Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2007

Just a quick word about the second edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival, being held at the Diggi Palace between January 19-21 (though it really kicks off on the 18th evening with a kavi samelan featuring leading poets from six Rajasthani dialects). You can see the lip-smacking schedule of events here. The fest will be much larger in scale than last year’s charming, modestly attended affair (which I wrote about in these posts: 1, 2, 3, 4). Many high-profile writers will be in attendance this year, including Salman Rushdie, Kiran Nagarkar, Amit Chaudhuri and Kiran Desai, and the session moderators will include Mark Tully, Urvashi Butalia and Barkha Dutt. Which means much greater media coverage, TV cameras and so forth.

Personally I have mixed feelings about the idea of the event turning into an elaborate media circus, but the larger picture must be looked at I suppose. "The idea was always to make this a broad-based platform,” Mita Kapur, the fest director, tells me. “Last year was like the first step by a baby. This year we're moving forward, providing an opportunity for authors, publishers, literary agents and media to interact in a picturesque setting. Our dream is to make Jaipur a literary hub for the country.” With a number of suitable venues scattered over a relatively small area, and many opportunities for cultural sightseeing, the Pink City certainly is an attractive setting for such an event.

Blogger representation will be quite high, it seems. Amit, Chandrahas, Space Bar and I are driving down together, Hurree Babu will be there too, and so will many of the Caferati crowd. Anyone else who’s interested, do try to come down, at least for a day, but try to work out accommodation beforehand; this is peak season for most hotels in the city.

Some highlights (for full schedule, visit the website)

January 19
10-11 AM: Baby Haldar, whose autobiography Aalo Aandhari was published in English under the title A Life Less Ordinary last year, will be in conversation with writer/publisher Urvashi Butalia. The book, about Haldar's violent marriage and her experiences as a domestic worker in Delhi, was one of the most remarkable publishing events of the year. Kapur tells me that the fest organisers have mobilised NGOs to bring some victimized women (whose experiences have been similar to Haldar’s) along for the session.

5-6.30 PM: Keki Daruwalla, Jeet Thayil and Jane Bhandari will discuss the work of the late poets Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel and Arun Kolatkar.

January 20
10-11 AM: Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi will discuss his work with Urdu critic/poet Aman Nath.

12-1 PM: Jerry Pinto, author of Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, in conversation with Penguin India executive editor Ravi Singh.

January 21
12-1 PM: His Highness Maharaja Gajsinghji of Jodhpur will moderate a discussion with Sydney-based journalist John Zubrzycki, who wrote The Last Nizam: An Indian Prince in the Australian Outback.

4-5 PM: Rushdie in conversation with Barkha Dutt

6-8 PM: An Evening with Caferati, with a selection of writing by the forum’s members, and the launch of its first book, Stories at the Coffee Table.


  1. Thanks for highlighting this, Jai. If I win the lottery, you can bet I'll be trekking the 9,000 miles back to Jaipur to attend. :) We also really enjoyed the Diggi Palace during our time there.

  2. Sounds like something I'd like to stay far away from.

  3. "Kapur tells me that the fest organisers have mobilised NGOs to bring some victimized women (whose experiences have been similar to Haldar’s) along for the session." - yes, very interesting. i will also mobilise my legs and arms to bring some buckets of whiskey.

  4. Bring along other women like Haldar?

    I mean, is it assumed that unless you bring up such women upon such stages / settings ( read media circuses ), the reading public shall continue to remain alienated from / disconnected from / blind ( or insular ) to / unaware of such experiences? ( I mean ... we do not really have to look very far to find such cases, do we? Or do We? )

    Of course, one can argue till the cows come home, about the ethics of such a proposition ...

  5. Georgia: don't be lazy, come back!

    Anirudh: ya, I know what you mean. I'll probably divide my time there between enjoying myself and muttering darkly in a corner about the incestuous, self-important lit crowd (to which I, of course, do not belong)

    Swar: excellent idea! I volunteer to de-bucket your burdened arms.

    KK: come for the fest, I'll share one of Swar's whiskey buckets with you...