Shri Thal, Jaipur: A great place of everything Rajasthani, fun, food, peace, ambiance, music, hospitality!

Amidst all these stressful times when there are talks of Covid19 all over, round the clock, it is difficult to keep yourself aloof from the surroundings. We are confined at home 24×7 for many days, which for people like me who like to talk, host tea, lunches, dinners and most importantly taking morning and evening walks are feeling the heat beyond measure. Travel is out of the question, don’t know till when.

Hence, I decided to share with you the wonderful evening with my cousin Aarti and her husband Mohit in Jaipur. When I expressed the desire of eating daal, baati, choorma, she planned this outing for me. I fully trusted them for their choice and voila! What a choice it turned out to be!! It became a memorable evening!!!

Around 8 PM on 25th January we reached Shri Thal which looked to me mini chowki dhaani. Incidentally, the place belongs to Aarti’s good friend Ms Nidhi Upadhyay, a first-generation women entrepreneur with many prestigious awards in her thaali. We were accorded a very warm and traditional welcome at Shri Thal with their service staff. The seating arrangement was informal – Moodhas and Manjis and we were served raab as a welcome drink.

Shri Thal Village Restaurant, Jaipur is a Rajasthani Village in the City. This concept & idea of Village Theme Restaurant in the City came to Mrs. Nidhi Upadhyay’s (Managing Director – Shri Thal Village) mind looking at the busy lifestyle of Jaipurites, where it is practically not possible to get out of the city to experience the village ambience. For them, Shri Thal Village is an ideal place to enjoy ethnic Rajasthani Food, Village games & fun etc. The Restaurant is located on Queens Road in Vaishali Nagar, which is in the heart of Jaipur accessible from anywhere within 15-20 minutes of drive.

So, something about the ambience, it has a mini fort-like façade and a huge entrance door with a mud wall village structure with traditional mandana painted all over the walls, dry grass clad huts, water bodies & fountains. It is lit up in the night lit up with traditional lamps & village statues.  It has Entrance Munim (Cashier) Counter Hut, Gaming Zone Huts for Shooting the Baloon, Ring Game, Chai Ki Thadi etc. There are 3 dining halls named after Rajasthani Folk Dances as Ghumar, Ghorbandh and Panihari.

What to say of Rajasthani cuisine meticulously designed by Nidhi herself who is a culinary expert and a passionate food presenter which included Jaipuri Aloo Pyaz ki Subzi & Dal Panchmel, Bikaneri Papad Mangdi, Jodhpuri Gatte, Traditional Dal Bati Churma, Bajri ka Khichda, Rajasthani Kadhi, 2 Types of Chutneys (Coriander & Garlic), Snacks like Moong Dal Kachori, Kofta, Mini Samosa, Jalebi, Rabdi Malpua etc. Wow! I was confused to the core, what to eat, what not to eat. Aarti helped me with that, I had a great time relishing food and hospitality of the people there.

I and Aarti danced to the beats of Dhol and some other traditional instruments, watched Kathputli dance sitting on Manji with childlike enthusiasm. It was an evening, where my mind was empty and heart full…there is so much to be enjoyed, which we waste in unnecessary complications of life.

No wonder, Nidhi Upadhyay has been awarded “Corporate Diva Award” by FM Tadka – Rajasthan Patrika Group for Shri Thal Village Concept in an award ceremony at the Hotel Marriott, Jaipur.

idhi came to Jaipur after 14 years of marriage from Jodhpur, originally belonging to Kota. During these years she received many job offers from hotels & schools, as word had spread about her talent for cooking, but she could not take it up due to home priorities. But as kids had grown up, thus her husband Ajay, who had been admiring her talent all through, thought of opening a restaurant for Nidhi in Jaipur by the name of Shri Thaal Village. It was gifted to her on her 14th wedding anniversary i.e. 9th May 2011.

What a tribute from a loving husband for her talented wife!

Way to go Nidhi!!

If you are in Jaipur, mark it in your itinerary.

 

From ‘Mature’ look of 80s to ‘Youthful’ look of 2020! From Rs. 85 to Rs. 850 & near three decades!

Circa 2020, March 15, Place: Nahar’s Amrit Shakti,

Location: Chandivali, Mumbai, Activity Point: Shivas Salon  

Nahar’s Amrit Shakti is a sprawling integrated township developed by renowned Nahar Group in Chandivali, which was once a quaint village near Powai. Today is it is buzzing with enormous activity and home to over 4000 lifestyles loving Mumbaikars and NRIs.

More on the township in some other post, but what transpired there brought me some vivid memories of the day when I had joined my first job in BHEL in the late 80s.

