All roads lead to Jaipur as JLF countdown begins (Curtain-raiser)

Jaipur, Jan 18 (IANS) With just hours to go for the Jaipur Literature Festival to kick-off as legendary lyricist Gulzar, American poet Anne Waldman, mystic Sadhguru and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje inaugurate the five-day event here Thursday, it is an overwhelming setting here marked by the presence of several literary heavyweights as also book lovers.

Numerous groups of students travelling from Delhi and other parts of the country were seen trotting around the venue even before the festival has begun, watching some of their favourite writers lounge in the afternoon sun and getting their registrations to attend the 10th edition of the festival completed at the last moment.

In what is a rare mix, these students and other visitors missed no opportunity to interact or even get selfies captured with leading authors like William Dalrymple and John Elliot. “We are just warming up,” said an ecstatic Dalrymple, adding: “This place is going to transform completely tomorrow as a flood of writers and their readers bless the festival, with their presence, dialogues and interactions.”

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”.

Over the five days, 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, Colonialism and the Legacy of the Raj.

The annual literary event is all set to host an impressive list of speakers, including Man Booker Prize winners Paul Beatty, Alan Hollinghurst and Richard Flanagan; Laurence Olivier award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Sir David Hare; one of the India’s foremost writers and philosophers S.L. Bhyrappa; and 2016 Emerging Voices Award winner Eka Kurniawan.

The keynote address, which, in the past, has been delivered by the likes of economist Amartya Sen and legendary writer Margret Atwood, will this time be delivered by Gulzar and Waldman.

“The Festival has always aimed at showcasing the brilliant literary talent of India to the world, in return bringing some of the world’s greatest writers home. The Festival offers a unique opportunity to hear some of the world’s contemporary literary stalwarts at a platform that’s all-inclusive and democratic, brings together diverse thought and opinion, and upholds freedom of thought and expression,” said festival producer Sanjoy K. Roy.

With around 30 languages represented from India and across the world, the Festival will feature authors writing in Indian regional languages including the popular Volga in Telugu, Vivek Shanbhag in Kannada, Kaajal Oza Vaidya in Gujarati, C.P. Deval and Hari Ram Meena in Rajasthani and Kanak Mani Dixit and Binod Chaudhary in Nepali.

Also adding the essence of multilingualism will be Dhruba Jyoti Borah in Assamese, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar in Urdu, Jatindra K. Nayak in Oriya, Naseem Shafaie and Neerja Mattoo in Kashmiri, Arunava Sinha and Radha Chakravarty in Bengali and Arshia Sattar, A.N.D. Haksar, and Roberto Calasso in Sanskrit.

The festival concludes on January 23.

(Saket Suman is in Jaipur at the invitation of Teamwork arts. He can be contacted at saket.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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