A Delayed Reaction to The Jaipur Literature Festival 2012

The Jaipur Lit Fest was an event I decided to attend as a last minute diversion from my journey back to Delhi from Kota.

My ultimate fix for any journey. However the 'someone' who fixed this chai had ulterior motives of killing me with hypoglycemia
Thanks to the amazingly heart wrenching scene outside the dhaba, I was further more conviced that my tetra pack- milk in the killer chai was fresh as it could be

Now I don’t intend to rant on about a certain author of a banned book, nor do I yearn to rattle off sympathetic statements  for those who supported him. You may read this as a journal entry of a behenji who tried to learn and fine tune her life as much as she could in 3 days. So here goes:

Entering the 'Palace of Scholars'...and People who just wanted to know what the godda'ym noise was about

21st Jan:

‘Creativity, Censorship and Dissent’

Siddhartha Gigoo, Tahmima Anam, Prasoon Joshi, Charu Nivedita and Cheran, were a great gang of varied writers and poets who expressed their pent up views on how India is slowly emerging as a nation where the freedom of speech, even in terms of writing down what you believe, is getting choked up by politics (more essentially politicians). The one remarkable observation Prasoon made, was by using the example of China and the fact that a lot of bloggers and writers created another language that phonetically sounded like the words that they wanted to talk about,  which couldn’t be tracked by the government software systems. This highlighted the possibility of how people can create anther language to express their views , that allow them to demand a freedom they weren’t entitled to, or didn’t wish to utilize otherwise.

A stage loaded with conversation. A great start to the fest

‘Tiger Mothers’

Amy Chua in conversation with the annoying and half witted Madhu Trehan.

Why the hate? Well because I thought it was sucky for an interviewer to grill an author about their work, as if they were guilty of doing anything at all. She accused Amy Chua of being a weird mother, taking examples of her autobiography and basically making her defend everything she wrote in the book. Madhu fumbled when she introduced the book to the audiences as she even forgot (or perhaps didn’t know) the title of it!  

‘The Power of Myth’

Arshia Sattar, Jawhar Sircar, Amish Tripathi in conversation with Gurcharan Das

The myth is losing its power as we live our day to day lives. It can be regarded as a lie that tells us a truth. When we create a lie, build on it and create a pact to abide by it, that becomes a myth. An interesting story was then told about a Bengali Shiv, pot bellied and high-totally different to the mainstream representation of the God. This shows us the way that myths are like a pool of stories people contribute towards. From this pool certain stories are picked out from individuals. More essentially Indian myths show us how Indians approached ‘God’ and worship.

‘ The Famished Road’

Ben Okri in conversation with Chandrahas Chaudhury

According to Ben, “beginnings reveal the philosophy of the writer”. How you say it matters more than what you’re saying. It has to do with the tone, form, structure and beat of your words and sentences. You don’t know when the form is right, unless the tone is right. Ben showered his audiences with his wisdom, as he said that the musical quality of writing can only be achieved correctly after you’ve taken sentences and structures for a walk. He continued to show his magic as he read lines from his piece which was a combination of an essay and a poem titled, ‘A New Time For Dreams’. The mood of the fest was indeed a dreamy one, as it resonated with words like ‘seeing and being’ and ‘This is what we have allowed the world to become’.

‘Love Stories’

Pavan Varma, Namita Gokhale, Prasoon Joshi and Gulzar (the surprise element)

Make what you want/can from these recordings:

A Reading from ‘The Habit of Love’ by Namita Gokhale:

Prasoon Joshi Reads a Short Poem:

22nd Jan:

‘Holy Wars’

Ayesha Jalal in conversation with William Dalrymple

Ayesha thoughtfully stated that the ‘intellectual history’ of Jihad, is a complex and often misunderstood. She had written her book,  Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia (2008) seven years after 9-11. According to her, Jihadism had nothing to do with it. She continued to talk about the distinction between religion (that is contextualized) personal faiths and identity, stating that Jihadism was a way of fusing the three together. In her views, for a way of sanctioning the new practice the men who planted the seeds of Jihadism sanctioned it, by labeling it as ‘war in the way of God’. She said that in this way, faith became disassociated with law. Legal books were made on Jihadism, which functioned as a treatise on how people could deal with war and prisoners of war. She agreed that it was ironic that although there was no connection between faith and and Jihad, but empathized that in the day, there was no point doing Jihad without it. It was merely an ethical concept.

