In The Crowd: Jaipur Literature Festival

By Tanya, based on the Jaipur Literature Festival

Numerous bright colours adorning the arch of Diggi palace stand out in the mundane traffic of Shivaji Marg in Jaipur. The street is unusually busy, lively with a hundred thousand people from different parts of the world, busting the gates of Diggi palace while some are patiently standing outside in a queue since morning to register and get the passes. A chaotic jumble of literature lovers, authors, books and wild hearts.

For the past four years as a participant among the crowd, I have witnessed some of the most enthralling moments as a literature enthusiast. This is a festival that gave me a chance to enhance my interest and love for writing. The Jaipur literature Festival has been providing a common platform to all the writers and book lovers to come under one roof, a festival where you get to meet your favourite authors, hear them live and meet some wonderful people with vivid experiences.

This year too I bunked classes and hastily got ready early in the morning with a printout of the pass on the first day of JLF, yet I was late for the Margaret Atwood session. The delay didn’t make me miss the impeccable first words of Ms. Atwood, but I had to stand, or rather position my tiny figure among tall men and women in trendy coats and hats. While Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple welcomed all the wild hearts (Aren’t they wild hearts with their exotic imagination?), I found a place in some corner where I could not see, but could hear Margaret’s voice sieving through the tightly packed crowd into my ears. She talked of her youth, and everyone could not stop gazing at her as she charmingly spoke of her books. While in the next session of Margaret Atwood, I escaped at the end of the session to the book store to buy her book ‘The Heart Goes Last’ so that I could get it signed. I stood in the line for an eternity. It was a long line starting from one corner of the Front Lawns to the other, like a snake stretching longer and longer as more people came and joined. But Ms. Atwood left half way through and everyone at the tail-end of the snake line left too. My dedication did not die so I came with the book for yet another Margaret Atwood session, but this time she did not sit for book signing. But such small disappointments are too minute to overshadow the happiness of seeing her talk and charm the crowd with her wise words.

Apart from her there was Ruskin Bond sharing ‘Scenes from a Writer’s Life,’ talking about Dehradun, his first book ‘My Calling,’ and sharing many other experiences from his life. While the crowd juggled with people from all ages and walks of life, he sat down nonchalantly talking and answering questions from the crowd. The crowd seemed infinite, I remember hardly being able to see even half of the chairs from the back.

Yet another moment engraved in my heart was when Jerry Pinto enthusiastically recited Lewis Carol’s Jabberwocky on the stage:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
      And the mome raths outgrabe. 

And he went on impressing the crowd with the sheer enunciation of his words. This session of his on poems caught my fascination. He talked about his journey as a poet and about Robert Frost, Gajanand Muktibodh and many other English and Hindi poets. Moreover I was successfully able to get a copy of ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ signed by him.

The hullabaloo of Jaipur Literature Festival did not die even on the third day. Bliss engulfed the crowd when Gulzar came on stage on the fourth day. He enchanted the crowd, reciting his collection of ‘Green Poems’ which was a distinct take on nature.

“पिछली बार आया था तो पहाड़ ने मुझसे कहा, ‘तुम लोगों के कद छोटे होते हैं। बस, मेरी पसलियों पर पांव रखो और ऊपर आ जाओ। जरा चेहरा तो देखूं तुम्हारा, जैसे तुम लोगों को चींटियां एक जैसी लगती हैं वैसे ही मुझे तुम सब भी एक जैसे दिखाई देते हो। मेरी कोई चींटी तुम्हारे बदन पर चढ़ जाए तो चुटकी से पकड़ कर मार देते हो तुमपर मैं ऐसा नहीं करता। कहने को कह देते हो तुम पर तुम बड़ों की इज्जत करते नहीं। इसलिए तुम लोगों के कद इतने छोटे होते हैं।”

Gulzar kept on reciting verses from his book and the crowd kept on waiting for more.

Each year I wait for January end to experience some incredible moments at JLF. What I have mentioned above are just small drops in the ocean of memories I have built in the past four years. I wish to witness and be a part of the Jaipur Literature Festival each year, to uplift my literary enthusiasm, listen to some thought–provoking talks and meet some amazing wild hearts.

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