The Club-House in NAS – Nahar’s Nectarfield deserves special mention owing to its excellent amenities catering to sports and fitness enthusiasts, children, Senior Citizens and family. The club has a swimming pool, kids play area, basketball, tennis, squash, banquet, executive rooms and Shiva’s Salon…

After finishing the round of the inimitable clubhouse, I decided to get a hair-cut at Shiva’s Salon, which was long overdue. Shiva’s is a celebrity Spa and Saloon and is home to many celebrities when it comes to hairstyling and other such needs. I would be sharing the picture of the wall featuring celebrities who are their client. Excitedly, I entered the Salon, welcomed by friendly and smiling Farzana, who allotted a stylist to me. My brief to stylist was: Give me a youthful look!  

He gave it a deep thought and started working. Probably it looked to him a daunting task considering my profile and hairline. He started working as an artist, first wash, conditioning, sharp-cut, blow-drying and setting. The result was satisfying, he did his best with the available resources. It was not that I didn’t have a cut in such a salon earlier…but…

My brush with Styling salon dates back to the late ’80s when I had just started working in BHEL, New Delhi. Once I and my colleague – Anita Roy visited Lodi Hotel in New Delhi for some official work. A young working professional and fashion & Lifestyle enthusiast, that I was, my eyes could not escape a Hair Styling Salon in Lodi Hotel premises. I requested Anita di to visit the place as it looked different from my regular parlour – Much upmarket, lifestyle-oriented and was in a five-star hotel – all merits to fulfil my fancy.

In those days, I had long, lustrous and beautiful hair which were well taken care of by my mother with her home remedies. So, I decided to go for a hair wash and cut. The salon was of none other than Mr Jawed Habib’s father – Mr Habib Ahmed. He excitedly welcomed us for our lost looks. Here my brief was: Give me a mature look, as nobody takes me seriously for my girlish looks.

And here I was with my head bent and eyes closed in complete surrender mode…Oh yes, hair-cut was not done by girls without parent’s permission. So, you could imagine what was going in my head – Internally, Externally – Double whammy.

I was shocked to see my beautiful tresses biting the dust!  

Final shock came with the bill: Rs. 85/- (10% of monthly salary) Anyway, I walked out with my new cut and style in the office with apprehension, I and Anita knew it will call for some sharp reactions. Forget that, but the price of this hair cut looked too much to colleagues as 10% of my salary and 80% of my hair had gone. Indeed, it was not a good bargain!

Cut at Shivas

At Shiva’s I paid Rs. 850/- (100% salary of the 80s) and only 20% of my hair, probably I recovered in the bargain lost some 30 years ago.

The drama which unfolded amidst my family members and friend circle is another story. I loved being at both the places, though lots of water had flown in between while transcending the journey of 30 long years.

If you are in Chandivali, don’t miss on visiting Shivas Salon at Nahar’s Amrit Shakti’s Club Nectarfield for your hair styling, hair-cutting, hair spa and some great ‘me’ time. Don’t miss on courtesies extended with a hot cup of coffee and smiles all over, which makes you feel important.

Shiva’s is owned by Shivaram K. Bhandary.

Glass Apart: My LOVE for Glass Bangles!

मेरे हाथों में नौ नौ चूड़ियां है…

The precious leave of Holi was utilised in a very unusual activity, taking account (Style, Design, Colour, Numbers – Total Audit) of the Bangles I have in my cupboard. I wanted to organise these as I was repeating my bangles quite often…

…& I don’t like doing that! I am a self-confessed bangle freak!!

I love to wear new bangles every day, matching it with the outfit, though it doesn’t go that way. So, cupboard cleaning and organising took a few hours but it was worth it. For the first time, I noticed my collection of glass bangles, bought from the length and breadth of the country. They were parked the same way as offloaded carefully from the flight, without even checking what and how many bangles I had bought.

My personal collection

My love for glass bangles dates back to my childhood when an old gentleman used to come to sell glass bangles in his daliya (cane basket), neatly tied by a sootli (thin rope) in such a manner, so that design colour etc. was clearly visible. My mother use to buy lots of bangles from him whenever he came. (Maybe it is genetic). I was a very curious child always, so I asked many questions from bangle seller – Naccha! So, what is Naacha now – Mummy use to call him chacha, I called him naana, so he became Nachha (Naana – Chacha) for all ladies in the colony! I don’t know what he thought about this new nomenclature.

Questions like: Bangles are made of what, how do you colour them? How do you put sequins on them? Why do you bring these in cane basket? Are these heavy? Why do you sell bangles? He patiently replied all my queries while selling his bangles to colony aunties, sipping hot tea. Once his sale was over, he will give me a few free bangles and my joy in knew no bounds. Probably, the love dates back to the incident, which I suddenly recollected while sorting my bangle collection today…real nostalgia!

