‘The greatest literary show on Earth’ began with a bright sunny morning at its new home, Hotel Clarks, Amer in Jaipur. Early risers flocked to grab seats to savour the calming strains of the Morning Music at the Front Lawn. Morning Music led the way to the inaugural session with a scintillating performance of Raag Miya Ki Todi by Ujwal Nagar, maestro of Hindustani classical music and lead classical singer of the Indian fusion band Advaita. Nagar began the performance by expressing that it was his pleasure to be performing at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2022. It was an astounding start to the 15th edition of the celebration of ideas. After an exhilarating rendition by Nagar, the event proceeded with inaugural addresses by Keynote Speakers – writer and academic Harish Trivedi and UN Resident Coordinator for India since 2021, Shombi Sharp – along with Festival Directors and the Festival Producer.
In his welcome speech, Festival Producer and Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy said, “We welcome you all to the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. Last year, we were able to pivot online and through our digital series JLF Brave New World, JLF WORDS ARE BRIDGES, and the 2021 Jaipur Literature Festival, which was entirely digital – reached over 27.5 million people across the world. It’s the first year that we have taken the Festival hybrid; we started on the 5th of March and will be on till the 14th of March. So, it’s a ten-day programme of incredible riches! This year, it’s not just new additions to the Festival but a new home too. We are extremely delighted to be celebrating the 15th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival at Hotel Clarks, Amer.”
Addressing the audience, Festival Co-director, Namita Gokhale said, “Though I am deeply honoured to be receiving the Sahitya Akademi Award, yet I am here for the Festival in Jaipur and not in Delhi to receive it because my award is you and this prestigious Festival.” She also added, “Coming back again to the Festival makes me emotional as I remember previous editions of the literary extravaganza featuring various writers and their stories.”
Author, historian & Festival Co-director William Dalrymple said, “I think the pandemic has been hard for everyone but the performing arts, in particular, have found it an existential threat… with music, dance & theatre – have had their lives very very severely threatened by the economics of the lockdown. But now we are back and in this wonderful new venue and as Namita said, with four Nobel Prize winners!”
Talking about the Festival, Keynote Speaker Harish Trivedi said, “The body sheds all clothes and puts on new ones. The spirit sheds all bodies and puts on new ones. I’ll also say this Festival sheds an old venue and begins to inhabit a new one.”
Concluding the inaugural address, UN Resident Coordinator for India since 2021, Shombi Sharp said, “I am the luckiest to be here in the original Jaipur version of this amazing Festival…Since arriving in India, I have been deeply impressed by the deeply rooted philosophy and values of sustainability that I see everywhere in Indian culture. India’s ambitious targets demonstrate to the world that climate action does not and cannot mean sacrificing equitable development.”
At the 15th edition of the Festival, a session featured Portuguese politician and author Bruno Maçães, talking about his book Geopolitics for the End Time: From the Pandemic to the Climate Crisis, a sharp study of an emerging world order that is competitive and driven by the need to adapt and survive in increasingly hostile natural environments. In conversation with former diplomat and author Navtej Sarna, Maçães discussed the future of the world’s political landscape.
Before the session, Mr. Purushottam from the Bank of Baroda said, “Bank of Baroda extends a hearty welcome to one and all present here to witness the confluence of ideas, books, music, art, culture.”
At a session, award-winning independent data journalist Rukmini S, former Assistant Secretary-general at the United Nations, former Deputy Executive Director of UN Women & a former diplomat, Ambassador Lakshmi puri and President of MICA, Shailendra Raj Mehta discussed Rukmini’s book Whole Numbers and Half-Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India. In her book, Rukmini presents nearly two decades of on-ground reporting to challenge some of the most deeply held notions of politics and society in India, the half-truths that data and numbers tell, and signal the need for increased and improved qualitative research. “This isn’t because I believe statistics is a lie, but it is because I believe that sometimes statistics and data are held to different standards, both in terms of what they can and can’t do. So just as you can lie with words, lie with video, lie with audio, all of which we see around us, you can lie with statistics as well,” said Rukmini during the session.
At another session, renowned writer and Co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, winner of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for 2021, Namita Gokhale discussed the paradoxes of returning a work of fiction to the language of its geographical and emotional location. Two of Gokhale’s recent, acclaimed novels, Jaipur Journals and The Blind Matriarch, have been translated into Hindi by distinguished literary figures. In conversation with acclaimed writer, translator, and literary historian Rakhshanda Jalil, they discussed the intimacies and distances of translation. While talking about her thoughts on reading her books in translation, Gokhale said, “Different feelings, I felt the blind matriarch…she sounded credible in English, she sounded like many old women with their wisdom and their foolishness. But in Hindi, she owned the novel in a different way…Hindi was where she belonged more than English…and Raag Pahadi belonged in Hindi more than in English, Shakuntala belonged more in Hindi than in English.”
At the Front Lawn, a session featured Hans Jacob Frydenlund, Norwegian Ambassador to India, Chandrakant Singh, recipient of the Vir Chakra, Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, and Walter J Linder, German Ambassador to India. Together they discussed the possibility of peace in a world that is torn. They were in conversation with Hannah Ellis-Peterson, correspondent at The Guardian. Anam began her address by stating that war is not paradoxical. “I really don’t think war is paradoxical, I think it’s pure evil. It is designed and planned by some people sitting at the top to annihilate, to take control over resources, to oppress and to kill thousands of people and make people refugees, just to take power,” said Anam. During the session, Singh quoted Plato “Only the dead have seen the end of the war.”
From distributing home-produced albums on a scooter in the 80s to becoming a national sensation, Remo: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes offers a window to the musician’s exhilarating life and compelling story. At a session today, Fernandes along with Festival Producer and Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy, discussed his life in pursuit of his greatest loves: music, art, writing and his homeland, Goa. “I’ve always wanted to attend a literary festival, and this is the very first one I am attending, and I never thought that I would attend my first festival as an author but here I am!” said Fernandes.