Sunday, 13 March 2022, day four of this year’s edition of the on-ground Jaipur Literature Festival, unfolded at its usual effortless pace. The previous day too had seen a diverse range of sessions – including one with Member of Parliament and bestselling author Shashi Tharoor in conversation with journalist, author and columnist Vir Sanghvi. Tharoor is a prolific wordsmith who has written over 20 books. During the conversation, Tharoor discussed his love for reading and shared his ideas, insights, convictions with Sanghvi. Commenting on the state of India’s diversity, Tharoor remarked that he is worried. “An India that is denied to some of us will be denied to all of us,” said Tharoor. In another session titled Ancient India: Culture of Contradictions, renowned professor Upinder Singh, author of Political Violence in Ancient India and The Idea of Ancient India: Essays on Religion, Politics, and Archaeology, was in conversation with historian, author and Festival Co-Director, William Dalrymple.
Carrying forward the Festival’s eclectic flavour, the fourth day of the literary extravaganza opened at the Front Lawn with a yoga session by Nutrition Consultant and Yoga Teacher, Shikha Mehra. Mehra began by demonstrating body-breath awareness exercises and a flow routine which awakens the entire body, activates the muscles, reduces stiffness and tension in the body and mind. The session ended with pranayam. Morning Music was graced by The Aahvaan Project with musicians Sumit Balakrishnan, Anirban Gosh, Vedi Sinha, Varun Gupta and Nikhil Vasudevan presenting an inspired performance to the wisdom of Kabir.
- At a panel discussion comprising violinist Ambi Subramaniam; leading film composer and singer Shekhar Ravjiani; musician Ayaan Ali Bangash; and research-led writer and curator Sadhana Rao talked about what raga means to each of them and their personal journeys of learning and understanding ragas. By its very nature, raga promises the immortality of creation, expression and freedom. During the conversation, Ravjiani said, “…for me raag is an emotion… When I start a composition, there is a raag playing in my head, ab vo raag ka naam kya hai mujhe nahi pata, jab banata hoon uske log kehte hai ki…this song takes us to a bahar… ”
- During a panel discussion on the power of Mother Earth on our lives, on wildlife, conservation, literature and healing, award-winning British poet Ruth Padel and conservation biologist, author and columnist Neha Sinha were in conversation with forester and writer Vandana Singh-Lal. At the session, Padel talked about her book, Where The Serpent Lives and read a few passages from it while Sinha proceeded to read excerpts from her work, Wild and Wilful. On how humans should engage with forests, Sinha noted, “ … if you keep the boundary, they [animals] respect you and I don’t think people always respect boundaries…it’s an inalienable power to being a human being, to have places we can go to which we haven’t made, which have made themselves and have wilful and wild processes.”
- Film critic and writer Anupama Chopra’s A Place in My Heart is an ode to the power of storytelling, the magic of cinema, and the adoration of cinema-goers. In conversation with writer Shunali Khullar Shroff, Chopra unravelled her place of work and worship, the films that have shaped her long career and fuelled personal intrigue. During the conversation, Chopra also talked about celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar.
- At the Jan Michalski Foundation Baithak, owner of Design Directions Pvt. Ltd Satish Gokhale was in conversation with Founder and Director of ARCH College of Design & Business Archana Surana. The session emphasised the role of farsighted leadership, encompassing a deeper and more empathetic approach to both people and the environment, keeping in mind a harmonious relationship between the planet and human society.
- The Hindi language has become the new ‘cool’, especially among the millennials. The new digital media, podcast channels and social media platforms have given a stage to those who have not only grown up loving the language, but have also earned their bread and butter through it. From being treated as a difficult language of the past, it has become the preferred mode of creative expression. At a session focused on ‘Is Hindi the New Cool?’ – authors Divya Prakash Dubey and Nishant Jain discussed the story behind this change and its key players, with publisher and editor Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal.
- At another session, Member of Parliament and bestselling author Shashi Tharoor; retired Supreme Court Judge Madan B Lokur; journalist, reporter and columnist Swati Chaturvedi and entrepreneur and investor Mohit Satyanand talked about state surveillance and what that means for all of us. While talking about surveillance by the state, Satyanand said, “I might dare to call it surveillance fascism.” Tharoor said that he doesn’t like to use words like fascism too easily because they become a term of abuse rather than a term of analysis but noted that “…the surveillance state has certainly been growing…”. The panel discussion focused on the digital age and how the condition of modern governance relies on the covert power of observation.
- At a session called ‘Delhi: The City and Its People’, writer M Mukundan, empanelled copy editor with Indian publishers and at IIM Ahmedabad – Nandakumar K, former Associate Professor of English, Kerala Government Service – Fathima EV, were in conversation with art historian Alka Pande. The panel discussed Mukunandan’s utterly fascinating novel and the process of a collaborative translation.
- At another session, politician and author, Smriti Zubin Irani presented her debut novel, Lal Salaam, a story of grit and resilience that seeks to humanise daily conflicts and ethical dilemmas in violence-hit areas. In conversation with journalist Pragya Tiwari, Irani shared the impulses that drove her to write this remarkable page-turner and the inspirations behind her work. During the conversation, Irani spoke about the research she did for the book over a decade and described Sanjoy K. Roy’s kind reaction on receiving the book. She said, “ For me the book is a celebration of sacrifices of many individuals who will never be spoken of but who’ve believed in the Constitution, upheld the values of that Constitution, not taken up arms against your own country…and I think that this is a book that is a tribute to them.”