My glass bangle collection has travelled from far-flung areas, across the length and breadth of the country right from Katra, Jammu to Hyderabad, AP traversing Delhi ( Pracheen Mandir Bangle Bazaar, Delhi Haat, Janpath, Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar) Jaipur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Hardwar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkatta ( Shankha Poda), Assam, Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Kutch, Bhuj…

Even international destinations are not spared: London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Guangzhou, Bangkok…I have bought whatever in the name of bangle available there! (needs a separate post)

You will be surprised to know that I always carry a sheet of bubble wrap to pack my bangles so that they can survive the wrath of airline people. Before planning a trip, I never forget to check from where I can buy bangles. Over a period of time, I realised that bangles are becoming my passion, rather obsession! By nature, I am a very content person, I don’t like to hoard stuff for the heck of it, but I can’t control when bangles cross my eyes. I want to shop, come what may and most of the time I do that. I remember my bua saying: बिंदी, चूड़ी के लिए क्या सोचना!

That has stayed with me. I never give a thought to anything while buying bangles. I am sharing a few pictures from my collection. I love wearing them especially with traditional outfits on all occasions, on all festivals. Sometimes I decide the bangles first and then match the saree or dress. If I something misplaced, I feel very agitated.

The history of bangles dates back to Mohen-jo-daro days, 2600 BC when these were found in excavation and statues were found wearing them. In India Ferozabad in UP, near Agra is very famous for glass bangles and supplies to the world. The bangles of Firozabad are exceptionally made, so intricate, so colourful, so fine… It is one of a kind cluster producing bangles and catering to the growing demands and requirement in India, there is approximately 150 bangle making in the city.

We Indians love bangles, the love of Bollywood for bangles is part of the folklore, haven’t we grown up hearing songs like:

चूड़ी नहीं मेरा दिल है, बिंदिया चमकेगी चूड़ी खनकेगी, मेरे हाथों में नौ नौ चूड़ियां है, बोले चूड़ियां बोले कंगना

No celebration is complete without bangles, No Shringar is complete without bangles! Life is a celebration, celebrate it with anything you love!

My special thanks to Sai Vandana, Aarti Mohit Mathur, Aparna Chaturvedi and Hemlata Didi who have patiently tolerated my madness, added to the collection in whichever ways possible.

Last but not the least my dear Mummy, Usha Varma for introducing to the finer things in life!

 

 

 

 

 

She is Oprah Winfrey of our lives! #SheInspires

I can’t recollect when she quietly entered my life, And voila! My life has never been the same again!

Mrs Smita Mehta
Tarot Card Reader

I had a chance meeting with her at The Village (Restaurant) in a Mall at Kandivali where she was doing some predictions with cards in front of her. The curious cat that I am, I went to her to know what she was doing. She explained with patience what Tarot Card reading was all about. I didn’t know anything about Tarot Card till then.

I took another round of the place and watched her reading cards and talking to people. Somehow, I felt very drawn towards her because of her peaceful and spiritual, of course, beautiful demeanour. Considering the happy-go-lucky person that I am, I never believed much in astrology or any such thing. Still, I tried cards and she gave me answers, to which I didn’t pay any heed to, even forgot about it.

Few months elapsed and things started following the pattern, which she had predicted. Now, I frantically started searching her card for her contact details but no luck. But जहाँ चाह वहां राह, the card resurfaced and I called her. She invited me to her place, this is the first time, I visited her house, which was a simple Gujarati household.

I had something more to ask, one thing followed another…we could see the line was diminishing between client and reader, we were becoming friends. I started opening up with her, we started sharing our joys and sorrows. A bond started developing and as time passed, we became united by a unique bond of love and respect. I turned to her advice for even the smallest of things!

She is Smita Mehta who has inspired me in many ways.  From her humble beginnings with early marriage in the late 80s in ordinary Gujarati family burdened with societal and financial norms, she fought it all with elan. Her calm & peaceful exterior tells the story of the storms inside her. Fighting the financial odds early in life, she thought of supplementing the family income. Now the big question was what to do and how to do with a full family to boot? It was then she realised that she had a very good way with making future predictions.

While in school, she would read friends’ palm and tell them things, which turned out to be true many times. Probably, what she was doing for fun in school came handy when she was to choose the career. Now her struggle started with collecting information, studying, doing courses in Astrology, Vaastu and Tarot Card Reading.  She started doing it all free for her friends and relatives and word spread. This was the time when her friends told her to use her talent and charge a modest fee for it. Probably since then, there has been no looking back! Her struggle has been so inspirational, with two children and extended family dependent on her, she paved the way for herself.

Smita Di has climbed one ladder after another, she has done studies in her field ( She just took exams, when she is a grandmother) and boasts of international clientele in the US, Canada and UAE. I am close witness to her immense achievements in life, but she is just the same Smita Di for me. Always ready to help, always ready to listen, always ready to advise and what to say of her predictions! She has so many of us in her fan base! Her assurances are so motivating, so enlightening. An out-an-out-people’s person, she has a deep understanding of her client’s psychology.

