LiteratureSthan: Books, Beers and Beyond | JLF 2018

When a Methodist actor gets a standing ovation and the entire literary fraternity goes berserk by registering record attendance, shows that people have evolved and so is their taste in reading. This goes without a saying, Nawazzudin Siddiqui’s entry into JLF, the world’s greatest literary fest as Saadat Hassan Manto was a sight to witness.

People embraced the (to be) on-screen Manto with love and pride. I don’t think even a Shahrukh or Salman would’ve garnered the kind of response as he got. For those who don’t know, Manto was a rebel-writer and his short stories were brutal and would hit society right into the face. Toba Tek Singh, Kaali Shalwar and Thanda Gosht are some of his most proclaimed works. Do read them and let more people know of Manto’s world.


Not only Urdu or English, the fest was a magnum opus for other vernacular writers. The new-generation readers who’ve forgotten the charm of anupraas- alankars were taken for a ride by Hindi stalwarts like Gaurav Solanki and Vyasji in their sessions.

Looking at a global scale, it was a multilingual & a multicultural fiesta. Never in one’s life could one imagine a 1-1 session with an undercover writer. Sounds fascinating right! It indeed is. Suki Kim is the only person to have ever lived in North Korea as an undercover agent for immersive journalism. She is a proud author of bestsellers like – The Interpreter and Without You There’s No Us. I mean, the kind of exposure this festival gives to readers and writers, you can’t even gauge the altitude of it.

People from all corners of the world had flocked in plenty for the Jaipur Literature Festival, which happened at the Diggi Palace/ Clark’s Amer from Jan 25-29. Young, adults, oldies; everyone had a special author to look forward to.

Rupi Kaur, the New York best seller and the prodigy of slam poetry mesmerized the adolescent teens (females primarily) with her book launch – The Sun and Her Flowers. Rupi, who attended JLF two years back from the audience, surely has moved a long way in to her life. Her anecdotes from Milk and Honey left a lot teary-eyed. On the other hand, adults who are into political awareness or kids frenzied with Tharoorian swag were left awestruck by Shashi’s book launch and session for Why I’m a Hindu. Tharoor, known for his immaculate oratorship, kept the claps flowing throughout as he spoke in Hindi for an hour. It was a treat to have witnessed him live.

Foodies from the sub-continent had some equally good moments from the sessions on their literary platter. Chand Sur, the author of #LucknowCookBook, a speaker who’s 92, took the crowd with a storm with her thoughts on food; transcending time and borders. According to Sur, food brings people together, irrespective of the borders and landscapes. Irish stew in Lucknow still feels the same to her as it was in Lahore. Balochi Machli and Bhuna Gosht are a few more entrants to her memoirs of partition.


Taking the partition saga ahead, Aanchal Malhotra took the center-stage. Aanchal, the proud heiress of Delhi’s best Bookstore (Bahrisons) and the author of Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory spoke of her tales of interviewing people in Punjab, Kolkata, and Lahore and explained how food still connects so many people. Food constitutes a significant part of one’s memory as you tend to grow older, it becomes even more prominent. She also emphasized a lot on the fact that, no matter how many Kindles may come and go, physical books and Bookstores are here to stay and they’ll continue to thrive. I wish kindle had a way to preserve second hand notes and the fragrance of the gifted roses tucked in them for years.

In between the sessions you could grab a beer, chill a bit, go to the bookstore or see the fashionista brigade who were just there to grab the eye balls and had no connection with literature. Literature ka “L” bhi nahi aata hoga unhe. But, that I guess is the law of nature.

For every 5 dorks, 1 pretty instagrammer maintains the equilibrium of the universe.

The part which fascinated me the most was talking to the man behind JLF; Sanjoy K Roy, MD of Team Thought works. Roy tells how madly this fest has institutionalized the literary allure in the State. How, delegates, authors, journalists, PR guys and literature enthusiasts fly down from all across the globe and do their bit to increase the touristy quotient of the state. It has commercialized a bit, but that’s the need of hour in the emerging economy.

We – Bagga,Divij and I worked like crazy to take the best of the bytes, candid shots and kept the engagement quotient of Rajasthan Tourism’s handles up and kicking. Imagine working with a team, who had no interest in literature and eventually one fell for Rupi and the other on glamour, it captured outside the Penguin stall. One person I missed the most is Tarini. Had she been there, it’d be legendary. The bubbly, ever smiling, Arundhati fan is the most slaying (literally bole to katal) copywriter I’ve ever come across.

Not to forget, the Lal Maas on all the days for dinner and the charming buffet spread added up to divine luncheon scenes.

Keeping aside all the glittering aspects, there were moments, outside of the JLF arena; which I’m going to cherish for a lifetime – Staying in a dorm. Met Ram, a pediatrician from Chennai; Shantanu, a runaway kid; Bhaumik, Saanya,Vishakha – the Gujju gang. The best part about Gujjus attending JLF is that they idolize it a lot. After Navratri, this is their official/annual getaway ritual from home and is no less than a Tomorrowland. I got to know about other authors whom I had never heard about. Chitra Banerjee, Alice Walker, Mahasweta Devi, Alice Munro, Mohsin Hamid, Amy Tan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman; who has already set the internet on fire post his confirmation for 2019.

Dil Khush Ho Gaya. Never had work sounded this interesting, thanks to AGL.
I’m not sure when do I get to attend this festival as a special delegate. So, I enjoyed like there wasn’t any coming back. I shall try to imitate Rupi though. Need to start working aggressively on my book – prose on Cricket.

To sum it up, the Lit fest was lit af. Long live literature !


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