As she spoke, questions popped up in my mind. How do you justify war in a religious context? Ayesha miraculously answered my silent inquiry by stating that contexts in the form of treatises were made up to justify it. She also pointed out that muslims also fought Jihad with other fellow muslims in history as well, too. She herself justified the nature of Jihadism that took place in India during the onset of the Mughal rule. There was no reason to prolong the war or to be involved in it after the conquest of India, they merely had to establish their sovereignty and maintain peace henceforth.

Mr. Dalrymple and Ayesha Jalal
The 'Durbar' Hall at Diggi Palace


Lavish Lunch For Two Si Vous Plais?

On Sunday, the 15th of January my Mom was treated to a special birthday lunch in the bustling and highly commercialized Sector 29. Although we felt tempted by the restaurants that sprawled themselves in that square opposite Bikaner, the dazzling structure of The Pllazio Hotel, with its old world charm was definitely the choice for the day.

Although many have poked fun at the name, which looks slightly misspelled- we chose to blame it on the numerology-alphabetology shebang and entered right in, smiling at the really warm staff.

The buffet lunch was being set up with immense precision by people who worked there. We spent 20 minutes (we were early) observing them as they inspected each and every mouse, cake, shrimp cocktail-replacing the ones that didn’t look great, and so on.

The decor , the home-stitched looking serviettes, and the fact that things were colourful and sunny in the inside, really perked my senses. I felt as if I had sat myself down at a really nice home party. But then again, the lacey looking skylines and the chandeliers, showed that they were following the must-have decor code for poshy swoshy hotels.

The salad bar was crazy….Well, okay I went crazy over it. It’s just really rare for me to find fresh, bouncy veggies around town, especially at buffets. I couldn’t handle it. My corns flew everywhere, my peppers slid off,  grapes when tottering here and there, I was way too excited. And look at it…Just look at it. It has to be a crime for healthy food to look so bad-ass.

It’s so hot you can see it bubble. Chicken and vegetable soup. It was stocky, salty and filling. The Greens inside were kept fresh and I was almost sure I would pour it secretly into a bottle, to douse myself with it at home. It was so good, I was stoked…Or stocked. haha. I feel high on soup just by looking at it. I swear if you stare long enough at it, you can see that it has a smile…Aww.

It was soup times two (and yeah the “soup song” bit of Kolaveri does pop into your head) . The roasted pumpkin soup could not be missed. It was smooth. Which is rare.  Good on you Melange (oh that’s the name of the restaurant in the hotel by the way). This was a world cuisine main. I had the cheese cannelloni , the cabbage dolma, a bit of zaffrani biryani. cottage cheese/paneer in some coconut-chilli gravy and pease n mushroom gravy, which was very generous with garlic and ginger chunks. My favourite touch to any dish…Okay, ‘any’ was a bit of a stretch.

The pan Asian plate. Chicken biryani, sweet n sour chilli tofu (brazed….is that what it’s called?), spicy beans, and Thai greens. each dish had some name that originated from a different city of place in China…But I forgot. I just hogged till my guts’ content.

The reason why the angle of this photo is slanted, is most probably because I was collapsing with excitement and vengeful , relentless hunger.  The round thing with a big dollop of cream on it, is called the Shahi Tukra and it was sublime. Not too sweet at all. Beside it on the right was a sort of cream roll, that had a strong aftertaste of rose (now we all love surprises like that one). The strawberry and cream pastry is what every chubby pubescent boy around the nation would kill an Aunty for. I mean…with love ofcourse. It was fluffy, light and the foamy cream smeared all over your mouth. It was fun. The dry fruit slice was also really nice, but better if they had bigger slices and offered tea with it. The mocha mouse ( I refuse to acknowledge that thing as a tiramasu..it was just cream and a speck of a crumb at the bottom, dissected by a salty tasting cookie) was  a big no no no! finally the mother of all resistance was the chocolate swirl thing (if only I stopped to look at the names!). The chocolate was at the ‘Death By Chocolate’ level. Not sweet and bloody chocolaty. The cookie that formed its base, crumbled like a shortbread cookie. I loved it. I should have had more.

So now you know where to take a good normal date out (a person who eats and admits to consuming food), or a father, or mother or sibling. There were kids there too who got their own custom pizzas made (damn I should have done that! Oh well, there there, I’m sure there will be a next time!). The price? Rs.400 per head. Not bad I say. Go ape!