Her struggle has taken her places literally!

From an unsure housewife of yesterday to the well-known astrologer, tarot card reader and Vastu expert of today, she has seen it all! She has faced it all!!

She is the Oprah Winfrey of our lives!

 

 

 

 

TEERTHRAJ PUSHKAR – The place of Fairs & Festivities!

Historic district of the town of Pushkar on the sacred Pushkar Lake, Rajasthan, India, Asia

As goes the saying: Paying obeisance at Teerth Raj Pushkar in Rajasthan, India is equivalent to paying obeisance at chaar dham!

I was lucky to accomplish my chaar dham yatra by visiting Pushkar in January 2020, when I visited Jaipur for Literature Fest.

After finishing our Jaipur Lit Fest activities, Aarti, my cousin planned a trip to Ajmer, where our bade chacha lives. I was quite excited to meet him and my younger Chachi who live in Ajmer and I had not met them for years. En route Ajmer was the holy town of Pushkar, and I expressed my desire to visit Pushkar. My wish was granted and Mohit drove us ladies to Pushkar. I was very happy to be in Pushkar, which I had visited with my father some decades ago. Reliving those memories!

Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India. Located to the northwest of Ajmer, the tranquil city of Pushkar is a favoured destination for thousands of tourists and devotees flocking to Rajasthan. Situated at a height of 510 metres, Pushkar is surrounded by hillocks on three sides. The ‘Nag Pahar’, literally meaning Snake Mountain forms a natural border between Ajmer and Pushkar. Known as ‘the rose garden of Rajasthan’, the essence of the famous Pushkar rose is exported all over the world. Along with an interesting mythological history, a legacy of timeless architectural heritage makes Pushkar a fascinating city.

According to legends, Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator of the Universe dropped a lotus to the ground leading to the immediate creation of a lake. He then decided to name the place after the flower, and thus the name, Pushkar. The city of Pushkar is home to the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the whole world. Hindus consider a journey to Pushkar to be the ultimate pilgrimage that must be undertaken to attain salvation.

I didn’t have vivid memories of Pushkar so it was like being there for the first time. The experience was simply divine to Brahma Ji temple (only temple in India). I must admit that the market leading to the temple is to die for. You can shop so many curious, traditional dresses, handicrafts, pooja samagri and what to say of eating joints there servicing hot crunchy maal puas and rasgoolas!

The pilgrimage is loved and respected equally by foreigners and Indians, which was quite evident there. A number of steps lead to Brahmaji temple which is engraved in silver with gold stambh in the centre of its verandah.

Built with marble and decorated with silver coins, this temple can be identified by its red spire and the image of a swan (considered sacred to Lord Brahma). The chaturmukhi (four-faced) idol of Lord Brahma is housed in the inner sanctum. A marble statue of the sun god stands sentinel at the temple. Interestingly, while all the gods are shown barefooted, Surya is shown wearing ancient warrior’s boots. The feeling was simply divine.

After Brahma temple, we moved towards Pushkar Lake where people were performing religious rites but I was surprised to note that there was no concept of hygiene or cleanliness. It was quite an unpleasant sight, otherwise, it is so scenic which can’t be described in words, surrounded by mountains from all sides. Rajasthan Tourism needs to take up the initiative of cleaning the place on the lines of Namami Gange Program of Government of India. It is truly the need of an hour!

I also visited Pracheentum Hanuman Mandir there, followed by a sumptuous meal of Poori, Aloo Sabzi and Maal Puas at a typical bhojnalaya. I must admit that Pushkar visit is quite a walk and if your legs are strong enough then only you can see it in totality. Mine are of course not, still, they behaved.

Pushkar is well connected to the national highways of Rajasthan. Regular buses ply from Pushkar to the major Sanganer Airport in Jaipur is the nearest at a distance of 146 kilometres.cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer from the Ajmer bus stand.

Pushkar Terminus Railway station which is operational since 2012, is connected to Ajmer railway station located at a distance of 14 kilometres.

If you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, Pushkar visit should top your itinerary! 

Pink Hawa Mahal of Pink City in Pink winter…

…Couldn’t have asked for more!

After completing the first exciting day at Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace, Aarti and Mohit decided to take me to the old city of Jaipur which is home to many shops painted in Pink (Probably they knew shopaholic in me was restless). It was a breezy wintery evening, and I had some cool time there!

I found Hawa Mahal to be quite imposing, artistic, having an extraordinary architecture which is delicately honeycombed and rises a dizzying five stories. Certainly, it is much grander than it looks in the picture, you can’t escape its grandeur while in Jaipur. My child-like excitement in the vicinity of Hawa Mahal was palpable. We clicked many pictures there and gathered some beautiful memories of this beautiful monument.

For the uninitiated, Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other.

