All the best things in life are free: love, creativity, Inspiration, and apparently, Jaipur Literature Festival too. It is exciting, vibrant, and full of flavors. For the last couple of years, I have become a regular at JLF. Every year, I look forward to it to feel—insignificant, ignorant, and innocent but in the best way possible. The global stage set up in the traditional aesthetic premises of Diggi Palace with some of the most innovative, fearless, and perceptive minds of our times, is sublimely surreal with all the right elements of worldly wisdom. The dramatics of JLF-in-town is clearly palpable in the sheer joy that I feel while getting ready or in the rush of my pace when stepping out or in the anxiety of missing out on a good seat. I cherish every bit of the JLF season. To calm down this happy chaos, I launched this modest blog page about my experiences at Jaipur Literature Festival. Because you never know, it might infect some shy spirits to take a good walk at JLF. With over 200 sessions spanned across five wintry days of January, it is no less than Sophie’s choice for a true literary lover to choose one session over another. But employing a few good standards can help make your time worthwhile at Jaipur Literature Festival. So, I would like to share a few tips on how to choose your sessions at ZEE JLF.
# 1. Do a little research on speaker/author’s history – Other than the celebrity authors from the likes of Shashi Tharoor or Margaret Atwood or Jeffery Archer, it is not unusual for a JLF visitor to come across an unknown or unexplored author. Given the scale and diversity of the stage shared by the writers from the world over, it only makes sense to do a brief research on the speaker’s background or author’s history of works (even an instant Wikipedia reference helps). Not only it helps you decide if you should attend one session at the cost of another, but it can also spare you from the ignorance or confusion emerging out of the conversation that sometimes gets stuck around a particular situation or a character or a book’s background. Since the titles of the JLF program are not much (or not always) of a revelation about which way the conversation might lead, knowing just enough about the unknown guest speaker can prove to be a smart tactic to enjoy the best bits of a session.
# 2. The Moderator sets the bar for you – One hour of a JLF session can either be too little or too much. Bridging this distinction is the hallmark of a great moderator. I have had attended sessions with legendary speakers and not-quite-there moderators and vice-versa too. With time I have come to know that there does exist an ideal court from where I have come out feeling full, joyous, and stimulated. And almost always, it had a moderator that did his job really well. Asking right, relevant, and propelling questions, evading the frequent ego-clash between the panel members, and most importantly containing the essence of the conversation with a focused narrative, yields more than an otherwise decorated panel without a natural moderator. So, next time you visit the fest make sure your reasons for choosing a given session cares for the moderator’s background and experience as well.
# 3. Put time and number to your sessions – Some of the most anticipated sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival are held between 11 am to 4 pm. So, if you need to be at JLF for a few hours, make sure you are there at the most productive ones. Since, programs are susceptible to change, by staying alert towards audio/visual announcements, one can keep up with time. Even though, a day at JLF sees anywhere between 30-40 sessions, attending more than four can be quite overwhelming for even the most ardent literary lover. There is a sort of consensus among regulars that one should not tend to more than 3-4 sessions a day but rather maintain a qualitative stimulus throughout the season. Cherry-picking is tiring but rewarding.
# 4. Plan a day of diversity – Jaipur Literary Festival is not only about celebrating books. It is rather about comprehending a universe from where the vast world of human literature originates. It is a consciousness sprouting from the creative interaction between humanity and its environment. Indulging in this diverse, rich, and global conversation is immensely enlightening for a human mind that is prone to myths and assumptions. Plan a routine that pushes you to listen to speakers from wide walks of history, art, technology, economy, and beyond. There could not be a more open or free stage to grasp a better understanding of the burning issues of our times, relevant to the nation or the world at large. Spend your energy at a session that discusses its complexities and consequences concerning the greater truth from the best of the scholars, academicians social scientists. Dedicate at least one or two sessions to subject fields or interest areas that you normally struggle or naturally don’t align with. JLF will not disappoint you in triggering a fresh wave of curiosity. The least you could lose is an illusion.
# 5. Ask clear, concise, and relevant questions – the only part of JLF that’s literally annoying (other than the expensive food or the long toilet queues or seat-blocking) is the wasted opportunity of getting to ask questions. A totally irrelevant question or worse, an opinion cloaked in and as a question is dreaded dearly by all, especially the moderator. Presuming, it is easy to get confused or lost while transporting doubts from the mind to the microphone, it though does not have to be the case. A simple note-keeping gesture can make a good, in fact, desirable audience out of you. Taking notes and revisiting them until a real question arrives on the paper, will jog your critical faculties and put them to the best instantaneous use possible. After all, nothing is more rewarding to a speaker than an intelligent, well-crafted, and alert question. So, make sure you always have a pen and a mini notebook on you at JLF to create a memorable session for yourself and others.
# 6. Blog, Create and let the chance do its job! Jaipur Literature Festival officially invites bloggers and storytellers to come forward and showcase their creative side for a chance to launch themselves in the literary world. IWrite contest via JAIPUR BOOKMARK program runs parallel to the fest and gives a chance to the aspiring writers (at a minimum expense) to make their mark in the world. So if story-writing gives you thrills or you have a lyrical tongue or you happen to be a smart marketer with something to say, JLF might swing a hearty opportunity your way to become any of these, officially and professionally. All you need to do is register and follow the guidelines.
I hope these simple tips will prove useful to you while planning for the next edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival. See you at JLF 2021. Till then – Happy Reading!
P.S. Image Copyright & Courtesy – ZEE JLF