Posts Tagged ‘ZEE Jaipur Literary Festival’

11 February, 2018

I Woke Up Like This

This is a story in two parts. And this picture has nothing to do with it, but it’s a cool photograph. Because even though I grew up in a place where a leather jacket would be truly odd to own and even odder to don, I think it’s kind of cool. 
 
1.
Four years ago, I met a man at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. His name is Sumeet Shetty. We had good conversation and wrote briefly to each other after I left. Two days ago I got an email from Sumeet, and we re-connected to talk about books, about the possibility of my being a part of his book initiatives in Bangalore, and a mutual friend, Rick Simonson, whom he had seen again at JLF this year. Summit also sent along a link to a fairly recent video about his work.
 
2.
Sometimes our family’s idea of light easy Sunday brunch conversation is to run through unpronounceable words, declaiming the importance of knowing them, which leads to the importance of reading and, at least one mention of the New Yorker, (yes, I’m an Eagles fan), and also scrutinizing each others foibles. Mine, I’m told, is that I just can’t stop analyzing America. American media, in particular. Today it was about what passes for journalism when Otto Warmbier’s father is made part of the American delegation to the Olympics, and who is on national TV asking “what kind of country tortures people,” and Lester Holt does not have the cojones to say, “ours.”
 
It is true. I have a predilection to tell it straight. It is not because I hate America or Americans, but that circumstances have aligned my life and the lives of many people I love here and abroad (and that includes a lot of people who don’t vote the way I would), with what is done in this country. I consider it unconscionable (for me) to simply acquiesce to the status quo in this country, and to remain silent in the face of things, even if I frequently feel that it is hopeless to attempt to change anything. I chip away at what I can change, and the rest of the time I refuse to let my guard down, I refuse to shut up or, rather, stuff my mouth with enough white bread to cover up the fact that it is still a shit sandwich thereby setting up an alibi for my silence.
 
Off I went, mulling and reeling a little bit (yes, indeed, contrary to all appearances certain things do make me reel though they will never make me not rally and fight another day). I went and read email, that reliable antidote to ones own preoccupations. That’s when I came across this video that Sumeet sent me. I am not from Bangalore, but I am South Asian in every way. I am also, perhaps, Middle Eastern in my heart and mind. I could be mediterranean in my constitution. But I am a product of my culture and upbringing, which is South Asian, Sri Lankan in particular. That is what keeps my mind agile, and my heart compassionate and hopeful and looking for the fun of things.
 
In an article I wrote for Electric Literature, ‘Pineapple & Roasted Nuts,’ which later appeared in the UK Guardian, I spoke about the way I grew up, revering words and books, and that neither was considered the special prerogative of a select class or people, that some of the biggest champions of books in Sri Lanka were people associated with corporate life. Summit’s video took me right back to that essay. There’s a reason why we people raised in other places, who come to build America – because America is nothing if it isn’t what is being created of its constituent parts which includes the outcome of its atrocities, a point made beautifully by Elaine Castillo in an essay for LitHub – there’s a reason why we can’t claim to be able to kick butt while simultaneously shutting up and sitting down. We say things out loud because we were taught how. We talk because we learned to read, not because what was in a book was appearing on a test but because we understood the importance of inhabiting other realities, other lives, to value them as being as precious as our own.
 
Take the two minutes it will take to watch this  video. I think you might understand where I’m coming from.
 
Come to think of it, that picture has everything to do with this post. I wasn’t raised in a place where I would want to own or even wear such a jacket, but if I find myself in a place where it made sense to borrow one and put it on, I’m going to rock the look. #immigrants #wegetthejobdone #wokeuplikethis
 
 

21 January, 2015

The Jaipur Literary Festival

I’m over at the Huffington Post, with an interview with the redoubtable Willy Darlymple on the Jaipur Literary Festival which began today. Here’s an excerpt. The full interview can be found here.

A few days ago, William Dalrymple, famed architect of the Zee Jaipur Literary Festival which opened today, posted the following status update with a few significant details:

“Over the next six days we will be deploying at Jaipur:
– 240 speakers
– Over 2,000 workers to ready the venue
– Over 500 crew and volunteers
– Authors & Musicians from nearly 60 countries representing 22 languagesJLF2015– well over 2 lakh footfalls of visitors at Diggi Palace over 5 days
– a whole village has been imported to cook 15,000 plus hot meals for authors, press and delegates
– 940 lights will be erected across all venues in the 14-acre site at Diggi Palace
– 8 venues (6 at Diggi Palace, one each at Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal)
– 1,800 rooms plus rooms booked at Jaipur hotels for visiting speakers
– Over 2,30,000 sq ft of cloth used to decorate the Festival site
– Over 1,80,000 decorative hangings will adorn the venue”

It sounds both outrageous and delightful. The fact that several hundreds of those who will be speaking at the festival mingle, and refresh themselves in between sessions in a very small courtyard equipped with one small room for resting, is part of the charm of the world’s most popular literary festival.

I sat in that room – the room where Jhumpa Lahiri might go to speak to an interviewer, where Gloria Steinem might go to powder her nose, and where more than one author goes to lie down for a few minutes in between sessions, and where, surely, V. S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux will exchange a few private words this year – and speak with William Dalrymple. As we conversed, a young man walked in and asked why Dalrymple wants to live in India. “Only Indians ask me that,” Dalrymple quipped, harkening back to the idea that none of us appreciate our own homelands, whose many graces are shrouded by the black curtain of our familiarity. Perhaps it is the more hopeful and forgiving eye of the foreigner that has helped Dalrymple to conceive of a festival like this. There is a palpable energy and excitement at this particular celebration of literature that unfolds among and within the palaces of Rajasthan’s capital city, bolstered by the fluidity of the masses of volunteers who supply everything from a ballpoint pen to a train to the Taj Mahal without ruffle, an equanimity only matched by the even bigger masses flowing through the festival grounds. Between the blur of moderating and speaking on several panels, Dalrymple paused to discuss the thinking behind the creation of what is now the largest entirely free literary festival in the world

The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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