Popularly known as “The Palace of Winds” or “The Palace of Breeze” is in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Made with the red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, Jaipur, and extends to the Zenana, or women’s chambers. Made for ladies, it holds special importance for me as a lady.

There’s a small museum (open Saturday to Thursday), with miniature paintings and some rich relics, such as ceremonial armour, which help evoke the royal past. Entrance is from the back of the complex. To get here, return to the intersection on your left as you face the Hawa Mahal, turn right and then take the first right again through an archway. Shopkeepers can show you another way – past their shops!

Its 953 small windows called Jharokhas are decorated with intricate latticework.  The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings.

This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Many people see the Hawa Mahal from the street view and think it is the front of the palace, but in reality, it is the back of that structure.

In 2006, renovation works on the Mahal were undertaken, after a gap of 50 years, to give a facelift to the monument at an estimated cost of Rs 4.568 million.

The palace is an extended part of a huge complex. The stone-carved screens, small casements, and arched roofs are some of the features of this popular tourist spot. The monument also has delicately modelled hanging cornices.

The corporate sector lent a hand to preserve the historical monuments of Jaipur and the Unit Trust of India has adopted Hawa Mahal to maintain it.

JLF, DAY 2: Impressive line up of literary events, stimulating talks!

Day two of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 kept up the momentum set so effectively on the eventful first day. There was tremendous diversity in sessions, speakers, and themes in the programming of the day. “Morning Music” on the 2nd day of the Festival was performed by acclaimed classical Carnatic veena artist Vidushi Saraswati Rajagopalan. She began her set with Raga Saraswati – an ode to Goddess Saraswati, the patron deity of music, art and literature, which was an appropriate beginning to the second day of one of the world’s grandest literature festivals.


session-38_shubha-mudgal-in-coversation-with-sudha-sadhanand

In conversation with editor Sudha Sadanand, the acclaimed vocalist Shubha Mudgal read from and spoke about her debut collection of short stories, Looking for Miss Sargam, and the traditions, realities and contradictions that a musician typically straddles and set them against the realities of her own narratives.

Francesca Cartier Brickell, a direct descendant of the Cartier family, has recently published a book titled The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewellery Empire. Her book launch was conducted at the NEXA Front Lawn of the Diggi Palace at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 and the session was anchored by Editor-in-Chief of Literary Publishing of Penguin Random House India, Meru Gokhale. The book was launched by Diya Kumari, Member of Parliament.

Speaking at the session Diya Kumari said, “It is an absolute pleasure and an honour to be here at the launch of the book The Cartiers. The family name is synonymous with outstanding craftsmanship, creativity and a long history with numerous royal families, including mine. And I’d like to thank everyone associated with the book to have invited me here. I am looking forward to reading what I am sure is a fascinating story of the family. And all my very best for the success of the book. Thank you!

Anay Saxena wrote his first book, Time Adventures: The Jackson Menace, when he was seven. His most recent work is a collection of three short stories titled What a Mysterious World We Live In. Today, Anay Saxena was in conversation with much loved children’s author Deepa Agarwal discussing his work.

Bestselling-author Howard Jacobson talked about his new book Live a Little, which is the love story of a 90-year-old woman. Age, according to Jacobson, is not an impediment to love, though literature has been “very unforgiving” of old age. Jacobson went on to say, “The most intelligent people I know are in their 90s” and explained “…if you can allow your body to decay, you can concentrate on your mind!”  The eroticism in this love story is only suggested. This is because Jacobson thinks that “the body is overrated”, and therefore he wants to start a movement against people writing about sex. “Sex makes words look foolish, words make sex look absurd,” he said. Jacobson felt that the shame and humiliation a novelist experiences can be an asset.  “Embrace your shame and write about it,” was his advice to the audience.

A session on memoirs opened up a treasure trove of backstories. Nicholas Coleridge, former editorial director of Condé Nast Britain, had the audience in splits when he recalled Princess Diana asking him at a lunch, “Nicholas, please be frank, I want to know your real view. Are my breasts too small, do you think?”  “Your Royal Highness,” he responded, “they seem, umm, perfect to me.”   He drew a crucial distinction – “A memoir is what you remember, otherwise it is an autobiography!”

Talking more about memoirs, the English broadcaster and author of My Name Is Why, Lemn Sissay, spoke with emotion about his life as a foster child, the meaning of his name and the sources he used to write his own memoir.  He said his book recounted the trauma that his mother went through.  “It’s really not my story,” he said. A journalist known for her accounts of life in war-zones, Åsne Seierstad, said that to work on American history of the last 100 years, she had had to look at the changes the US faced and wished for her source to be personal and family stories.  So, she began to look at her personal letters, the letters of her grandfather. Avi Shlaim talked about his book Three Worlds: Memoir of an Arab Jew and spoke with intensity about his identity as an Arab-Jew and his life-experiences in Baghdad, Israel and London. His main source of information was his 96-year-old mother.

