If the first day of an event sets the standard for what's to come, the 12th ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival had big shoes to fill. And fill, it did, on the second day, which featured a plethora of book launches, readings, discussions and much more. From healthcare and politics to mythology and animal rights, no topics were off-limits for the literary elite that descended upon Jaipur for what has been dubbed ‘the world’s greatest literary carnival’.
A rousing performance by legendary songstress Usha Uthup kicked off the festivities on day two, followed by enriching discussions featuring Andrew Sean Greer, Ben Okri, Jerry Pinto, Javed Akhtar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Devdutt Pattanaik, among many others.
One of the morning’s main draws was ‘The Empire of Cotton’, a conversation between Sven Beckert – who has authored a book of the same name – and Patrick French. In the insightful chat, the author and historian traced the rise and rise of capitalism through the lens of the ubiquitous yet oft-ignored commodity. From slavery to colonialism, Beckert’s chronicle of the crop detailed the role it has played in furthering capitalism. And while looking into the history of capitalism may paint a dreary picture of the future, Beckert noted that things like slavery and oppression are “not necessarily the essence of capitalism”. Pointing out that capitalism has also led to unprecedented innovation, he added that the present is already better than the past, presenting an optimistic outlook for the future.
Other crowd-pulling sessions included the unveiling of the Dainik Jagran Nielsen Hindi Best Seller List, a discussion on healthcare infrastructure in India, the upcoming cricket World Cup, a conversation about rural distress in the country, and an exploration of Rajasthan’s literary legacy. All this was accompanied by a host of book launches, including
Portrait of an Artist, The Tao of Spirituality, and Kaivalyam, which was unveiled by Shashi Tharoor.
‘Tea Time for the Traditionally Built’, one of the closing sessions, was a rip-roaring chat between prolific author Alexander McCall Smith and renowned journalist Bee Rowlatt. The writer, who has penned over a hundred books, recounted some of the hilarious incidents that have inspired his most well-known works. One that elicited the most raucous laughter was the story behind
My Italian Bulldozer, which – as the name suggests – involved a bulldozer, an Italian priest and the walls of a vineyard being knocked down. To this, Bee Rowlatt rightly pointed out – “I don’t think the words ‘The priest and I got into the bulldozer’ have ever been said at the Jaipur Literature Festival”.
Over at Jaipur Bookmark, the industry event that runs concurrently with the festival, content distribution models, gender equations in publishing, and copyright were up for discussion by the who’s-who of the literary world. The long list of speakers included publishing industry heavyweights, such as Jeremy Trevathan, Mary Therese Kurkalang, Juergen Boos, Jane McCredie, and Sian Smyth, among many others.After a long day of spirited discussion and debate, literature enthusiasts made their way to the Jaipur Music Stage to unwind – with a little bit of help from the Roohani Sisters and Indian Ocean. The Sufi sisters put on a soul-stirring performance that provided much-needed warmth on a chilly evening. And though Indian Ocean’s set was disrupted by minor power outages, these inconveniences only made the set – as the band put it – “more fun”.