Lit Fest season is upon us again. Throw a pebble this month in any direction and you are bound to hit a literature festival happening in some corner or the other of the country. It all becomes very confusing because one doesn’t know whether to attend all or pick a few or just the one in your city/town/village/street/building. Undeniably Jaipur, beginning later this week, is the biggest and most prominent of all the fests happening and any serious reader would want to attend that if they possibly could.
After having attended the Jaipur Literature Festival(JLF) regularly for the last few years we are unfortunately unable to go this year. But cant stop talking about what we are missing and the kumbh mela type atmosphere at Diggi Palace, the venue of the festival each year. Everyone who goes becomes an expert on the festival. So here is our list of dos and don’ts as a little guide for readers who have the Jaipur Lit Fest on their bucket list.
A Reader’s guide to the JLF
- Don’t panic! Amongst all those fashionable people in the business of writing (yes, it is a business), publishing, editing and agenting books and mingling with journalists/ famous faces from the media and film world, there are a few other genuine readers in there.
- Do smile at people who look famous, because they are expecting it and you will thereby cover your good deed for the day.
- Do check out the schedule of events before going and if you already have copies of the books by the authors who interest you, take them along to be signed otherwise you will end up buying more of the same books at the festival bookshop.
- Don’t go to the hugely crowded events because they probably host people like Oprah, Rahul Dravid and Sharmila Tagore on stage (as in past years) and the stampede is so not worth it. Unless you are a fan and then you won’t mind being a sardine.
- Do, however, check out tightly packed corners because there may be fabulous khullar chai being sold by the denizens of Diggi Palace, wearing traditional dress.
- Do check out an event at the Durbar hall for the sheer beauty of the hall itself, despite its bad acoustics. Also now infamous as the venue where excerpts of the Satanic Verses were read out a few years back, resulting in controversy.
- Don’t get carried away by all the fashion statements being made, dress warm. You will be glad come evening.
- Don’t be self-absorbed. Check out the people sitting next to you because they might just turn out to be a famous author like Picco Iyer waiting to participate in the next discussion (true story).
- Don’t have lunch because the crowds at the food stalls are unbelievable at lunchtime. Do have brunch or tea because some of the food can be quite interesting. And use the lunch time to stake out good seats for the post lunch sessions.
- Do attend the music events in the evenings because they are sponsored by big name companies and a lot of freebies are handed out. (In case you don’t get hold of any, see point below)
- Do carry lots of cash so you can stock up on knick knacks and memorabilia being sold all across the venue and which seem irresistible at that point. On second thought, don’t take any money for the same reason.
- Do check out the Full Circle bookshop, they mostly carry books of the attending authors. Even if you don’t buy any books, buy the cheese biscuits which are to die for.
- Do attend events where Booker prize winners (like Eleanor Catton this year) are participating because even if you haven’t read their tome and are not likely to, you can still talk about it knowledgeably later on.
- Do ask a question in the Q&A sessions if you are looking to be on the telly. If not, hide behind your programme every time someone near you opens their mouth.
- Don’t live on the edge, and head for the loo well in time because the weather is cold and there are bound to be massive queues. When you do, please remember these are closed rooms in an old palace and ghosts are probably an organic part of the setup, accept them as such and get on with the main business.
- Do get into conversations with the local college students who attend the lit fest because they are generally polite, friendly and give helpful tips on what else to do in Jaipur.
- Don’t bother going if Simon Armitage is not present to read out his poetry in inimitable style.
- If you ignore the above and do go, attend a session with William Dalrymple because he is quite funny although he keeps plugging the same book (From the Holy Mountain) every year.
- Do venture outside the venue, take a cycle rickshaw, and head to Laksmi Mishtan Bhandar (LMB). Besides sweets, they serve an authentic Rajasthani Thaali. Make sure you try this at the end of the day as you are likely to be asleep afterwards
- Do try out cordon bleu trained Tejaswi Chandela’s Dzurt Café and Patisserie at the Spice Court in Civil Lines.
- Do wander around Johri Bazaar and check out the jewellery shops, the churan and supari shop, and the sellers of brightly coloured skirts.
- And finally, do go with a friend because it is most fun that way.
Caveat: The above is an extremely subjective list brought on by the thoughts of the writers as a result of not attending the JLF this year. The points enumerated, whether jointly or individually, may or may not be applicable to others at the JLF and are subject to change even by us in the coming years.