Lisa Ray, India’s first supermodel, actor, mother of twins through surrogacy and a cancer survivor, spoke to ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival producer and Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy about her riveting life story and memoir, Close to the Bone, a deeply moving account of her healing and spiritual quest. She spoke about how identity to her was tectonic and rooted in movement, embodied by her own peripatetic life.

In the session “Winners Take it All” Anand Giridharadas said “rich people are making a killing in a way that is strangulating democracy”, and this rendered their claims of benevolence invalid.  Giridharadas went on to say said that “they do just enough good to preserve a system that does harm on a much larger scale”. This system, he said is “the old trickle-down economics with whipped cream and a cherry on top”. Thus, according to him, we are looking at a systematic problem and we need to ask ourselves, “Should we even have billionaires?” He claimed that “every billionaire is a policy failure”. Their wealth could finance a lot of services that people in democratic countries are entitled to, but are not getting.

The day ended with the announcement of the prestigious Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize, a first of its kind award for brilliance in book design and an attempt by the iconic bookstore to recognise and encourage the work of gifted illustrators, designers and publishers throughout India. The winner of the fifth edition of the award announced at Jaipur BookMark was well-known graphic designer Sneha Pamneja who was felicitated with a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh by jurors Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Namita Gokhale and Shobhaa De, amidst a gathering of designers, publishers and book-lovers. The announcement was followed by a cocktail reception hosted by Oxford Bookstore honouring the winner.

 

ZEE Jaipur Literary Fest 2020 – & I was part of Grandest Literary Show on Earth!

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 took place from 23rd – 27th January 2020 at the Diggi Palace Hotel, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

No words are enough to describe the magic of JLF, as it is popularly known, which is a sort of mecca for literary buffs. I was surprised to find such a huge congregation of literature lovers from all over the world, yes world, not India alone! The colours, the vibrancy, the aura, the aroma and enigmatic atmosphere of the place – Heritage structure – Diggi Palace were truly splendid.

Inaugural Ceremony JLF

No wonder, JLF is hailed as one of grandest literary worldwide, the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020, which is held at iconic abode, the Diggi Palace lawns and aptly lives up to its tradition of providing access to a gamut of ‘stories’ – fearless, funny, tender, fantastical, true-to-life, fiery, equivocal, atypical and every day – to all.

The magnitude of programming remained as astonishing as every year with over 500 speakers and performers representing around 15 Indian and 35 international languages and over 30 nationalities as well as major literary awards ranging from the Nobel, the Man Booker, the Pulitzer, the Sahitya Akademi, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and Commonwealth Book Prize.

After a lot of deliberations, discussions and apprehensions, I boarded the flight to Jaipur and believe me I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. Aarti and Mohit were there to receive me at the airport for the early morning flight and there was not a single dull moment in their company. They were my constant companion for the next five days, which I will always cherish!

After reaching Jaipur and gorging on hot breakfast and tea made by Aarti and her loving mother-in-law, we set out for Diggi Palace, Jaipur and my brush with real intellectuals on this planet began. My first session was with humble and unassuming Mr Prasoon Joshi who was in a very vibrant conversation with Ms Vani Tripathi Tikkoo. After that what all followed, you will get to read in the following posts.

The venue was brimming with activities of culturally inclined people who were dressed in their traditional best, giving a different vibe to the whole place. Indigo Kurtas, Ikat Sarees, Bandhnis, Bandhej, Pashmina Shawls, Jaipuri Stoles, Handloom sarees, Kalamkari dresses, jackets…whatnot. Their sense of dressing was really impressive and I must say that they had put a lot of thought to their dressing by teaming up with traditional silver and metal jewellery like chandelier earrings, multi-layered neckpieces, bangles, anklets and what to say of nose rings.

One notable thing amidst all this was that not even in a single panel discussion it was announced that “Please keep your mobile phone in silent mode” as it was given and to my utter surprise, not even a single mobile rang. This is the discipline followed by the intelligentsia in Jaipur.

The venue boasted Art Zone where artists were painting and most loved (by me at least) was Pool Bazaar which displayed stalls of jewellery, bags, shawls, mojris, handmade notebooks, handicrafts, sarees, dupatta, kurta, Kurtis…where I shopped to my heart’s content…but it was like Yeh Dil Maange More! Then there was book bazar selling books by authors whose launch was happening at the fest along with many others. I wish I could buy some more…

Only thing which was restrictive that many sessions were happening simultaneously at different venues so we had to skip one in favour of others. I wanted to be at both the sessions sometimes but that was not the possibility. Listening to speakers of the stature of Shashi Tharoor, Prasoon Joshi, Lisa Ray, Shobha De, Margaret Alwa, William Dalrymple, Sanjay K Roy, Ashwin Sanghi, Namita Gokhale and many more, nonstop amidst pin-drop silence followed by crowds swelling to over thousand, was an experience in itself.

