Jaipur Literature Festival beckons book lovers

File photo of the stage on the Front Lawns at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2010.
File photo of the stage on the Front Lawns at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2010.

In January last year, the Delhi fog decided to play festival pooper and kept some authors from reaching Jaipur in time for the annual literary mela there.

What with flight delays and bad roads, those who were to make it for the very first sessions did not reach Jaipur. It took some juggling by the organizers and directors to start the festival on time with careful and swift changes in the programme, noticeable only to diehard festival regulars like yours truly who had studied the schedule, marked it with choices and followed it like a project plan.

A very visible black board (or was it a white one?) kept the attendees abreast of the changes in schedules. Hopefully the fog will behave itself this time.

Now it's that time of the year again, soon I will be packing my bag to go and spend five wonderful days at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), to be held from January 21-25.

The JLF is billed as Asia-Pacific's leading literature event and as a celebration of national and international writers. Activities at the festival include poetry, music and dance, debates, readings, panel discussions and workshops.

Let us see what the organisers have in store for us this time...

The JLF is held across multiple venues at one festival hub - Diggi Palace. At 10 am on the front lawns of the Diggi Palace, the proceedings will kick off with a keynote address by Sheldon Pollock, professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at the Columbia University.

Pollock is author of the award-winning "The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India" and editor of Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia.

Pollock is general editor of the Murty Classical Library of India, a new dual-language series published by Harvard University Press, and recently received the Padma Shri award from the Government of India.

At the same venue, an hour later, Orhan Pamuk the Turkish author of Istanbul, Snow and other books will be in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhary, the avid book reviewer, essayist of literature of The Middle Stage and author of Arzee the dwarf, his first novel.

Now here’s the tricky part. At the time of listening to this conversation, there are three other sessions that I will be missing. What are those? Mathematics and Football: Alex Bellos at the Darbar Hall; Kuch Shehar, Kuch Ped, Kuch Nazmon Ka Khayal: Gulzar and Pavan Varma in The Mughal Tent; and Fugitive Histories: Geetha Hariharan and Manju Kapur at The Baithak

For every session I attend, there would be at least two or three other sessions going on concurrently in the other halls that I will be missing. Get used to it, I’ve learned to tell myself. That is what life is like isn’t it? You can’t have everything. Not at the same time anyway.

So what do we have lined up this time at Jaipur?

There are over 200 speakers, a majority of them authors. Others in conversations with them are editors, publishers and academics from literary spheres.

Authors to make a debut are Amrita Tripathi and Sangeeta Bahadur. Among the authors who will be there are Ruskin Bond, Patrick French, Orhan Pamuk, Kiran Desai, Martin Amis, Amitava Kumar, Rachel Polonsky, Ali Sethi, Tishani Doshi, Annie Griffiths, Kamila Shamsie, Gurcharan Das, Kavery Nambisan, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Meena Kandaswamy, Bettany Hughes, Junot Diaz, Basharat Peer, Ahmed Rashid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more.

The complete schedule for all the five days is given on the JLF website.

The topics for discussion range from current affairs like Afpak, to the importance of books, to the Crisis of the American fiction.

You can buy as many books as you can pack in your bags from the bookshop or the publishers’ stalls on the Diggi Palace grounds. But attending the sessions is completely free of charge, registration is not compulsory. The kullad-wali chai with a dash of cinnamon or pepper poured out by a turbaned gentleman is also free.

Kullad-wali Chai
Kullad-wali Chai

I will most definitely be there to enjoy it all. And write about it. So are you coming to Jaipur? Yes? Then I’ll see you there. Can’t make it this time, you say? Well, in that case, watch this space for regular updates.

Here are some excerpts from the 5-day schedule for English and Indian languages:

A snapshot of some of the sessions in English:

21 January:

Two Nations, Two Narratives: Muneeza Shamsie in conversation with Urvashi Butalia

The Bankers Who Broke the World: Liaquat Ahamed in conversation with Gurcharan Das

22 January:

Why Books Matter: Javed Akhtar, John Makinson, Patrick French & Sunil Sethi in conversation with Sonia Singh

Strangers in the Mist: P.C.Sharma, Sanjoy Hazarika & Temsula Ao in conversation with Ravi Singh

Reporting the Occupation: David Finkel, Jon Lee Anderson & Rory Stewart, Moderated by Antony Loewenstein

Hall of Shame: Caste & its Exclusions Chandra Bhan Prasad, Meena Kandasamy & Patrick French in conversation with S.Anand

The Inheritance of Books: Kiran Desai in conversation with Jai Arjun Singh

23 January:

Boys will be Boys: Ruskin Bond in conversation with Ravi Singh

Now that I am 50…In Praise of Older Women Bulbul Sharma & Namita Gokhale

AfPAK: Ahmed Rashid, Atiq Rahimi, Jayanta Prasad, Jon Lee Anderson & Rory Stewart in conversation with William Dalrymple

India: A Potrait Patrick French in conversation with Amitava Kumar

The Crisis of the American Fiction Jay McInerney, Junot Diaz & Richard Ford in conversation with Martin Amis

24 January:

Half a Yellow Sun: Chimamanda Adichie Introduced by Jasbir Jain

2×2 Readings by Namita Devidayal Introduced by Amrita Tripathi

The Alchemy of Writing: Truth, Fiction & the Challenge of India, Tarun Tejpal in conversation with Manu Joseph

Narcopolis: C.P.Surendran & Jeet Thayil in conversation with Jai Arjun Singh

25 January:

Stranger than Fiction: Arthur Miller & Eric Haseltine in conversation with Abha Dawesar

China Dialogues: Hong Ying & Isabel Hilton in conversation with Stephen McCarty

Writings the 1980s: Martin Amis & Jay McInerney in conversation with Nilanjana Roy

Live Scores: Manu Joseph & Shehan Karunatilaka in conversation with Somnath Batabyal

Trainspotting: Irvine Welsh Introduced by Jeet Thayil

Notable among the literary sessions in Indian languages are:

21 January:

Urdu Jubaan with Javed Akhtar and Neeta Gupta

Na Tshay Na Aks - Voices from Kashmir with Naseem Shafaie and Neerja Matoo;

Rajasthali with Aidan Singh Bhati, Ambikadutt Chaturvedi & Suman Bissa.

22 January:

Aisi Hindi, Kaisi Hindi with Prasoon Joshi, Mrinal Pande and others;

Gata Rahe Mera Dil/ The songs we loved with Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi.

Katha Samvad (Rajasthani Prose) with Habib Kaifi, Lata Sharma & Shyam Jangid

23 January:

Marathi Theatre with Mahesh Elkunchwar and Makarand Sathe in conversation with Vaiju Naravane.

Nayi Bhasha Naye Teevar - Avinash, Giriraj Kiradoo & Manisha Pandey in conversation with Ravish Kumar

24 January:

Kuye Bawri Talab: Anupam Misra, Rajender Singh & Shubhu Patwa in conversation with Om Thanvi

25 January:

Smaran: Agyeya, Nagarjun, Shamsher Bahadur Singh Avinash, Mangalesh Dabral & Om Thanvi in conversation with S.Nirupam

Namita Waikar
Namita Waikar

Namita Waikar is a writer based in Pune. She contributes regularly to the Business Traveler magazine and blogs on In the past, she has worked as a biochemist, an IT professional; now works in the knowledge processing industry in chemistry, life sciences and allied areas. She is also working on her first novel and looking for new ways to get more hours than twenty-four in a day.


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