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Jaipur Literature Festival: A meeting of minds

By December 8, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple give us an insight into the upcoming Jaipur Literature Festival


The countdown for the 2019 Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), scheduled to take place from 24-28 January 2019 in Jaipur, began with a curtain raiser event in Delhi that featured a qawwali performance by Qutbi Brothers as well as a panel discussion. Produced by Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Arts, the JLF will witness its 12th edition next month with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple yet again helming the event.

Reflecting upon her decade-long association with the festival, Gokhale said, “It’s been a transformative process in my life. To meet so many writers and to read bits and snatches of them, every year I feel like I am doing an MA or a Ph.D in some aspect of literature and for somebody who is not even a graduate that feels very good.” Gokhale also provided a sneak peek into the festival line-up. “For years I have wanted to look a little more deeply at the sciences. This year in the opening speech there will be Nobel Laureate Venki Ramakrishnan. We also have a session on Artificial Intelligence. We also have Priyamvada Natarajan who is one of the greatest astrophysicists in the world. You see we need to look not only at the past as we do every year at the festival but we also have to look at the future of the planet and the human race,” said Gokhale.

Dalrymple offered interesting insights into the challenges of bringing some of the greatest writers from the world every year to Jaipur. “The letter that we write is very carefully crafted and with each year it has got better and better. Of course, Namita and I have different letters that reflect the sense of different way of doing things. She basically looks after the home office and I manage the foreign office. But often it is all about persistence. With Margaret Atwood, it took eight failed attempts. Yann Martel is finally coming this year after years of failed attempts. Peter Carey is the one who has eluded me so far. He said ‘No’ eight times and finally said ‘Yes’ this year and then he dropped out. So, I am going to keep at him,” guffawed Dalrymple.

Idea of built heritage

Sanjoy Roy who has been instrumental in putting JLF on the world map talked about administrative challenges of keeping the festival running . “It is an enormously expensive festival because we have hundreds of thousands of people coming every year and so you need all of the resources coming together. Our primary motive is to bring the idea of built heritage together with culture. When people realise that there is a value in built heritage they wouldn’t tear it down to build a mall.”

The panel discussion titled “First Draft of History, the Perils of Journalism” which featured Jeffrey Gettleman, South Asia Bureau Chief, The New York Times, Suhasini Haider, Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu, Nikhil Kumar, New Delhi Bureau Chief, CNN, and journalist and author Saba Naqvi was moderated by noted Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi. The panelists offered interesting perspectives on the state of journalism in India as well as the world at large.

Adding an interesting perspective to the discussion, Jeffrey Gettleman touched upon the importance of fact checking as an important journalistic practice in order to deal with lies and propaganda.

Gettleman explained, “I don’t think you can regulate that. The only response to that is to do your job better. That’s the reason why there is an appetite for the kind of journalism The New York Times does or The Hindu does over here.”

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