Sure, we are sometimes rudely awoken from this utopian dream by disruptions like Ravinder Singh and the strange men who enter the venue for the sole purpose of leering at unsuspecting foreign women - but otherwise, JLF is still highbrow heaven.
For the unacquainted, The Jaipur Literature Festival is India’s largest free literary festival and observed its eleventh edition this year. For many Delhi University students at least one trip to Jaipur is something that is meant to be checked off your list of “Things To Do As A DU Student”. So a bunch of us college mates packed our bags to attend our first JLF last year. This year was my second time at the festival, along with my cousin. After two years of successively attending the festival, I can write what I feel about the festival, with some degree of authority.
Once you reach there, you can easily make out that there are far too many people attending one session and you have to stand right at the end of the venue, peer through the heads of people a foot taller than you to catch a glimpse of a distant, blurry Paul Theroux on the stage, talking about his travels in the American Deep South. While standing in that crowd, you can smell the scent of expensive perfume mingling with that of pungent sweat, random conversations are struck and one learns that this is what attending the literary equivalent of a rock concert feels like.
From the loud, overbearing aunties who scramble after Shashi Tharoor for a signed copy of India: the Future is Now to the shady looking dude with a strange, dazed look in his eye - characters are abound at the festival. There will be those who will shamelessly run behind an author they love for a signed copy. I don’t judge the sort. But then, there are those, who will harass Girish Karnad for a selfie (which later becomes their Facebook cover photo as well) only because they saw him in Ek Tha Tiger.
- Confused parents accompanying their overenthusiastic teenaged children.
- Fresher DU students who look excited about almost everything.
- Senior DU students who have been attending the fest for some time and wear an expression of quiet ease around Javed Akhtar.
- Nerdy fangirls/boys who feel their personality defined by the comic book reference their t-shirt makes and their vast knowledge about Japanese Manga.
- Speakers who leave you spellbound and some who can send you into deep slumber.
- Angry uncles who love asking a question after the end of every session and usually end up ranting.
- Random school children, no older than 7th grade, who are just here because someone is selling waffles.
- White people being cheated by Jaipur auto drivers.
- Delhi people being cheated by Jaipur auto drivers and trying to bargain prices.
- People taking copious notes during sessions. (ME.)
- Bad EDM tunes being played near Baithak at a place called Cafe Bae.
- At least ONE explosive fight between people over snatching seats and/or breaking queues.
- The star struck moment when your favourite writer/actor brushes past you.
- The speakers being shepherded to the stage by severe looking festival organisers.
- Book signings with queues that go on for a mile.
- Silver haired ladies, who wear lovely pashmina shawls to protect themselves in chilly Jaipur evenings and wear delegate passes around their elegant, long necks. I aspire to achieve that level of geriatric swag someday.
This fest is insane.
I'm coming again next year.