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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Best of the Jaipur Literature Festival

Jaipur Literature Festival is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific, held annually in January.
The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival 2012 was conceptualized five years ago by New Delhi-based literary tag team William Dalrymple and Namita Ghokale, bringing together an appealing mix of mainstream and fringe Indian and international writers to present their ideas on Indian thought, culture and its global context in relation to their own works.

This festival is not your average overdose of book readings and panel discussions, brooding authors and a drowsy audience.

For one, it is a free festival.

The informal, celebratory and interdisciplinary atmosphere in the gardens of an old and intimate Rajasthani palace, attracts a diverse crowd of 60,000-odd readers. Actors, directors, fashion designers, economists, travelers, politicians, scientists, students, bloggers and all manner of urban hipsters congregate in the sunny on-site cafe to spend three days "in conversation."

The Jaipur Lit Fest has expanded in collaboration with producers Teamwork, extending literature into the areas of music, dance, art, philosophy, history -- with one or two tense political debates featuring each year.

This year’s highlights include high-profile writers such as Salman Rushdie, Mohamad Hanif, Gurcharan Das, Annie Proulx and Jamaica Kincaid.

At night, the wine flows and the stage bursts with the Dionysian revelry that has historically followed a literary salon.

This year’s world music and dance performances focus on the tradition of Sufi and Bhakti poetry and songs spanning from traditional Rajasthani fire eaters to DJ Cheb I Sabbah and Dub Colussus.

January 20-24, 2012

Diggi House, Shivaji Marg, C-Scheme, Jaipur – 302004, Rajasthan; +91 (0)141 237 3091/236 6120; New Delhi office             +91 (0)11 2601 1430      ;

For one talk per day, choose:

Fiction: Michael Ondaatje

Booker-prize winning novelist ("The English Patient"), Ondaatje’s writing is romantic, precise, ironic, place-less and rooted in culture simultaneously. His manner is gentle, insightful and honest. He talks about his travels, his writing process and reads from his newer texts. 

From Ink lake: Michael Ondaatje in conversation with Amitava Kumar

January 20, front lawns, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

History: Phillip Gourevitch

Gourevitch, former editor of "The Paris Review," known for his retelling of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, speaks to historian Tim Butcher and travel writer Philip Marsden about political refugees and the legacy of horror in the heart of Africa.

January 21, Baithak tent, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Gulzar, poet and Indian cinema celebrity at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2010.
Poetry: Gulzar

Gulzar is the recipient of a national award for his contribution to poetry in the Urdu language. He is also the lyricist behind the Academy award winning song, "Jai Ho" from the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."

Gulzar’s poetry carries you to old ashtrays, the ink of a lost pen, the shadows of an old lover. It makes you wander and imagine, laughing with the poet at his follies, at your follies. He reads in Hindi, but explains its meaning in English, and even if you can grasp a line here and there, its lyric sound will rustle like pages on a windy night.

Raavi Paar: Readings from Punjab

Gulzar, Navdeep Suri, Madan Gopal Singh, Mohammed Hanif Moderated by Nirupama Dutt

January 22, Mughal Tent, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Non-fiction: Ariel Dorfman

Ariel Dorfman, Argentine-Chilean writer and human rights theorist was the cultural advisor to Chilean president Salvador Allende before the coup. Factually and personally political, his experience of tyranny, exile and revolution make both his writing and his insights pungent with the stuff of real history.

Listen to him in conversation with four important South Asian political authors.

Writing and Resistance: Ariel Dorfman, Raja Shehadeh, Thant Myint-U, Iftikhar Gilani. Moderated by Fatima Bhutto.

January 23, Durbar Hall, 10-11 a.m.

Drama: Tom Stoppard

Sir Tom Stoppard is, with little hyperbole, a modern Shakespeare. His plays, often criticized for being excessively referential, are philosophical tributes to the absurdity of the human condition.

January 24, front lawns, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Play: Elephant safari

Sip on Champagne as the elephant lulls you along into the sunset, Maharajah style.

A local Rajput family organizes elephant safaris through the foothills of the Aravali, through their wooded camp.

The ride culminates in a candle-lit dinner in the middle of the forest, far from the madding crowd.

Rs 4,000 per person inclusive of dinner;             +91 98290 12512      ;; 5:30 p.m. daily; reservation required

Eat: Anokhi Café

The café, in line with the store’s eco ethics, serves only organic food from nearby farms and healthy infusions.

The thick desert air of Jaipur leaves the traveler yearning for fresh salads, home-made cakes and, to douse the day and ignite the night, lemongrass tea (Rs 80).

This café is an edible extension to the clothing store, Anokhi, which makes contemporary hand-prints, supporting local and traditional artisans.

Try the corn fritters with a light yoghurt-mint dipping sauce, served on a bed of arugula in a honey-mustard dressing (Rs 125).

Anokhi Café, second floor, KK Square, C-11 Prithviraj Road, Jaipur;             +91 (0)141 4007245      

Open all week, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Shop: Hawa Mahal market

Hold a pose for five good minutes to see a fascinating version of yourself, in India, from a long time ago.

Walk the street markets outside the Hawa Mahal, the two-dimensional palace of winds through whose lattice royal ladies would look out onto the bustle of everyday life.

These make-shift stores are great for traditional Rajasthani leather shoes (jootis), trinkets, embroidered bags and such. Bargaining is a must, so muster a stamina beforehand.

Down the street, on the same side as the Hawa Mahal, is a photographer who sits with an old camera from the 19th century. Rs 100 for a photo.

Hawa Mahal Market, NH8, Kanwar Nagar, Badi Chaupar, Jaipur

Play: Hot air balloon ride

Occasionally, you catch a glimpse of an antelope.

To place yourself on a map, or to start the day with perspective, a hot air balloon ride over Jaipur is a totally radical way of accessing a city made of an intense network of pink streets and their peering people.

The balloon glides over Amber Fort, the Aravali range and neighboring villages.

Your balloon drifts over tiny people in tiny villages in a slow rhythm of dark and light. Finally, you descend onto their farmland, welcomed by those same villagers, now life-sized, adorned in bright Rajasthani colors.

Rs 12,000 or (US$225) per person, including transfers to and from your hotel;

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