10th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival kicks-off

Jaipur, Jan 19 (IANS) The much-anticipated 10th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) kicked-off here Thursday morning with renowned poet and lyricist Gulzar and celebrated American poet Anne Waldman delivering the keynote address and mystic Sadhguru and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje joining them on the stage.

The morning began with the very famous Shillong Chamber Choir presenting a wonderful rendition of “Vande Mataram”, among others.

In his keynote address, Gulzar congratulated the festival organisers on completing 10 years, while also reminding them as well as other writers, to remain grounded as they prosper.

“I am scared to sit on a high chair where legs do not touch the ground. Sometimes I ask myself what difference has my writing made? Each one of us should look within to find such answers. It is after asking yourself that you get the answer that you are getting distracted.aceYou cannot distract the entire society because they have a collective consciousness. You have to ask why you are writing what you are writing,” Gulzar said.

He also referred to India as a “happy country” and said that the poetry from the northeast is the most appealing to him.

“There is no place where there are so many writers and thinkers as in India. We are a happy country. Where there is light, there is a festival of light; there are kites and there is a festival of kites and we desperately needed a festival of writers, here we have one,” he said.

Gulzar also shared his experience of reading poetry from various languages. “I have read and translated poetry from dozens of languages but the poetry from the northeast is the most appealing. It is an injustice to call them regional languages. They are all national languages,” he contended.

Vasundhara Raje thanked the organisers of the lit fest for transforming the landscape of the Pink City and for permanently etching a place for Jaipur on the world map.

“This is one of the high points of the year. I personally look forward to the coming together of many writers and young children to this great gathering every year,” she said before counting the various achievements of her government in the fields of education, water preservation, cleanliness and women’s empowerment.

In his opening remarks, festival producer Sanjoy Roy said that at its onset 10 years ago, nobody could have imagined that the world will come together to participate in the literary event.

“JLF has always believed that it is a place for freedom of expression, a place of equity where everybody gets a fair chance and a place which is free. In places where there is equity the only thing that can bring about change is knowledge and education,” he said.

“From Wellington to Washington, writers who try and make a sense of the world around, have gathered here and anybody can come and hear them, interact with them,” added Roy.

Considered among the most popular of such events, the festival will host over 250 authors, leaders, thinkers and popular icons while revolving around the theme of “The Freedom to Dream: India at 70”.

Festival producer Namita Gokhale threw light on the series of events and the themes that are all set to be explored over the next five days.

“We live in the best of times and the worst of times but the power of words and literature remain intact,” she said.

The sessions will touch upon a multitude of ideas and themes, including the freedom to dream, which explores India today in the context of its history as well as its future, Translations and World Literature, Women and Marginalised Voices, Sanskrit and Colonialism and the Legacy of the Raj.

Festivalo-director William Dalrymple reminded the audience that as the sun sets in Jaipur during the course of the five days, hundreds of young students, who have gathered from different parts of India and cannot afford a hostel or a hotel, head to the Jaipur railway station and spend their nights on the platform.

“When you go to New York, you pay 250-500 dollars to attend a literary gathering. Here you have the greatest minds of the world and you can hear them for free,” Dalrymple said.

Celebrated American poet Anne Waldman, during her address, mesmerized the audience with her poetry recital. She also impressed upon the need to encourage reading, saying: “We will have a total chaos without books, literature and library.”

The event concludes on January 23.