Making a move from the famous Diggi Palace to its digital avatar, Jaipur Literature Festival kick-started on Friday. “The challenges and disruptions of 2020 have transformed into the triumphs of 2021,” says Jaipur Literature Festival co-director Namita Gokhale and the virtual fest with semblance of the Palace on one’s screen and a chock-a-block schedule just like a regular one, sets the tone to the new normal.
Over 300 speakers and performers representing around 25 Indian and 18 international languages and over 23 nationalities – the grandeur remains the same, only that the participants as well as the audience join in from their own living rooms, their own work desks, the world over for this ‘Kumbh’ of literature.
Right from facing the pandemic to books, phones and music crossing barriers to become one whole experience, JLF presented an amalgamation of the experience on Day 1 on its 14th edition. “It was as exhilarating as if being present at JLF for us, however, for sure the festival folks had to put in way more energy and hard work doing it virtually,” says Seema Kohli, an artist. She was part of the book launch and an early session on Friday, Experiencing the Goddess: On the Trail of Yoginis, edited by Stella Dupuis, the book is by Janet Chawla, Nilima Chitgopekar, Anamika Rao and Seema Kohli.
“The book delves into feminine energy from different perspectives,” says Kohli, all enthused to be a part of the fest. “Sanjoy (K Roy) told me that the session was attended by around 5,000 people, something that one cannot even imagine if it were a physical session,” she exclaims. Just like her book, that she calls a fruit of the happy friendship among five women who share their journeys, creativity, research, curiosity and a common passion—humanity, she see the JLF’s virtual outing to be the right step in the right direction.
Interesting themes dotted the day — Edward Luce, Anne Applebaum and Suhasini Haider coming together for the session The Many Lives of Democracy, poet Ranjit Hoskote talked about his diasporic, micro-minority cultural identity with Anupama Raju; Prasoon Joshi and Vidya Shah talking Across Genre: Classical, Folk and Popular Music. “Music, like any art is a co-creation between the artist and its listener,” reflected Joshi.
The longer sessions were peppered with smaller ones like Jaipur Writers Shorts. Young author Adishree Kasliwal talked about dealing with being Covid positive and how she embraced the challenge of penning it down in her book Quarantine Diaries. While no denying, the virtual edition of JLF is painstakingly put together to make it as real as possible, and that it might have a way bigger reach, those in love with books would rather see, read, hold a book than trying to tap it virtually where despite best efforts the real essence is lost.
If Priyanka Chopra Jonas was the celeb attraction on Day 1, watch out for the likes of Bill Gates, Joseph Stiglitz, Malala Yousafzai, Jeffrey Gettleman Douglas Stuart and Jeffrey Gettleman in the coming days.
On till February 28— TNS