Mikes, Venue, Press-gallery, volunteers help and overall management was top notch. There was no disturbance from any side, you were guided well all through by an over-enthusiastic team of Team Works, ample food stalls and hot tea was available round the clock. Yes, you could shop only through your debit/ credit cards as dealing in cash was not permitted. Please make a note of it.

Such huge crowds were managed so well, kudos!

Few highlights:

  • Inauguration by CM of Rajasthan, Mr Ashok Gehlot
  • Jaipur Music Stage runs parallel to the Festival from 23rd – 25th January at Clarke’s Amer featuring headliners including Gavin James, Ricky Kej, Lisa Marie Simmons, Aabha Hanjura, Parvaaz, amongst others.
  • 7th edition of the B2B arm of the Festival, Jaipur BookMark (JBM), began on 22nd January with a keynote address from writer and publisher Jo Lendle as he went through the first 20 pages of the publishing manual for the new decade
  • The Festival’s ongoing Youth Outreach programme with Yuva Ekta Foundation and School Outreach programme with Pratham Books continues to engage a large number of children and young people.

The Festival began on Thursday, January 23rd with the inaugural keynote address by renowned author Marcus du Sautoy and acclaimed Hindustani vocalist Shubha Mudgal on ‘The Art, Sciences and Creativity’.

Inaugural Address by CM Ashok Gehlot.

Present were some of the world’s best thinkers and writers: Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Man-Booker-winner Howard Jacobson, author of over sixteen novels including his most recent, Live a Little, that has been described by The Guardian as ‘wonderful’ and by The Sunday Times as ‘joyous’; Forrest Gander, eminent translator and author of the Pulitzer-winning collection of poems Be With; Paul Muldoon, author of Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; Pulitzer winner Stephen Greenblatt, author of 14 books including Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ravish Kumar, India’s well-known and intrepid TV anchor, journalist and writer; Ruchira Gupta, Emmy-winning journalist and activist.

Can any festival be grander than that?

  • Special thanks to Aarti & Mohit Mathur

  • First-hand account of the fest by Bienu Verma Vaghela 

GUJJU CARNIVAL – GUJARATI FOOD FESTIVAL

मैं सोचती हूँ इस विषय पर ज़्यादा कुछ लिखना बनता नहीं है
गुजराती फ़ूड फेस्टिवल – गुजरातियों के जमन प्रेम का आइना है
खाना ही खाना सब तरफ – चाय, मुख वास, फरसाण, कथिआ वाड़ी थाली, १११ प्रकार की खिचड़ी दाल ढोकली, खीचियो, खामनी, हंडवा, ढोकला, थेपला, खकरा … और भी बहुत कुछ!

गुजराती अपने जमन (खाना) प्रेम के लिए मशहूर हैं…और ऐसे ही मशहूर नहीं हैं.
गुजराती लोक गीत संगीत गरबा डांडिया DJ आदि से सुसज्जित यह फेस्टिवल इन गुजराती लोगो बल्कि सब लोगो के लिए खूब रंग जमाया. मैं विशेष उल्लेख श्री गोपाल शेट्टी जी का करना चाहूंगी जिनका अपने एरिया में ऐसा उत्सव करने में विशेष योगदान है. क्या फर्राटे दार गुजराती बोलते हैं.

श्री प्रशांत रओ जिन्होंने बहुत ही खूबसूरत एंकरिंग से सबका मन मोह लिया.
मैंने GFF के पासेज जीते थे और अपनी मित्रों और परिवार के साथ यहाँ खूब आनंद उठाया. मसाले, मुखवास, खाखरा, चाय, फरसाण, ज्वेलरी आदि बहुत कुछ ख़रीदा. अब मैं जयपुर फेस्टिवल में राजस्थान का लुत्फ़ उठाउंगी. EK महीने में मेरे दो प्रिये राज्यों के उत्सव का आनंद.

और क्या चाहिए!

#JLT Jaipur BookMark – Where Books Mean Business inaugurates today

Every January, while the world comes to the Jaipur Literature Festival to celebrate the written word, the publishing fraternity gets together to celebrate and discuss upcoming trends and achievements at the Jaipur Bookmark, where books mean business. Jaipur BookMark harnesses the collective energy of authors, literary agents, translators, publishers, designers, marketers, publicists, booksellers and festival organizers to discuss new ideas and how to take them to the market. Jaipur BookMark is a rich platform for all those who may be interested in the practical aspect of books and publishing, including translation and rights exchange across geographies, which have always been a focus at JBM.

