As I have been saying for years, repeatedly, the right to dream should be the first fundamental right. The right to dream,” said Mahasweta Devi, as she opened the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) with her keynote address “O to live again”. With the Jaipur weather warming up to the swarming literary enthusiasts, Diggi Palace has once again became a mish-mash of colours, dialogues and books. Thursday morning saw one of the most prominent regional authors of the country, Devi, also a social activist, who riveted the audience with her bold readings and statements, taking a cue from the recent news on the brutalisation of a woman in Delhi.
While the morning saw a meandering crowd pulling in and out of the six venues, people seemed to have come together for the much-anticipated session with JLF’s “surprise” speaker, the Dalai Lama. Men and women in maroon robes were conspicuous by their presence. Despite protest threats by a number of organisations, the Dalai Lama swooped in gracefully and was effortlessly the star of the day. In a session titled “Kinships of Faith: Finding the Middle Way” with British-born author Pico Iyer, he talked everything — from applying the reality of science into his teachings, to corruption. “India has a long tradition of secularism, of multiple cultures and religions. While we should respect all religions, we should respect non-believers too,” he said.
The latter part of the day saw other engrossing sessions with speakers such as Elif Batuman, Javed Akhtar, Sharmila Tagore, Ameena Saiyid, Nadeem Aslam and Howard Jacobson, among others.
Meanwhile, those who weren’t busy attending talks were seen at bookstores dotted on one side of the venue, or at various eateries. Merchandise that make for mandatory accessorising during the festival includes “Festival scarves” and tote bags.
Here’s what to look out for at JLF on Day 2:
‘What is a classic?’: Anish Kapoor (right), Elif Batuman, Tom Holland, Christopher Ricks & Ashok Vajpeyi in conversation with Homi Bhabha. (12:30 pm–1:30 pm)
‘Jorasanko: The Tagore Women’: Aruna Chakravarti and Sharmila Tagore in conversation with Malashri Lal. (12:30pm–1:30 pm)
‘Kumbh Mela’: Sir James Mallinson in conversation with Diana