The fourth day of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 saw some powerhouse sessions and enthusiastic audiences flocking between packed venues. It began with a musical performance by Dr. Kamala Shankar, inventor of the Classical Slide Guitar. Her soulful performance complemented the rainy Festival Sunday morning.
At the Festival, Teamwork Arts and their long-time partners British Council have entered a Memorandum of Understanding to bolster artistic collaboration and networks between India and the UK in alignment with the India-UK 2030 Roadmap. This partnership seeks to facilitate knowledge exchange, connect artists and cultures, and also expand their respective event networks globally. As knowledge partners, Teamwork Arts and the British Council also aim to promote diversity in public discourse and foster mutual understanding.
The official dates of the second edition of JLF Spain Valladolid were announced during the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024. The Festival will take place from 30th May to 3rd June, 2024. Following the announcement, Deputy Minister for Culture and Commissioner for Spanish Language, Mar Sancho Sanz addressed the audience.
Vani Prakashan Books and Teamwork Arts announced the winner of this year’s Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Awardee – Òscar Pujol – for translating from Sanskrit to Spanish. Pujol received his doctorate in Sanskrit from Banaras Hindu University and has had a life-long engagement with India. He has been the director of the Cervantes Institutes of New Delhi and Rio de Janeiro, and director of the educational programmes of Casa Asia. He is the author and translator of a number of books.
Some of today’s highlight sessions were:
Common Yet Uncommon
Speakers: Sudha Murty in conversation with Meru Gokhale
Presented by Rajasthan Patrika
The session began with educator and bestselling author Sudha Murty speaking fondly about her childhood which was spent in her ancestral home as a curious child wanting to know about all the happenings around her. She said, “Somehow I want to know more about people, where they come from, because for me a person is not just a person, a person is a book and I am reading a book.” Murty introduced her book Common Yet Uncommon, written from a naïve child’s perspective, which explores the different flaws and issues with the characters within the book.
Speakers: Georgi Gospodinov in conversation with Nandini Nair
2023 International Booker Prize-winning author, Georgi Gospodinov, spoke about his book Time Shelter (in which a “clinic for the past,” an institution that offers an inspired treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers and has floors that reproduce a past decade in minute detail, allowing patients to transport themselves back in time to unlock what is left of their fading memories), and its relevance in today’s political climate. Gospodinov remarked, “The problem is when someone tries to remake the happy memories of the past of the whole nation. That is very dangerous. Past is a personal feeling… usually this past is an invented past, it is very dangerous.” Gospodinov also fondly reminisced about his time growing up with his grandparents, who instilled in him a sense of creativity and imagination, “If you can find the sublime in the everyday things, in the banal things, you are safe.”
Hollywood to Himalayas
Speakers: Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati in conversation with Puneeta Roy
The session began with Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati recalling her childhood and early 20s in her hometown of Beverly Hills, California. She further spoke about the essence of something being wrong within her, the feeling of lacking that drove her towards the life of a Sadhvi. She discussed the motivation behind her book as a sewa to humankind and the major theme in her memoir Hollywood to Himalayas is forgiveness for oneself and others. The session ended with a brief guided meditation session by Bhagwati Saraswati.
The Golden Mole: And Other Living Treasure
Speakers: Katherine Rundell in conversation with Yuvan Aves
This session was centred around celebrated writer Katherine Rundell’s work, The Golden Mole: And Other Living Treasure, in which she spoke about the other intelligent creatures of the world. In reference to that, she said, “The greatest lie that humanity has ever told is that the world is ours.” Her aim was to write something that would express the astonishing intelligence of the different species on earth. From pandas to elephants to rhinos, she introduced the audience to the numerous marvels that go unnoticed within nature. The session ended with her marvelling about the multitudes of things the world is yet to discover about other living creatures.
