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Lounge Preview: A quick guide to JLF

A session appropriately titled ‘The Enigma Of Amma’ will have her biographer Vaasanthi in conversation with Westland/Tranquebar managing editor Sudha Sadanand

British art historian Andrew Graham Dixon at the 2013 Jaipur Literature Festival. Photo: Hindustan Times
British art historian Andrew Graham Dixon at the 2013 Jaipur Literature Festival. Photo: Hindustan Times (Hindustan Times)

It’s that time of the year again, when the world and its aunt will descend upon the Pink City. The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is just over 10 days away, and the schedule is out, sans a few slots. Among the sessions with all the usual suspects from the literary world (Devdutt Pattanaik, Namita Gokhale, Shashi Tharoor, Urvashi Butalia, Javed Akhtar, Keki Daruwallah, Sunil Khilnani, Mridula Koshy, Manu Joseph, etc.), here are some that caught our eye.

Day 1: Starting off strong

The first day (19 January) will start off on a strong note with the latest Man Booker Prize winner, Paul Beatty, in conversation with Meru Gokhale, editor-in-chief of literary publishing at Penguin Random House India. “The Legacy Of The Left" will see historians Timothy Garton Ash, Mridula Mukherjee and Communist Party of India leader M.A. Baby in conversation with author-historian Patrick French. The title of this session can perhaps be seen in conjunction with the recent controversy where JLF regulars took issue with the festival organizers inviting members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The JLF, however, regardless of how it has made news at various instances, always does keep up with the news.

If you’re one of those people who has become curious about the late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s life and persona over the past one month, you can depend on the fest to give you your fix. A session appropriately titled “The Enigma Of Amma" will have her biographer Vaasanthi in conversation with Westland/Tranquebar managing editor Sudha Sadanand.

Vivek Shanbhag (whose Ghachar Ghochar was translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur last year) will be in conversation with veteran Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa. This promises to be an interesting session, for Shanbhag’s father-in-law U.R. Ananthamurthy, was not only Bhyrappa’s contemporary, but his literary legacy is often pitted against Bhyrappa’s for their contrasting political viewpoints.

Day 2: Poetry, politics, and everything in between

Fans of the Beat movement , rejoice. For Anne Waldman, second-generation New York School poet and member of the Outrider experimental poetry movement, will be at the JLF. Waldman, who grew up on jazz greats like Thelonious Monk and Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, will be in a session with Kunga Tenzin Dorji, a freelance journalist and one of Bhutan’s most popular rock musicians. If you’re interested in the poetry of music and vice versa, their coming together will be a treat for you. Waldman and Dorji will focus on Ginsberg and the Beat Generation poets.

But the real crowd-puller here, à la sessions past with Rahul Dravid and Oprah Winfrey which had Diggi Palace almost bursting at the seams, will likely be the session with actor Rishi Kapoor (who has established himself as quite the outspoken Twitter personality“@chintskap", sharing memes, politically incorrect jokes and opinion freely). He will be in conversation with Rachel Dwyer, professor of Indian cultures and cinema at Soas, University of London, in a session titled “Main Shayar Toh Nahin".

Day 3: Plants and perfume

Right after British historian David Armitage and writer Raghu Karnad tell you all about the history of civil wars, from antiquity to the Islamic State, and Tishani Doshi introduces Caribbean poets and essayists Ishion Hutchinson and Vladimir Lucien, prepare to focus on a few things closer home.

Aarathi Prasad, a PhD in molecular genetics from Imperial College London, will be in conversation with Bhrigupati Singh, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University, US, on Indian medicine and healing, most likely on Ayurveda and alternative medicine. Her second and latest book, In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travels Through Indian Medicine, may set the context. Writer Nidhi Dugar, who describes herself on Twitter as having “a thing for the odd and the intriguing", will introduce James McHugh, author of Sandalwood And Carrion, whose PhD focused on the perfume-making traditions in ancient India.

Day 4: History and comedy

True to his description of himself as “socially Anglophile", journalist Swapan Dasgupta will be introducing Suzannah Lipscomb, a British historian, for a talk titled “Henry VIII And Anne Boleyn—The Lovers Who Changed History". Another potential crowd-puller on the penultimate day of the fest: comedian Mallika Dua in conversation with TV panel regular Suhel Seth. Dua, who is now acting in various Web series (including The Trip, alongside Lisa Haydon and others), used to be a copywriter before venturing full-time into acting and comedy.

Day 5: Finale

“Emperor And The Poet" isn’t the finale according to the schedule (that one’s yet to come), but it’s one to look forward to. Former diplomat T.C.A. Raghavan will be in conversation with journalists Shazi Zaman and Ravish Kumar. Zaman, a journalist with the Anandabazar Patrika group, has recently published a book in Hindi on Mughal emperor Akbar, the outcome of two decades of research. Ravish Kumar of NDTV Hindi is known for his poetry and other literary pursuits.

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