Friday, January 22, 2010

Jaipur Diary – The Spectacular First Day

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The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Notes from the Jaipur Literature Festival.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Click here to reach the complete compilation of the Jaipur Diary

The first day of the fifth Jaipur Literary Festival rocked. Held in Hotel Diggi Palace, there was a Nobel laureate from Africa, two Pulitzer-prize winning authors from the US, a bestselling novelist from Scotland, a young writer from Pakistan, a lyricist from Bombay, a poet from Allahabad. Plus, there was music, dance, beer, wine, leggy beauties and handsome men.

So what if the programme schedule got a bit foggy in the begining? Blame the Delhi fog. Playwright Girish Karnad, who was scheduled to open the festival, could not reach Jaipur due to low visibility in Delhi. Same fate hit the queen of Bhutan who was to speak in the afternoon.

The organisers did not show nervousness. Author William Dalrymple, the festival co-director (the other is author Namita Gokhle), joked about how happy he was “to greet 200-something writers out of which 200-something have not been able to make it to Jaipur due to the fog.”

Jaipur, though, was sunny. The day began with the beating of dhols. Looking like a Mughal prince in his Cashmere shawl, Mr Dalrymple sat cross-legged on the floor when the festival was officially launched. All seats were filled up. The hall was that crowded.

The crowd grew bigger as the author sessions took off. Too many people gathered to listen to Italian writer Roberto Calasso. Too many were there for novelist Vikram Chandra. Too many went for the Pakistani novelist Ali Sethi. Too many squeezed in for Anne Applebaum, the author of a bestselling book on Gulag.

A minor flutter took place with the entry of Bollywood actor Om Puri. Accompanied by author-wife Nandita, the couple was mobbed.

As the day progressed, there was a slight lull only to be followed by a bigger burst of hyper-energy. Visitors had an delightful hour during the amusing tête-à-tête between two Scotsmen - Mr Dalrymple and Alexander McCall Smith, the creator of the bestselling Ladies No.1 detective series. Both sportingly pulled each other's legs.

In another session actor Shabana Azmi, sitting alongside husband (film lyricist) Javed Akhtar, read from the memoirs of her mother. They being Bollywood personalities, the hall was jam-packed. Earlier, the same hall saw an equally great crowd for poet Gulzar, who is also popular for his film song lyrics.

As the night fell, the Diggi Palace lawns teemed with the who’s who of international literary circuit. Former New Yorker editor Tina Brown. Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. Pulitzer prize winning authors Anne Applebaum and Lawrence Wright. Calcutta-born writer Amit Chaudhury. Kashmiri author Basharat Peer. British economist Sir Meghnad Desai. Former BBC journalist Sir Mark Tully. There was also the Delhi socialite Bina Ramani. And many many many more. And it was just the first day.

Click here to reach the complete compilation of the Jaipur Diary

Beat the drums

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Shh, it's starting

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Poet Gulzar reads an Urdu poem on the e-Book phenomenon

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

With rapt attention...

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival


The author types

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur is sunny...

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

... and sexy

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

She is English novelist Esther Freud

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Laughter is the best medicine - William Dalrymple & Alexander McCall Smith

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Yes, laughter is the best medicine

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Ruined by reading

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Alexander McCall Smith with friends

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Actor Shabana Azmi

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Wole Soyinka

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

"I'm addicted to Jaipur Literary Festival" - Tine Brown

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

Glad to be here - Anne Applebaum

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

It's the party, stupid

The Fifth Jaipur Literary Festival

1 comment:

Pankaj Saksena said...

I so wish I could be there for Anne Applebaum! I am a huge huge fan of hers. Being a student of history particularly interested in the history of Communism and Soviet Union I read all the relevant works. I find Applebaum's work one of the very best.

Do me a huge favor!

Please tell here that I am a fan of hers if you get to meet her!