By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
“How was it?” asked my friend Deepak when he knew from me that I was back in Delhi from attending two days of Jaipur Literature Festival.
Here’s what I replied: It was good. Very few books were to be seen as it wasn’t a book festival but literature. Writers talked about not just their books but issues that their books or books in general address. And there were/are several other sessions that were/are not directly related to literature but then when writers are panelists to discuss on topics like “in a tough neighborhood” they also became some what sahityik.
The literary aura was palpable as I hopped from one session to another. “Dickens was an intensely good person,” said one speaker in Baithak hall while another speaker in another hall was talking about plays of India. “We used to say Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India,” he said.
In yet another session I heard a biographer explaining why her book was what it came out to be: “Describing each of his films would make a 300-page book but that wouldn’t have brought the real ‘he’.”
There’s was commercial stall of a book shop at a corner of Diggi Palace Hotel compound that sold books of different kinds, mainly those related to the festival. I like the idea of putting up a table filled with ‘books related to today’s sessions’ there. I heard one writer, a journalist, telling participants to go to the stall and buy his book, if they wanted. Another writer managed to make organizers announce on the mike that she was available for signing her book at the aforementioned stall.
By and large, I observed, the festival was not just about selling books but discussing issues that are generally addressed by books and writers- both fiction and nonfiction. That means having brainstorming sessions on issues that concerned societies in general and writers in particular. It was also about sharing experiences behind what we see in the form of ink and pages. Sharing experiences of book writing. It was also about trying to understand between the pages.
Quote of the day:
All writers of fiction should be required by law to go out and do a bit of reporting from time to time, just to remind them how different the real world in front of their eyes is from the invented world behind them’.
That’s Michael Frayn talking about his book Travels With a Typewriter: A Reporter at Large but only after he was asked to do so.
A session titled ‘Language and Identity’ was very interesting. Influence of English on Hindi and the necessity to keep that away from happening was discussed at length by the likes of Gulzar, a poet, and others in the panel including Hindi newspaper Janasatta‘s editor Om Thanvi and diplomat/writer Pavan Varma.) As a reporter working primarily for a Nepali-language daily, I also insert some English words and expressions in my writing when, I feel, I could have done without. But the trend is frightening in Hindi newspapers. As Thanvi pointed out, some Hindi newspapers have headlines with Hindi words as conjunctions only. A lot of English words are arbiterily used when there are Hindi words for the same: even I know Hindi words for such English words that are used in papers like Nava Bharat Times that my newspaper vendor brings every morning. The paper comes from Times of India group, so it might not be a benchmark for journalism but I have seen other Hindi dailies that also use a lot of English words. Thanvi said such anarchy in the language was because many newspapers have no editors or edited by their publishers who want to be successful in the market at the cost of language.
“International hone ka matlav aapne aap ko kho dena nahi,” said Thanvi.
Some of the captivating lectures in the festival were complimented by occasional whining of horses from a nearby stable in the hotel compound.
I attended only second and third days of the festival so I am not sure if I can judge the five-day festival with authority but I felt that it was largely a gathering of English speaking/writing authors and readers. There are many languages spoken in India, not just Hindi and English. I didn’t see writers representing those languages. May be it was because many of the impressive list of sponsors and partners of the festival were British, American, European/International and Indian organizations conducting business in English. Nonetheless it was fun to be in the crowd, to watch people speaking in varieties of tones and clad in diverse styles of clothings.
Click on the photos to read captions in detail