It seems as if the political divide has never been as wide as it has in the last few years, which have slowly but certainly seen a rise in factionalism. Though it may seem like fostering conversation between people with vastly different ideologies is nearly impossible in the current political landscape, that’s exactly what the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival did in this year’s closing debate.
Inspired by the narrative at the heart of Sagarika Ghose’s
Why I Am a Liberal, the debate featured Ghose, journalist Sreenivasan Jain, poet and academic Makarand R. Paranjape, union minister of state (Independent Charge) for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, the Indian National Congress’ Kapil Sibal, journalist Mihir Swarup Sharma, author Vikram Sampath, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, and former minister of external affairs Salman Khurshid. Together, they took on the subject ‘Do Liberals Stifle Debate?’, with each bringing his or her own unique perspective to the table.
In her impassioned argument, Ghose emphasised that liberalism – or lack thereof – has much more to it than allegiance to a political party. “Liberalism is for everyone,” she said, to a round of applause. However, not everyone agreed. Paranjape provided the audience with some food for thought by contradicting her: “Which of us sees himself or herself as a bigot or illiberal?”
While many different ideas were presented, it was perhaps Salman Kurshid who summed it up best, noting that, “A liberal is a person who believes that everyone has the right to be wrong.” This right, along with the spirit of debate that is the backbone of a functioning democracy, was out on full display at the closing debate. And isn’t that what India is all about?
Enlightening as it was, the closing debate was far from the only highlight of the event, which also featured insights from NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant, bestselling writer Jeffrey Archer, one of BFSI’s most influential women Naina Lal Kidwai,
Call Me By Your Name author André Aciman, journalist Karan Thapar, actress Manisha Koirala, and Irvine Welsh, who penned Trainspotting, among many others.
One of the biggest draws of the week was ‘Healed: Life Learnings from Manisha Koirala’, wherein the actress poured her heart out about her battle with cancer. She recounted her journey, sharing lessons that she had learned along the way, leaving many eyes in the audience moist. However, it was her staunch advocacy for increased awareness and affordable treatment of cancer that won over the audience even more. Talking about what drove her to write her book Healed, Koirala noted, “When I was sick, I was searching for positive stories. I could not get many stories – except the success story of Lisa Ray and Yuvraj Singh – who came out fighting successfully with cancer, so I decided that when I get okay, I will share my stories with people.”
Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
On the same day, a panel discussion offered the writers’ perspective on a topic that every reader has discussed and debated – film adaptations. André Aciman, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Irvine Welsh and Yann Martel, who have all had their books immortalised on the silver screen, weighed in on various aspects – right from making cameos to what gets lost in the translation from page to screen. Perhaps the most interesting revelation born out of their chat was that even writers don’t always know the turns these films are going to take! “I thought I knew the story, and I didn’t know where it was going to end,” said André Aciman of the award-winning Brexit, migration, translation, women’s empowerment and sustainability were some more of the topics that this year’s distinguished speakers took on. And though the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2019 may be over, the ideas and partnerships born out of this edition are bound to live on for years to come. Here’s looking forward to 2020!
Call Me By Your Name adaptation.