On Day 4, I decided to go venue hopping. By venue hopping I mean, standing or sitting at the back and moving from one session to the other after that one nugget you are looking for is received.
Conquering the chaos: Empowering the future session had a degree of unpredictability to it. Navin Chawla, the former Chief election Commissioner of India, stated that the birth of Aam Aadmi Party has happened as a response to persistent frustration with politicians. Yashwant Sinha talked sense, almost sans party lines and mentioned that the presence of Aam Aadmi Party can make changes come faster. They also concluded that chaos has already been conquered in the Indian context.
Interestingly, I am in Jaipur attending this Jaipur Literature Festival and I find it difficult to get a seat in a session on – Pompeli: The Life of Roman Times. To simplify, it means, there are hundreds like me who are here to know a little more about the subjects they have very little or no knowledge. As I was doing the venue hopping, I didn’t attend the full session but it was interesting to sit through and understand the detail to which Mary Beard had researched on her subject. The last question from the audience was on homosexuality and its evidence during Roman Empire. Mary Beard did acknowledge that there are indications that it existed but mentioned that it was not part of her study and there are others who are better equipped to answer it.
A difficult topic made more difficult by lack of focus on the session by the moderator. Rani Shankardas was disastrous as a moderator, she kept going on and on and played the role of a session hijacker who was self obsessed rather than focused on ensuring a great debate. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, in the limelight for his biography on Modi, took advantage of weak moderation and did a longish sales pitch on his book rather than the subject. Having said that, it was interesting to hear the biographer of Modi talk about the darker side in political and personal life of Modi. Ritu Menon mentioned that it is impossible to do a segregation between personal and political profiles of political leaders, and talked at length about her biography on Naintara Sehgal. Kalyani Shankar talked about her book Pandora’s Daughters and why she selected the 8 profiles of women politicians in India including Mayawati and Sushma Swaraj. My expectations from this session were very different and I would have liked the moderator to know the topic of the session.
Almost everyone in India outside of active literary circle know about The Great Gatsby because of Amitabh Bachchan doing a cameo in its latest rendition. Sarah Churchwell was talking about doing justice to the book by filmmakers when I walked into her session. She was forthright that justice has not been done to the novel written back in 1925 once again.
If it is about making a session come alive, go ahead and make your audience participate actively, share the limelight with them, gospel for the success of your act. Yes, Margaret Mascarenhas followed this gospel verbatim and no doubt, her poetry reading was the highlight of this session – one can say, she carried the whole session through and through.
Was it the word “Sex” in Shereen El Feki’s book Sex and Citadel which made this session houseful? Or, was it pure interest in understanding the “Intimate Life in Changing Arab World” which brought in the audience? I would say more of “Sex” and less of the “Intimate Life…” part. I could see amazement on the faces of a few listening to Shereen, a woman with a Muslim name, talk about sex in a such a matter-of-fact manner; good for Jaipur, good for the Lit Fest. These sessions carry subtle messages and open up the audience over a period of time. Shereen emphasized that the erotic literature was alive and kicking during the 18th and 19th century Arab world.
My first impression was – are they a couple talking about separation? The way they were seated suggested that. Yes, they were talking about separation but it had nothing to do with theirs. They were talking about India and its neighbouring countries and about Kazi Anis Ahmed’s book – The World in Our Hand and Esther read a few pages from her book.
More to come…