By Vasudha Sahgal:
If you missed the Jaipur Lit Fest this year, why should you attend it the next time?
Recap from the JLF 2013.
The Jaipur Literature Festival hosted at the 200 years old Diggi Palace is the largest literary festival in the Asia Pacific. Every year the crowd at this festival seems to get larger. Before you even reach Lit fest, it’s easily understandable why this is going to be one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. One glance at the itinerary says it all- the line up of speakers at this 5-day event is “impressive” and “incredible” to say the least. Writers of fiction/non-fiction/short story/ poets/lyricists-from all over the world are here under one palatial roof. These writers are not just any writers. We have among them Nobel Prize winners, Samuel Johnson prize winners, and Booker prize winners. The historic Diggi Palace is a befitting venue for such literary royalty! Apart from geniuses in literature, amongst the speakers are legends in various fields; the most revered personalities from all walks of life. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mahsweta Devi, Sharmila Tagore, Shabana Azmi, Nandan Nilekani, Rahul Dravid, Prasoon Joshi, Gurucharan Das were some of the esteemed speakers this year.
Something for Everyone
Now of course book aficionados are going to love JLF. But bibliophiles alone won’t enjoy it. Anybody with an insatiable hunger for knowledge, anybody who, like myself is a curious soul, anybody looking to broaden their horizons is going to take a lot from this festival and will find himself or herself in a deeply enriching experience. The festival is a celebration of not only literature, but all forces of creativity combined.
The range of topics discussed, throughout the course of the festival is large- socio-economic, political, spiritual, literary, cinematic, artistic- are all covered. Issues of global, regional and national significance are deliberated. Since there were so many interesting sessions simultaneously, my major dilemma in the 3 days that I attended was which session to attend and which to give a miss! So many times, I wanted to attend two sessions happening simultaneously!
The interactive spirit
The interactive vibe is a major plus point of the festival. Each session ended with a Q&A with the audience. Also stumbling across your favourite author at lunch, in between sessions at the bookstore, or at a session in the audience was a possible serendipity. That made the vibe more exhilarating. I was excited to see Javed Akhtar in the audience for some sessions. Spotting William Dalrymple enthusiastically involved in the goings on of the event, was enthralling. I also got to talk to some interesting people. Shared fondness of books and literature always makes for a fun conversation.
Sanctity of literature
Over the past few years, Literature has taken a back seat. Contemporary India can be an overambitious place, where rapid strides are being made for infrastructural and materialistic gains. And somewhere in that process, literature gets marginalized.
Those people who were there to discover the “hype” around the festival were exposed to the idea of a “good book” and found themselves discovering the finer art of reading.
Memories for a lifetime
I attended a talk by none other than his Holiness the Dalai Lama. The session was called “Kinships of Faith: Finding the Middle Way”. The talk was enlightening and captivating.
Made me think
In the 3 days of my attendance, I attended numerous talks. I discovered some great new authors whose books I made sure to buy. I found myself thinking about what I had heard at these sessions. North-eastern states whose issues have been brushed under the carpet by the State, issues of freedom of speech and expression, issues of online censorship, portrayal of women in Indian cinema, tribal people, about Failed States of the world, Urdu feminist writers in the 30’s and 40’s, and Buddha’s teachings were some of the things I was reflecting on. Some of these topics had crossed my mind and some never had. And now I wished to investigate most of these subjects further. Isn’t that a sign of a successful festival? One that forces you to think, arrests your attention much after the discussions have taken place. I think it is. To say that my experience was enriching, heart-warming and stimulating would be befitting. And this is why I think, the JLF is a not-to-miss event.