Valley – what they do is think back about their homeland and what it used to be before agitation transformed it for eternity.
A delightful session on correspondents talking about the perils and excites of their employment had the veteran Mark Tully amuse groups of onlookers with stories of his days in the field. “The only time my life was under danger was amid the Babri Masjid destruction”, he acknowledges. I then went on to the US with 2016 Man Booker Prize Victor Paul Beatty who wrote ‘The Sellout’, a parody on racial isolation and servitude.
History came first on the second day (a.ka the day-I-got-trampled-by-a-charge-for-Rishi-Kapoor). I sat in excitement as William Dalrymple and Anita Anand discussed the life of the Kohinoor, a ‘reviled’ gem which was also the subject of their new book.
Only a conjurer like Dalrymple can describe 150 years of history in 20 minutes and leave his group of onlookers awestruck.
Shashi Tharoor’s discourse turned-book, ‘An Era of Darkness’ had the audience commending each word.
From the speciality of composing journals – where I found the splendid Hyeonseo Lee, who penned her account of getting away from North Korea to live another life – to changing myths and history for fiction, JLF had it all. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni disclosed how she considered changing mythology in ‘The Palace Of Illusions’ in light of the fact that she needed to give the women a voice. At the end of the day, Tully taught us how composing a short story can be just as difficult as composing a thick tome, if not more.
My luggage was heavier on my way back from Jaipur because of the signed copies of books that I had added to my collection.
I was in a dreamland of sorts, where I found myself thinking about whether there will ever come a day when each individual from the group will come to JLF just because of their love of books and not to gaze at their beloved Bollywood or Tollywood star, or to sit in a session just to get away from the sun.
Not many times in your life do you get the opportunity to walk into a plane with a Booker Prize candidate and converse with some of your favourite writers as they sit next to you.
Visit JLF’s website here.