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.
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!
- 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’.
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