Empire of Pain
Speakers: Patrick Radden Keefe in conversation with Pragya Tiwari
Presented by OneIndia
The opioid public health crisis which crippled the United States of America in the 1990s inspired Patrick Radden Keefe’s Baillie Gifford Prize-winning book Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. He took the audience through the horrors of soft corruption and private money, and the massive impact they can have on any industry including pharmaceuticals. Referring to the crisis as a “family saga”, Keefe said, “… There was this one family that had really helped create this crisis which had gone on to kill hundreds of thousands of people. I am always interested in ethical questions and stories about families and so that was what drew me in”.
First Edition: “Audacious Hope: How to Save a Democracy” By Indrajit Roy
Speakers: Indrajit Roy and Shashi Tharoor in conversation with Nidhi Razdan
Introducing academic and writer, Indrajit Roy’s new book Audacious Hope: How to Save a Democracy, Member of Parliament and author, Shashi Tharoor, and Roy engaged in a charged conversation about the current state of Indian democracy and their hopes for the future. When talking about the role of dissent and protests in today’s political spaces, Roy said, “It’s better to romanticise protests than to romanticise the governments.” Stressing on the importance of the institutions of our country, Tharoor said, “Elections are not enough. Institutions give power to our democracy… whether it is new institutions or old institutions.”
How Prime Ministers Decide?
Speakers: Neerja Chowdhury in conversation with Mandira Nayar
Award-winning journalist and seasoned political commentator Neerja Chowdhury’s recent book How Prime Ministers Decide delves into the lives and decisions of six prominent Prime Ministers of Independent India. Sympathising with the lives of leaders, Chowdhury said, “Prime Ministers are lonely, Prime Ministers are vulnerable, Prime Ministers are superstitious, Prime Ministers are subject to all kinds of pressure.”
The Earth Transformed: An Untold History
Speakers: Peter Frankopan in conversation with Yuvan Aves
Historian and writer Peter Frankopan discussed his book, The Earth Transformed: An Untold History, which describes how climate change has dramatically changed the world across the time. Frankopan expressed his concerns about the depletion of nature, loss of biodiversity, and lack of awareness about geological formation, despite it playing a fundamental role in history and civilisations. He spoke about the idea of history being of a certain kind, one that only includes stories of humans but not the natural factors that influence their lives, “We all go through thinking about the past without ever considering weather conditions…”.
Speakers: Perumal Murugan and Kannan Sundaram in conversation with Manasi Subramaniam
2023 JCB Prize for Literature-winner Perumal Murugan was in conversation with publisher Kannan Sundaram and Manasi Subramaniam. Fire bird is based on the author’s life experience of displacement and movement. Murugan spoke about the close relationship he shared with his mother which helped him get an insight into female life, and helped him reinforce that women play a crucial role in his books. Sundaram shared that Murugan’s works are translated from Tamil to English, while the process of translating the entire work goes relatively smoothly, translating the titles is always a challenge as the titles are rooted into local Tamil cultural contexts.
Irrfan: A Life in Movies
Speakers: Shubhra Gupta, Sutapa Sikdar and Vishal Bhardwaj in conversation with Sathya Saran
Actor Irrfan Khan’s transformative body of work took the Indian cinema by storm. From his National School of Drama days to his nearly decade-long stint in television and his work in path-breaking movies such as The Namesake, Life of Pi, Maqbool and Hindi Medium, Irrfan’s special quality of stardom has managed to touch all his viewers. Film critic and writer Shubhra Gupta’s, Irrfan: A Life in Movies, is a collection of conversations with his contemporaries and their memories of their time with the legend. In conversation with his beloved wife and theatre actor Sutapa Sikdar and filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, they dived into the art, craft and life of Irrfan.
February 5 will mark the final day of the grand literary marathon and will feature Sharmistha Mukherjee, former President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter and classical dancer & choreographer, academics Arathi Prasad, Amia Srinivasan, celebrity chef Asma Khan, well-known athlete and author Sohini Chattopadhyay, Harvard professor Vincent Brown, former diplomat and author John Zubrzycki, art historian & JNU professor Naman Ahuja, journalist Vir Sanghvi and Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies, among others. The famed closing debate of the 2024 edition of the Festival will be on whether free speech will survive surveillance technology and privacy invasions.