UK -Europe
2018-09-12 / .


Jaipur lit fest with its universal appeal chose the British Library for holding its summer festival. Although I have been to similar festivals, I have never been to anything so well conceived and coordinated with something for everyone. The festival was so well attended, applauded and appreciated by everyone. Participants came from different parts of the new commonwealth. The cosmopolitan ambience, discussions and themes mostly centred around art and literature found a unique forum that transcended all geopolitcal, racial, economic, religious boundaries. Most of those who contributed creatively to the discussions were uninhibited by any regard for political correctness, trade union aspirations or brexit hallucinations. The atmosphere of open minded and free thinking and some sense dissentous and dialectical approach must have immensely appealed to the younger generation of participants, although i cannot count myself to be one of them.Literary festivals can provide the right fora for constructive engagement.South Asians, South Americans and African nations that rose from the shadow of dictatorships after having been under oppressive colonial structures can benefit from this kind of festival to rediscover their souls.

The inaugural session was exceptionally enjoyable with a warm welcome from Tessa Blackstone, director of the British Library and Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple who described the humble origins of the festival, with just a handful of attendees in 2005 to what has now become a literary, ‘hot ticket’, selling out days before the festival began, the organisers could not hide their pride in Britain’s enthusiastic reception. As the talks and presentations began it was not hard to see why the event was so well attended, the topics served to thrill and stimulate both intellect and imagination. The launch Mr Shashi Tharoor's book, 'Why I am a Hindu?' gave rise to a ripple of speculation surrounding the bold title. His explanation took us on a personal journey of insights into how India's biggest religion continues to thrive and inspire in the world's largest democracy. His meditations on the intricacies of this ancient religion was fascinating in many ways, especially in the way it engaged us to reflect on our own varying faith's. Maya Jasanoff and William Dalrymple presented a captivating talk entitled, 'The Dawn Watch: Jospeh Conrad in A Global World'. William Dalrymple focused on the way in which Conrad's delivery of 'international characters' made him a 'visionary novelist', by challenging the value of European civilisation.‘100 years of the Suffragette’ was an incredibly moving and powerful conversation that saw four brilliant female authors (Anita Anand, Angela Saini, Helena Kennedy and Bee Rowlatt) whose books have explored the role of women in history; address the nature of female empowerment, the journey towards equality and justice and what remains to be done. Their passion and knowledge rooted in different areas of expertise was a rousing testament to what we can achieve when we are confident enough to come together culturally and intellectually.

The final topic that I would like to touch on is perhaps a pertinent way to end. ‘The Commonwealth of Nations’ hosted a discussion on the role of this 53 nation body and of course in particular the role of India in the wake of Brexit. What perhaps makes the Jaipur literary festival such a success is at least in part the same reason that Britain has persuaded India to take a more active role in the Commonwealth. It is that India is no longer an ex-colony, it is retains the allure of cultural and economic wealth that drew Britain to its shores but now Britain longs for a reciprocal exchange.

The Jaipur literary festival was a success for many reasons but for me it was that it showcased what can happen when we take the best of both cultures and allow them to thrive. What better expression can there be of friendship that welcoming someone into your house and giving them the best seat.

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