Before coming to Jaipur, I just had the International Kite Festival on my bucket list which happens on 14th of January every year. After coming here I realized the buzz of the upcoming Literature Festival. I decided to give it a shot for just a day and ended up extending my stay for the entire course of the festival.
Where It Happens :
Hotel Diggi Palace in the month of January.
Must Try :
Apart from the food items in the stalls inside. You can go to the MI Road which is just about 2.5 kilometers from here. You shouldn’t miss visiting the Lassiwala. These guys are selling Lassis since the year 1944! Watch out for the duplicate shops. The original has the label “Since 1944”.
Try eating at the various food outlets selling delicious Rajasthani food! Natraj and Niro’s are the two most popular restaurants in town. Head to Tapri if you want to try different varieties of Chai.
Must Not Do :
Trouble authors for selfies when they are on their way.
Why should one attend the Jaipur Literature Festival once in a lifetime ?
1) If you wish to spend time in a place where people talk about books, eat books in their breakfast, lunch and dinner, in short breathe books, this is the place to be.
2) Break the taboo :
Forget about the tolerant intolerant debate, this was the platform where the authors could boldly speak without having to fear how they would be accepted. Kunal Basu read a few pages from his book “Calcutta, Kolkata, kalkatta”. In those pages he spoke about the story of a Gigolo in the state of Kolkata. He was busy reading the scenes from his book describing how the male escort satisfied his customers ( if not voluntarily but by virtue of fate ) The scenes were quite intimate. Now I was sitting to an elderly lady ( of my grandmother’s age ) I was actually feeling a bit weird.
From the corner of my eye, I tried to look at her reactions as he was reading. And I was surprised and delighted to look at her positive response. She didn’t hesitate in clapping whenever she felt the author deserved, despite the fact that he was talking about such a bold scene ( The concept of male gigolo itself is far from mainstream. ) Then I turned around and looked at everyone else. Everyone’s response was the same. Now this is a welcome change in our country where things like Sex Education haven’t yet found their place in the society which we live.
3) Author’s Signing Arena :
Imagine getting your book signed from your favourite author personally. As Stephen Fry points out “I don’t like the concept of selfie with anyone. But I would love to give an autograph. When you are taking selfies, all you are concerned is updating it on facebook. When I autograph, I get a chance to look into your eyes and chance for a healthy conversation.”
4) Dreams come true :
We all have grown up listening to Javed Sahab’s poetry. But when I saw him live discussing the influence of Cinema and Literature, the moment was very special for me. Needless to say Jawed Sahab has his own charisma. Speaking on the topic of “beauty” he had these lines for all of us.
Rang bhi, Roshni Bhi, Khusboo Bhi,
Jisme Sab Kuch Hai, Tu wo murat Hai
Dekhkar Bhi Yakin Nahi Ata Koi Itna Khubsoorat hai.
I won’t try translating them in English as I won’t be able to do justice with the above special lines
5) Engaging and Inspiring sessions :
I had only heard about Christina Lamb as the author of the bestseller novel “I am Malala”. But sitting here live, when we got to know her stories about how she had spent a considerate amount of her life in places like Afghanistan and Kabul, I had goosebumps.
She is amongst the few people on this planet who has achieved the rare milestone of being deported from Pakistan twice. Firstly, none of us go to Pakistan and this lady was deported twice from there, speaks something about her courage.
6) The perfect audience :
Honestly speaking, I had never seen such a patient and lively audience in my entire life. The kind of people who attend this festival makes people to fall in love with reading. But are also the one who fall in love with their authors. Words are not just a medium of expression to them. They don’t mind being a part of a long queue just to get an autograph of Shashi Tharoor.
When Stephen Fry was too busy and declined my friend for an autograph, my friend had just 6 words to say to him “ Sir, You could save my relationship”
Did it work ?
It always works
7) The right mix :
The presence of journalists, lawyers, anthropologists, geologists, engineers, media professionals, magazine artists, readers and writers all in one roof makes way for a delighting experience. While the rest of the world is busy worrying about traffic, people here are busy in making strategies. One of the funniest thing I had heard was a guy applying game theory in order to reach an event in time. Quoting him :
“Suppose William Dalrymple’s event starts at 12:25 PM, I should reach the arena at 12:00. But then I realize most of the others would be thinking on similar lines. So I should be reaching there by max 11:50 AM. I mean that’s what Game theory is all about. Putting your best bet.”
Now you can just imagine the kind of insane readers who visit this festival.
8) Global Reach :
The presence of stars like Ruskin Bond, Margaret Atwood, William Dalrymple to name a few makes sure to attract readers from all around the world. Let me share with you something interesting.
A 70 year old lady from New Zealand was sitting next to me. It was a book launch in which some of the greatest Indian sportsmen like Anil Kumble and Baichung Bhutia took part. I had not expected this session to lure people other than the Indian audiences. But to my surprise, the 70 year old lady next to me watching watching it with more enthusiasm than even us, In fact she was even taking notes. I felt thrilled.
9) Expected the Unexpected :
I had never imagined that one fine day I would be sitting and watching someone speak whose advertisements can termed to be synonymous with the word “Nostalgia” for some of us. I am referring to Mr. Piyush Pandey. The person behind all those famous ads like Cadbury’s “Kuch Khaas Hai” to Fevicol’s funny ones which we Indians take pride in. Listening to his conversations was something else!
10) Travel Talks in Town :
Thanks to rising backpacker hostels in India like Le Pension and Zostel in Jaipur, there is a lot happening outside. We had a session on the nuisances of travel blogging by some of the world’s best travel bloggers like Marrielen Ward ( breathedreamgo.com ) , Brad Bernard ( mywanderlist.com ) and Alka Kaushik ( @lyfInTransit )
The presence of 4 arenas offering simultaneous sessions of healthy discussions at times makes it difficult for the readers to choose “Which one to go. Dude there’s Stephen Fry. Dude look there’s William Dalrymple as well. God I wish I knew how to time travel.”
On the first day of the festival, I met some people who had been attending this festival for the last 3 years. After attending my first ever Literature Festival, I have realized what they were talking about. I have also realized this thing is so addictive. Wake up, attend some mind boggling and enriching sessions for 6-7 hours. Have masala chai when you’re tired. At the end of each day, head to the library and purchase the book of the author you have just met. The process itself bridges the gap between a reader and author. Like I just purchased a copy of Jerry Pinto’s Em and the big Hoom” just because of the fact that he was there to tell us what the book is all about and signed it personally
Will I come next year ? Definitely. In fact I am sad for the fact that it’s just a 5 day event. This should be eternal. This should be ever lasting ~~~