Sunday, March 13, 2022, the fourth day of this year’s edition of the Jaipur Field Literature Festival, went at its usual effortless pace. The day before too had seen a wide range of sessions – including one with MP and best-selling author Shashi Tharoor in conversation with journalist, author and columnist Vir Sanghvi. Tharoor is a prolific blacksmith who has written over 20 books. During the conversation, Tharoor discussed his love for reading and shared his insights, ideas and beliefs with Sanghvi. Commenting on the state of India’s diversity, Tharoor noted that he was concerned. “An India that is denied to some of us will be denied to all of us.“, said Tharoor. In another session titled Ancient India: the culture of contradictionsrenowned professor Upinder Singh, author of Political violence in ancient India and The Idea of Ancient India: Essays on Religion, Politics and Archaeology, was in conversation with historian, author and co-director of the festival, William Dalrymple.
Continuing the eclectic flavor of the Festival, day four of the literary extravaganza opened at the Front Lawn with a yoga session by nutrition consultant and yoga teacher, Shikha Mehra. Mehra began by demonstrating body and breath awareness exercises and a flow routine that wakes up the whole body, activates the muscles, reduces stiffness and tension in the body and mind. The session ended with pranayama. Morning Music was honored by The Aahvaan Project with musicians Sumit Balakrishnan, Anirban Gosh, Vedi Sinha, Varun Gupta and Nikhil Vasudevan presenting a performance inspired by Kabir’s wisdom.
- During a round table including violinist Ambi Subramaniam; leading film composer and singer Shekhar Ravjiani; musician Ayaan Ali Bangash; and writer and research curator Sadhana Rao talked about what raga means for each of them and their personal journeys of learning and understanding the ragas. By its very nature, raga promises the immortality of creation, expression and freedom. During the conversation, Ravjiani said: “…for me, raag is an emotion… When I start a composition, there is a raag playing in my head, ab vo raag ka naam kya hai mujhe nahi pata, jab banata hoon uske log kehte hai ki… this song takes us to a bahar…”
- During a panel discussion on the power of Mother Earth over our lives, wildlife, conservation, literature and healing, award-winning British poet Ruth Padel and conservation biologist, author and columnist Neha Sinha discussed had a chat with forester and writer Vandana Singh-Lal. During the session, Padel talked about his book, where the snake lives and read a few passages from it while Sinha proceeded to read extracts from his work, Wild and willful. On how humans should engage with forests, Sinha noted, “ … if you guard the border, they [animals] respect each other and i don’t think people always respect boundaries…it’s an inalienable power to be a human being, to have places we can go that we haven’t done, that have made themselves themselves and have willful and wild processes.
- Film critic and writer Anupama Chopra A place in my heart is an ode to the power of storytelling, the magic of cinema and the adoration of moviegoers. In a conversation with writer Shunali Khullar Shroff, Chopra opened up about her place of work and worship, the films that shaped her long career and fueled her personal intrigue. During the chat, Chopra also talked about celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Karan Johar, and Zoya Akhtar.
- To the Jan Michalski Baithak Foundation, owner of Design Directions Pvt. Ltd Satish Gokhale was in conversation with the founder and director of ARCH College of Design & Business Archana Surana. The session emphasized the role of visionary leadership, encompassing a deeper and more empathetic approach to people and the environment, keeping in mind a harmonious relationship between the planet and human society.
- The Hindi language has become the new ‘cool’, especially among millennials. New digital media, podcast channels and social media platforms have given space to those who not only grew up loving the language, but also earned their bread and butter from it. From being treated like a difficult language of the past, it has become the favored mode of creative expression. In a session focused on ‘Is Hindi the new cool?’ – authors Divya Prakash Dubey and Nishant Jain discussed the story behind this change and its key players, with editor and publisher Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal.
- In another session, MP and best-selling author Shashi Tharoor; Madan B Lokur, retired Supreme Court Justice; journalist, reporter and columnist Swati Chaturvedi and entrepreneur and investor Mohit Satyanand spoke about state surveillance and what it means for all of us. While talking about state surveillance, Satyanand said, “I would dare to call it surveillance fascism. Tharoor said he doesn’t like to use words like fascism too easily because they become a term of abuse rather than a term of analysis, but noted that “…surveillance status has certainly increased…”. The panel discussion focused on the digital age and how the state of modern governance relies on the secret power of observation.
- In a session titled ‘Delhi: the city and its inhabitants”, Writer M Mukundan, Embedded Copy Editor at Indian Publishers and IIM Ahmedabad – Nandakumar K, Former Associate Professor of English, Kerala Government Service – Fathima EV had a chat with the Art Historian Alka Pande. The panel discussed Mukunandan’s utterly fascinating novel and the collaborative translation process.
- In another session, politician and author Smriti Zubin Irani presented her first novel, Lal-Salaam, a story of courage and resilience that seeks to humanize everyday conflicts and ethical dilemmas in areas affected by violence. In a conversation with journalist Pragya Tiwari, Irani shared the impulses that drove her to write this remarkable page-turner and the inspirations behind her work. During the conversation, Irani talked about the research she did for the book over a decade and described Sanjoy K. Roy’s kind reaction to receiving the book. She says, “To me, the book is a celebration of the sacrifices of many people who will never be told but who believed in the Constitution, stood up for the values of this Constitution, did not take up arms against their own country…and I think it’s a book that pays homage to them.