The pink city is riding on the Jaipur Literature Festival enthralling vibe. The whole city is peppered with various JLF mementos, and that includes people discussing literature at almost all the lunches and dinners we have had so far. It’s the weekend and the number of literature enthusiasts has quadrupled at Jaipur Literature Festival 2016.
Our day three began with an auto guy taking us for a joyride through intricate crowded lanes of Jaipur, and as a result we were terribly late for Steve McCurry’s 10 am session. From what we hear, Bashrat Peer who was supposed to hold the conversation with Steve McCurry got lost at the venue and was replaced by the ubiquitous William Dalrymple.
The Lilliputian size of the Durbar Hall, where the session was held, makes it imperative for the organizers to shut the gates early. So when our Mumbai locals-hustle training led to no result, Nupur and I decided to make our way to Anita Nair’s session ‘Good morning & God Speed’ at Ford Samvad. And I am quite glad that we did.
Anita gave a small but insightful talk about her writing practices. There was a lot to extract from it, especially for aspiring writers like yours truly. Restless soul, as she calls herself, Anita has worked in various genres of writing including travel, poetry, fiction, essays, and is now busy penning lyrics for a rock band! Her roving creative instincts have been a part of her life ever since she was a kid. “I would often get onto a bus randomly, go till the last stop and then come back.”
Anita gives a lot of credit to her days as a copywriter in an advertising firm for teaching her to write succinctly and to be thick-skinned about rejection. After years of experience, editing while writing is something that comes to her instinctively, she believes. To a young writer in the audience though, she advised to take some time between writing and then finally editing. When someone asked her about her travel writing, she described it as storytelling about the people she meets on her travel. A Malyalam magazine called Yathra, published out of Kerala, runs a regular column by Anita titled ‘Speaking Suitcase’ about these fascinating stories.
After Anita, it was time for the prolific Meera Syal’s conversation with Arathi Prasad (writer, biologist and broadcaster) about Meera’s new book ‘The House of Hidden Mothers’. The book, which focuses on surrogacy, inspired an intense discourse on Indian women, the idea of motherhood, and of course, surrogacy. The audiences gave a roaring applause to the dramatic reading of an excerpt by Meera (who is also a well-known actress) which was a conversation between two women in the book, one of whom has just come back after serving her role as a surrogate mother.
For me, personally, the most interesting part of the conversation was when Arathi asked Meera about her work process, especially in the context of being a working mother. “My creativity has become much sharper since motherhood. I use my time better now. I understand things in a much more profound way. For a writer, that’s a great thing,” she said.
A short while later, I found myself amidst the teeming crowds at the sunkissed grounds of Char Bagh for a session on ‘The Global Novel’. The crowd was presumably inspired by the stellar lineup that included Margaret Atwood, Chiki Sarkar, Colm Tóibín, Aleksander Hemon, David Grossman, Sulaiman Addonia and Sunjeev Sahota. Is the impact of the novel diminishing or increasing in today’s context? The relevance of Ulysses. Are TV series playing a huge role in usurping novel’s power of narrating history? What’s a global novel anyway? It’s about writing a novel that’s universal. The evolution of novel as an art form. The deluge of bad novel writing. The novel’s ability to make people evoke their imagination and construct a world around them. These were just some of the main points that passionately jumped around across the very sharp panel.
JLF’s day three ended for us with that as we headed to celebrate our Saturday with full aplomb at Teatro Dhora with Shantanu Pandit, some delicious chocolates, wine and our little Paper Planes corner. The event was everything we imagined it to be. The night overflowed with wine, and a lot of interesting conversations.
PS: Oh, I must not forget to share another great lunch place discovery – in Jaipur the quaint and lovely café Taruveda, Civil Lines.
Payal Khandelwal is an independent journalist and founder/editor of The Floating Magazine, a digital publication about visual arts in Asia & Middle East.