Monday, December 22, 2014

Jaipur Literature Festival – Part 1 - The Kumbh of Literature

It was the morning of 17th Janaury, 2014. I was in Jaipur and it was the first day of the Jaipur International Literature Festival. It was my second year at the festival and I was beyond excited.

So many ways the Jaipur Literature Festival changed my life!
Morning ride to Festival Venue

I take a cold morning shower, pack some food in my backpack for lunch and then walk out of my hotel to catch a cycle rickshaw to Diggi Palace, the venue of the festival. My hand feels numb already and a cool wind blows by as I walk down the street towards the highway. I bargain a price with the driver. I had to get rather good at this. This really improved my negotiation skills. I reach the magnificent Diggi Palace.

At the Venue

There is a big gate shaped hoarding at the entrance. It was crowded on this cold winter morning. I put my shawl on and keep walking ahead towards the registration desk. I had come an hour early, as I wanted to see the preparation and venue before the start of the festival.

I could see one man selling tea and indian snacks at one corner and several individuals giving out free newspapers at the entrance. I walk in and immediately feel at home. I had come the year before as a nineteen year old college student, with a passion for writing. A year later I come back here, with two books published. This festival had really played a big role in helping me understand the craft of writing.

The Festival Begins

There are five venues at the festival scattered all over the Diggi Palace. This year they were called the Front Lawns, Google Mughal Tent, Baithak, Charbagh and Ford Samvad. There were 248 authors at the festival who had won 19 international awards among them. This included Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize and Samuel Johnston Award Recipients. Over 200 discussions in the form of panel sessions and lectures were going to be held over the next five days. It was an extra-ordinary learning experience.

The opening ceremony was going to be held in the front lawns. It started with a refreshing musical performance by a renowned female artist. The organizers then came on board and presented their views.

Themes Discussed

Some of the themes that were taken up for discussion during the festival included,  Endangered Languages, Crime and Punishment and Democracy Dialogues. The organizers spoke about the history of the festival. As William Darylmple put it, ‘The first event had only 14 participants, that included 10 Japanese tourists that seemed to have lost their way.’

Margaret Alva, the mayor of Rajasthan put forward some interesting points in her opening address. She described how Modern India was a celebration of the idea of democracy. The festival upheld this idea. She believed a dialogue between divergent parties was necessary. The festival was a collective quest to explore ideas. The festival was a chance to explore the masters and current work in the field of literature. It was extra-ordinary.

Let us Learn Together
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