When I close my eyes and think of the past few days I have images of large crowds; great numbers of school children, older people and everyone in between. While the idea of India and large numbers of people often go hand in hand, what is so unusual is that they were all there for one thing – The Jaipur Literature Festival.
The Jaipur Lit Fest focuses on showcasing Indian writers to both Indians and the world as well as bringing writers and thinkers to India. While there were many sessions in English, there were many in one of the various Indian languages. The Festival also covered the visual arts, popular culture and politics.
With other writers’ festivals only having modest attendance, this writers’ festival was able to attract 245,000 people over a five day period which is a fantastic achievement. People came from all over India and from overseas to enjoy a bonanza of ideas and debate.
The crowd was so diverse and it was great that they could come and enjoy it for free. The often highly intelligent questions at the end of each session were impressive and showed the people attending were completely engaged and switched on.
I was lucky enough to make it to the last 3 days, which was probably a good thing as coming from Perth, Australia (where we don’t do crowds) I found the number of people to be a little overwhelming. But it was still an amazing experience be immersed in a literary tradition that I love and want to find out more about.
The Festival doesn’t stop when the sessions end. Each day is bookended by music, softer music in the morning at Diggi Palace that can be enjoyed with a Masala Chai (while figuring out what you’re going to see that day) and full on concert in the evening over at Clarks Amber Hotel.
I could give you a word by word account of each session but to be completely honest, you just had to be there. Thankfully, all of the sessions are on YouTube where you can enjoy them sitting down and from the comfort of your own home.
My suggestions are: session 75 – Wonderlust and the Art of Travel Writing, session 117 –Beautiful Offspring: The Art of Historical Fiction, session134 – The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, session 146 – The CIA and the Wilderness of Mirrors, session 152 – The Theatre of War and session 158 – Cultural Revolutions.
But seriously, so many talks were interesting and memorable that I will defiantly go back to listen them again as well as view the ones that I missed.
Will I go next year? I hope so. It was such an amazing experience and I met so many great people and learnt so much that I felt uber sad when it was all over. So if you need an excuse to visit Incredible India, make 2016 the year that you make it to the Jaipur Lit Fest in person.