Next weekend the Jaipur Literature Festival will come to London’s Southbank Centre to showcase South Asia’s unique multilingual literary heritage once again. Pragya Tiwari celebrates the visit and reflects on its unique atmosphere.
The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) ought to be declared the best festival of books and writers in the world already because there is no celebration of the written word quite like it. Held amidst the lawns, courtyards and halls of a beautifully aging palace, the festival attracts thousands of visitors from across the world and hosts an enviable and inimitable list of authors every year. There is excellently curated music in the evenings, delicious food, wine and enough gossip to last you until the next year. It is no surprise then that the festival has come a long way – becoming the world’s largest free literary festival in less than a decade of its existence.
The burgeoning crowds from all walks of life at the festival make you hopeful about the future of books, ideas and intellectual discourse. But they also take away a little every year from the intimate charm the festival had in its initial years when one could lie on charpoys under winter blossoms and listen to poetry readings.
What was lost in Jaipur, however, has been found in London. A glimpse of the familiar magic resurfaced at the first edition of JLF at Southbank last year. In the words of writer and festival director, Namita Gokhale, “The spontaneity and emotive connect that is the hallmark of Jaipur was in the air.” This year, in its second edition, the festival will be held over two days as part of the Alchemy festival. The program offers a wide range of subjects and a list of notable writers. Several LSE experts, including the author, will also be speaking at a number of the sessions.
JLF Southbank will create a new “platform for dialogue between the occident and the orient”, says the producer of the festival, Sanjoy Roy. But perhaps it will do more. The festival that acquainted South Asians with the impossibly diverse range of writing from their own subcontinent can offer Londoners a glimpse of a shared past and a shared future with South Asia at a time when the city needs to celebrate its multicultural identity more than ever.
LSE speakers include:
Dr Mukulika Banerjee, who will speak in a debate entitled “Has the Westminster Model of Democracy Taken Root in South Asia?” on Sunday 17 May.
Cover image credit: flickr/Michael Sissons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
About the Author
Pragya Tiwari is a journalist pursuing an Executive Masters in Public Administration from LSE. She lives between Delhi and London and tweets as @PragyaTiwari.