It was the first time at the Jaipur Literature Festival for this reading enthusiast, who made the trip with her book club.
I have never attended an event with as much energy as Jaipur Lit. The atmosphere was electric, the excitement palpable. It was heartening to see that people could still get enthusiastic about books in an age of laptops and Google. Also, the shopper in me was thankful for little jewelry curio stores dotting the landscape of Diggi Palace, as well as a huge bookstore and a nice man in grand turban who doled out tiny cups (kulhads) of tea in between sessions.
I came back from Jaipur with excess baggage, a huge reading list, and experiences I will remember for ever. These are some of the highlights:
Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni: I really loved The Palace of Illusions, so Chitra Banerjee's talk was one that I was looking forward to. As an added bonus, I bumped into her outside the hall as well, and was struck by her simplicity and loveliness. I've just picked up her newest book, One Amazing Thing, about nine people trapped at an Indian Embassy in the States, and so far, am enjoying it!
Orhan Pahmuk and Kiran Desai: My daughter would say that this couple was the "Brangelina" at Jaipur Lit, and their joint appearance generated a huge amount of interest. I found Orhan's views on the West to be unfortunately a bit bitter, and loved the innocence and confidence with which Vietnamese author Nam Le spoke. He looked like he should still be in university!
Rasa: If like me, you don't have much time to shop while in Jaipur, I would suggest you head to Rasa. Centrally located and not too over-cluttered, this store stocks the yummiest fabrics, drenched in colour and prints. I love their contemporary cuts, and bought my daughter a silk coat that I had spotted at Bombay Electric at a significantly lower price (Rs 7,400 as opposed to Rs 15,600). Worth the trip!
J.M Coetzee: This Nobel Prize winner’s reading was possibly the most crowded session, located in the front lawns of Diggi Palace. Coetzee read “The Old Women and the Cats”, a short story about... well, an old woman and her cats, but what I found most amazing was that for the almost hour long reading, the crowd was completely silent, and no cell phones went off. I can’t remember the last time that happened!
Fab India Cafe: Set amidst leafy trees and walls of mirrors placed randomly, this pretty cafe, with its communal seating and warm service, was the best place to - literally - rub shoulders with the beautiful people at the Festival. I shared a table with Devika Bhojwani and her sister! The celebrity sightings included Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Om Puri, Kapil Sibal and the very handsome Kabir Bedi.
Visit http://jaipurliteraturefestival.org for more.