The 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark 2020 will be held from 22nd January to 25th January. Jaipur BookMark (JBM) brings together stakeholders of the book industry from across the world. It provides the right atmosphere to inspire dialogue and a space for one-on-one meetings and networking, as well as provides an opportunity to “talk business” through relevant sessions and focused roundtables.

Namita Gokhale

The inaugural address, introduced by Neeta Gupta features H. E. Hans Jakob Frydenlund, Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy K. Roy. This is followed by the much-anticipated keynote by acclaimed writer and publisher Jo Lendle, editor of the Hanser publishing group, introduced by Naveen Kishore. Titled The Roaring Twenties, the address focuses on key issues of publishing for a new decade. There have been many publishers of world renown who have made a keynote address at previous editions of Jaipur BookMark, including iconic author and publisher, Roberto Calasso; the CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos; the creative force behind Seagull Books, Naveen Kishore; and others. In this edition, we look forward to interacting with publishers like Jo Lendle, Naveen Kishore, Urvashi Butalia, Vera Michalsky, Michael Dwyer, Niko Pfund, Atiya Zaidi, Richa Jha and booksellers like Arsen Kashkashian, Jeff Deutsch, Priyanka Malhotra, Maina Bhagat and Rick Simonson, among others.

Sanjoy K Roy

According to Namita Gokhale, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark, “Jaipur Bookmark celebrates the core values of publishing. We nurture creativity through our iWrite programme, support and showcase translations, and explore the changing books and narratives. I am very excited about what promises to be a brilliant 7th edition.”

At Jaipur BookMark 2020 there are many publishing-related sessions, such as The Heart of a Bookstore in which iconic booksellers from around the world speak of their profession and the joy and learnings they derive from it; The Big Book Box for Kids where authors, publishers and booksellers discuss challenges in making children’s books visible and accessible to young readers, as well as marketing strategies for overcoming them; Food for thought: gastronomy and literature, a session in which some of the most talented food writers in the world gather to share their recipes for food and literature; and Consumer Intelligence: Who’s Reading What, a session in which publishers and authors will discuss how big data can be used to analyse book-buying behaviour.

Neeta Gupta, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark says, “Translations remain our top priority at the 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark, with sessions focused on Borderless Literatures, Translating National Narratives and Translation as Intimacy, along with launching Norwegian playwright Ibsen’s plays in Hindi. We also announce two coveted translation awards, the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator award and the Romain Rolland prize for Translations.”

With its finger on the pulse of the publishing business, Jaipur BookMark has always featured crucial sessions discussing the most contemporary and critical issues facing the literary world. Towards a Borderless Literature promises to be an inspirational session on the need for translations and words without borders; The Changing Face of Digital Narratives will focus on the fascinating array of possibilities opened through new genres of digital narratives; Libraries as Communities discusses the role of libraries as crucial community hubs and centres of learning, communication, professional development and collaborative projects; Why Publishing Poetry is Important brings together dedicated and engaged publishers who will discuss their commitment to publishing poetry; and A Textbook Case for Diversity brings together acclaimed publishers who discuss the importance of striking a balance between mere tokenism and embracing true multiculturalism.

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal says, “The 7th Edition of Jaipur BookMark will witness important stakeholders in the global and local publishing industry – authors, publishers, editors, designers and literary agents. The only platform in South Asia that shines the spotlight on those who work behind the scenes, creating books. JBM is all set to celebrate books in 360°- print, digital and audio editions.”

In 2020 the Norwegian Embassy is once again partnering with Jaipur BookMark. This will mark the 7th year of their association. Naveen Kishore of the Seagull School of Publishing is on board both as an advisor and supporter of the festival. Seagull Books Kolkata has single handedly put India on the International translation map with its international list of authors, that include Nobel Prize winners and others shortlisted in major international literary awards categories. The French Institute in India is bringing representatives of the French publishing industry to JBM 2020. India will be the Guest of Honour nation at the Salon du Livre in Paris in 2020.

“The Indian publishing industry has grown rapidly and the world’s attention is converging on it,” remarks Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and Producer of Jaipur BookMark.

Apart from being a B2B platform that brings together the who’s who of the publishing industry from across the world, JBM also provides aspiring writers with an exciting platform called iWrite: Creative Mentorship Programme. This Mentorship Programme invites poets, literary enthusiasts and novelists to share their stories and get an opportunity to be mentored by experts in the field. No longer limited to first-time writers, this initiative not only gives writers a chance to express themselves, but also lets them mingle and interact with publishers, literary agents, translators and other industry experts in a pitching session, and perhaps even get a chance to sign a book deal!

Three major awards will be announced at Jaipur BookMark 2020 – The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award. The Romain Rolland Prize and The Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize.

Jaipur BookMark was conceived to run parallel to the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2014. In the 7 years since its inception, JBM has emerged as a nodal point for the South Asian publishing industry and is indeed a focus for the book trade.

 

 

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