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Five Reasons Why You Should Attend The Jaipur Lit Fest Next Year

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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.

jaipur lit fest

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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