So the most you’ve read is the first ten pages of The Secret Seven, a gift on your ninth birthday. And now your most recent love interest, possibly the love of your life, is dragging you to the Jaipur Literature Festival. And you’re thinking, “But Om Book Shop is just down the road”.
Well, it’s not like you have a choice. So stop cribbing and start reading…
The Jaipur ‘Litfest’ (that’s what you should call it from this moment forward) prides itself on showcasing “Indian literature to the world”. So, there are a lot of regional and first time authors roaming around who may not be that popular. It’s perfectly normal not to know everybody who’s ever written a book. Just be open to conversation with everyone, you are guaranteed to meet a ton of interesting people.
In fact, if you look the part, you will have a bunch of fresh faced college students asking you about your book!
The conversations and sessions are not just about books, there’s a lot of socio-cultural and political issues that are discussed as well. The socialite attention from Delhi in recent years makes it all quite entertaining for the non-literature lot. Oprah Winfrey and Barkha Dutt were a big hit last year but Ira Trivedi and Candace Bushnell stole their thunder. Look out for the most entertaining combos. Ira actually asked the 52-year-old Bushnell whether she had future plans of having children. What were the organizers thinking?
The Blokes you need to know
The balding pink-faced British gentleman with intense gray eyes is William Dalrymple, one of the two minds that conceptualized this festival. An Englishman whose body of work is largely based on India, he is widely respected and has a number of international awards to his credit. So if you do get the chance, do say hello!
Shortish to nape length hair, salwar suit, mostly calm and serene. Say hello to Namita Gokhale, renowned author and co-founder of the festival. And no, she ain’t a bloke! She is currently the member-secretary of Indian Literature Abroad (ILA), an initiative by Ministry of Culture.
Around these parts, He Who Must Not Be Named is Salman Rushdie. Yeah, that old bloke who Padma Lakshmi used to date. Well, he also wrote a book about the Holy Koran and called it ‘The Satanic Verses’. If you ever want a fatwa on your name or death threats from Muslim fundamentalists, you know who to ask. Although he’s mostly in hiding and difficult to contact. His presence at the fest is even more profound by his physical absence.
The evenings are usually filled with performances by contemporary folk artists from across the country that you can enjoy on the palace lawns with some good food and alcohol. Don’t even think about having one too many.
Diggi Palace, which has been hosting the festival from its humble beginnings in 2006 is an authentic, fresco-lined Rajasthani haveli from 200years ago. It’s a nice place to explore and stroll around.
And of course, GOOGLE it! But that’s probably how you got to this page in the first place so…get packing!