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Big fat litfest enthrals Pink city

Big fat litfest enthrals Pink city
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It is that time of the year when the Pink City of Rajasthan drowns itself completely in the joys of literature, well adorned by national and international writers worldwide. With a string of intriguing music bonanzas and  literary events, and with a footfall exceeding 200,000 this year, the JLF 2014 (Jaipur literature festival) turned out to be the most unique and an interesting event of its kind, providing an excellent platform to budding writers and authors to promote and discuss myriad literary issues.

According to festival officials, Indian literary festivals are modelled on broader cultural celebrations, much like our song-and-dance film festivals. However, there’s of course a difference in conventional dowdiness of government-sponsored funds and affairs and the motley crew at work behind the scenes turning JLF into the Kumbh Mela of all literary festivals around the world.

One of the major highlights of the festival were  the musical bonanza after the literary sessions concluded in the evening. Be it sufi, to soul, folk or fusion, gypsy dance or jazz, the literature festival had it all to enthral music lovers with an audiovisual offering at the Hotel Clarks, Amer. Interestingly, this year, Africa’s greatest band, a memorial concert for Cheb I Sabbah, along with musicians like Karsh Kale, Kiran Ahluwalia, Midival Punditz and the best of Rajasthani musicians and dancers performed at the litfest.

Since the weather was cold and rainy which the month of January had in store for not just Rajasthan, but the whole of North India, visitors warmed themselves drinking a special hot cuppa tea, the ‘Pushkari chai,’ to keep the mood bouncy between sessions. Foodies got their stomach’s delight in the Diggipuri food and chaat flavoured with exclusive and rare Rajasthani spices. Besides, one also slurpped on the molten choco lava at the icecream and other delicacy stalls. Exhausted after too much literary limelight, the writers and the listeners alive gorged on the yummy goodies offered in certain designated areas for affiliated mercandise.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the litfest was easily the largest congregation for both writers in English and other Indian languages.  So what were the golden words that the authors uttered at the fest?

Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri declared, ‘The reading habits are transformed by the mainstream and personally I feel American literature absolutely overrated and hyped.’ Lahiri was quizzed by American author Jonathan Frazen, British writer Jim Crace and Chinese author Xiaolu Guo. ‘It is shameful that translation is still not taken seriously in the American market and I  might appear opinionated, but that’s actually reality. Having stayed in the US the country gives one a completely new perspective,’ Lahiri said.

Outlining the journey of her books, beginning with an initial rough idea to the ultimate draft, Lahiri said, ‘she never knew how a book would eventually turn out or what the end of a story would come out to be. ‘It is still a mystery for me and I am sure we all have certain mysteries to be unfolded in life,’ Lahiri mused.

‘When writing, I never have any pre-conceived notion or concept in my mind. Since my parents lived in Calcutta and I too as a kid have spent summer vacations there, so creating characters based  in Calcutta comes naturally to me. There is no extra effort that I take to draw out this colonial city in my books. However, in future I might explore some other Indian cities,’ she added.

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting things people did at the literatue festival! There were a number of experimentations as far as the sartorial mood of the litfest was concerned. Clothes said a lot. For example, some sported the ‘aam aadmi cap’ along with a broom, especially ladies dressed to thrill and turn politics into a fashion statement!

But of course even authors need grounding and many were spotted dangling their smartphones desperately searching for charging points. Several phone fanatics even ended up missing their favourite sessions and joined serpentine queues to resurrect their dead phone batteries.

Desperate visitors were seen standing in queues to get their books autographed. But it wasn’t as organised as perceived to be. It was nothing but an insane chaos. The tiniest of people were seen carrying the heaviest and thickest of tomes and braving the longest of lines to get their books signed! And in case a hapless soul was somehow kicked out of the line, absolutely no mercy was shown to her by the marauding litterateurs.

Of course, no festival is complete without its fashionistas strutting about in their colourful feathers. They unleashed styling ideas to be copied in future by wannabe writers and self-conscious readers.

Yes, even pseudo intellectuals were brought in to make a splash with their jargons and mingle well with the literary fraternity. People were spotted aping Jhumpa lahiri’s cosmopolitan sartorial statement. Unfortunately, some got too inspired and started mimicking her accent, much to the consternation of others. The camera crew picked on sleepyheads catching a wink between or during sessions, showcasing the most embarrassing sleeping postures and flashing it on screen instantly. But, spirited attendees were clearly game for 10 seconds of instant fame!

JLF is known for offering friendships that are worth keeping for this lifetime. People exchanged ideas and addresses, talked about their favourite authors and made lasting bonds.

All those who couldn’t get JLF’s last edition’s haan haan main crazy hoon out of their heads, were seen humming  umeedon waali dhoop, sunshine wali asha at the beginning of every literary debate. Well, hats off to the sponsors, the Zee group for coming up with a meaningful video of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, apt for the festival.

The litfest was a gossipmonger’s dream come true. Faux pas in terms of misquotes, wrong answers, bad hairdos, acerbic attitude and everything under the faint sun and much rain became items of rumour and filled notepads and smartphones of many a visitor and delegate.  Well as long as it keeps the visitors happy and engaged, the festival welcomes all.
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