Friday, January 29, 2010

A-Z of Jaipur Literature Festival

For any self-respecting reader, the Jaipur Literature Festival is the best that could have happened after the invention of the Guternberg press. The fifth edition of the “greatest literary show on the earth” as a vinyl board at the venue says, just got bigger and better. Here’s an A-Z of the who’s who and what’s what of the event.

A— Applebaum, Anne: The Pulitzer-winning author and Slate columnist was in her elements when speaking about the gulags in Russia and dissecting John Kampfner’s book on where people should draw a line when it comes to public freedom in totalitarian countries.

B— Bollywood: You can run but not hide from the world’s second biggest movie market. Everyone perceived to be cerebral in the tinsel world was present at the event. Namely, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Om Puri, Ketan Desai.

B— Bhagat, Chetan: Love him or hate him or even if you don’t have the foggiest idea of who he is, it’s hard to ignore the “best-selling author”. He actually got a rockstar reception when he swaggered onto the stage to interview Ira Trivedi, Anjum Hasan and Meenakshi Madhavan.

C— Capitalism: Right from Vikram Chandra to Lord Meghnad Desai, Marx’s class conflicts and statements like consumerism is the opium of masses were evoked in various for a during the festival.

D— Democracy: Amit Chaudhuri and family was waiting behind me in the queue to serve themselves the scrumptious feast. Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright was asking if he can sit beside me. William Dalrymple had to make do with a space on bare floor owing to lack of sitting space. Much as the discussions at the festival were more-or-less elite, the festival’s marrow was connected to democracy.

E— Entertainment: Everything from beat-boxing to the earthy Rajasthani folk music was to be heard every night during dinner. My favourite was Susheela Raman singing the famous Namesake song. How can the entire world be elsewhere when something to sulbime is happening?

F— Ferguson, Niall: This man is the Judd Apatow of the intelligentsia. He writes at least two articles every week for Financial Times, pulls out one book every year, teaches at various Ivy League institutes and even finds time to fight with Paul Krugman. Does he ever sleep? When asked, he said five hours and I am still taking it with a pinch of salt considering his pessimistic Scottish humour seeped into evey corpuscle of my body.

G— Gulzar: The Durbar Hall was teeming with swarms of people to get a glimpse of the famous poet reading his poems.

H— Hour-class figures: Every connoisseur of beauty with brains would feel like a kid lost in toy shop. It defies human imagination that so many pulchritude-personified women can be under one roof.

I— India: Though there were people from all over the world and the discussions ranged from denouncing Scotland and Obama administration’s attitude toward Bin Laden, India was, however, never forgotten. For every Wole Soyinka reading there was a Mimlu Sen talking about the Baul music. For every Ghost Wars, there was a Sacred Games too being celebrated on the sidelines.

J— Jaipur: The influence of Jaipur in the festival is not to be missed. The venue, Diggi Palace, a construct on the lines of the erstwhile Maharajahs’ guest houses, brings the city within the hotel alive. What’s more, step out and Hawa Mahal is a Rs 40 auto-ride away. Behind is the imposing Secretariat. Dalrymple pulled off a masterstroke to conduct the event away from the humdrum of Delhi.

K— Karnad, Girish: The eminent playwright inaugurated the festival and, thus, added that touch of Indian class to the festival where subsequent events were essentially going to be about foreign land.

L— Line of no control: No one bit their tongue at the event. Tenzing Tsundue went on a tirade against Tibet and a youngster termed the discussion between a battery of intellectuals like Max Rodenbeck, Steve Coll, Lawrence Wright, Tunku Varadarajan, Kai Bird as “bitter rhetoric” and “something straight out of FOX news”.

M— Memories: Brigid Keenan, Geoff Dyer, Tony Wheeler recalled their memories of travelling across the world. Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet series, spoke about his hippie travelling and for the uninitiated it was a good throwback to an era where bohemian was the catchphrase.

N— Nine-to-five
: Even though the schedule was from ten-to-five, any star struck reader would reach venue at nine itself to have a more free-wheeling conversation with the writers having their breakfast.

O— Oeuvre: The lifetime of works of people like Wole Soyinka, Roddy Doyle, Hanif Kureishi, Niall Ferguson was discussed at lengths during the festival. For the uninitiated, this was the best way to get sucked into the magic world of their words.

P— Piquant: Without mentioning the delicious food served over the five days, the literature festival will not be getting its just due. Various dishes from Dal Bhati Churma to lamb dipped in red wine were waiting to melt in the mouths of gourmet galore at the festival.

Q— Quip: Some really blood curdling questions were asked at the fest and the one that takes the cake was a remark made by Javed Akhtar. He took Steve Coll head on for being pro-American and negated him on Coll’s theory that Bin Laden is alive. Akhtar believes that Laden is dead and pray why, because no tape of his came out in the last one year. How I wished he stayed for one more day when Laden claimed responsibility for the botched Decmber 25 explosion.

R— Rendition: If there’s anything more magical about Amit Chaudhuri than his words, then it’s his music.

S—Spoilt for choice: For once, I wished I was in Soviet Union where choice wasn’t a problem. How can you swear allegiance to one writer and not to the other one whom you equally worship?

T—Tension: I can imagine the tension in Diggi Palace when Ayan Hirsi Ali made a secret visit. She has a fatwa issued against her for getting involved in a movie called Submission, which chronicled Islam’s evil influence on Muslims.

U— Under the Kilt: In the tranquil surroundings of Diggi Palace, an event on Scottish ethos was the destination of rambunctious laughter. Niall Ferguson, Alexander McCall Smith, Andrew ’O Hagan and William Dalrymple spoke about the Scottish pessimism and the Scots’ superiority complex, most visible in the current famous Scots, Gordon Brow, Alistair Darling and David Cameron. Had the festival been on television, this one would have got the maximum TRPs.

V— Varadarajan, Tunku: The greatest testament to this cerebral man’s intelligence is how easily in a single breath he jumps from conspiracy theories abounding in West Asia to effect of Kindle on books.

W- William, Dalrymple: The festival director wore more than just one cap. He moderated plethora of discussions, did readings of his books, was listening to many talks and even managed to intone a few lines from his latest book while the Bauls were singing.

X— Xanadu: The festival is nothing less than the Chinese province where Kubla Khan establishes his pleasure garden in his famous poem.

Y— Yankeeland: There were more foreigners to be seen at the festival than Indians or may be I was looking through a jaundiced eye.

Z— Zeal
: This was an emotion that was all-pervasive all the five days. Everyone wanted to know everything that was to be known at the festival.


At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a lovely fucking post,jugs! i love susheela raman, man and Javed Akhtar is indeed an idiot! I would like to link this to my blog, okay?

At 10:45 PM, Blogger garcia kafka said...

I am elated that you liked it. You know, I wrote this in under two hours. I could have always improved on it but then decided to retain the original. It would be an immense pleasure if you would link this to your blog.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Ayesha said...

Awesome post Juggy. Eclectic and apt.

At 3:19 AM, Blogger sowmitra said...

Superb! The way u presented's nice to know you had a whale of time there...
I wish there was something similar in the lines of soccer[:)]

At 9:17 AM, Blogger koutilyafan said...

love it Jaggi!!


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