The Jaipur Literature festival is one of the most intellectually satisfying experiences one can have, in India.Delegates and attendees from all over the world converge to attend the festival every year and I am sure they have similar reasons. One of the pitfalls, however, of keeping the festival free for the audience is massive crowds at every session. For the popular sessions like those of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Nobel Laureate V S Naipaul, there was hardly space available to even stand.
In my opinion, the festival can charge a nominal fee. This will ensure that only the ones, who are genuinely interested, walk in and help avoid the disinterested freeloaders who come because everyone is going and not because they are really keen to listen. It is a essentially a festival for those who are interested in the written word and how it impacts our life and I believe that they would be willing to pay a small amount to attend it, if it helps in bringing down the crowds.
Enough for the critical view, I love the festival and have been visiting it for a few years. Therefore, I will now take the time to write about what I totally enjoyed this time.
The V S Naipaul Session
I think Mr. Farrukh Dhondy did a brilliant job at moderating the session. Sir Naipaul did lose himself many times during the discussion and it was for Mr. Dhondy to get him back on track and keep the discussion moving. Mr. Naipaul shared his experiences around early writing, having to learn about non-fiction, comedy and different genres of writing.
It was a fascinating discussion. I was hooked onto every word Mr. Naipaul said. He also narrated a story about his early days at writing when he sat down and finished a piece of work. I had a lesson to learn there. Many a time, while writing, I take a break, which disrupts the train of thought. Now, I am determined to not leave, until I finish this article.
The Rajdeep Sardesai and Mihir Sharma session
It was moderated by Ms. Madhu Trehan. I am a fan of Mr.Sardesai. He is one of the best journalists in this country, along with Ms. Barkha Dutt. The session was exhilarating and enjoyable. Mr. Sardesai spoke about his book and stories of his encounter with the now Prime Minister. He spoke about not getting an invite for the Obama Dinner because he would ask uncomfortable questions instead of taking selfies.
Mr. Sharma is a witty speaker and he took the question on retrospective taxes, among other questions on his book. It was fun watching these two gentlemen talking about Indian politics and its heroes and failures.
Against the Grain
This was a wonderful session. The person who totally inspired and led this session, to my mind was Mr. Gideon Levy- described as the most hated man in Israel by Ms. Meru Gokhale, who moderated the session. He came across as a man of unquestionable integrity and moral courage.
The other speakers on the panel were interesting in their own right, since they all represented going against the grain, except, Mr. Dasgupta, who is a part of the establishment in the current political set up and not quite, against the grain.
There were other sessions also, which led perspectives on the LGBT community and what ‘coming out’ meant, life of Gandhi, which led me feeling thoughtful.
I hope the crowd isn’t that much next year and that a pan masala company isn’t sponsoring it. I will go to listen to the thinkers who grace the Diggi palace with their profound thinking. I will go to hear about the courage of people like Mr. Gideon Levy. They are the fest.