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William, Alexander... same difference

art-and-culture Updated: Jan 22, 2010 22:10 IST

Hindustan Times
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In the evening, as authors and author-types were schmoozing at the Diggi Palace lawns, a professor from a Jaipur college requested author Alexander McCall Smith for his autograph on a paper napkin. Once the author had graciously obliged, the professor very helpfully added, “I really liked your book, The Last Mughal.” The Scottish author then very gently corrected him by saying that the author of that book was William Dalrymple, not him. The ‘well-informed’ professor replied, “No problem, sir. You both look the same.”

The prowling girl gang

A few female students from a local engineering college entered the venue just as some sessions ended and a Rajasthani folk music performance started. But they soon forgot the music and got all wide-eyed at the gathered glitterati. The only problem was that the girls didn’t seem to know who was who. Someone, however, helpfully pointed out Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka who was walking around with a ‘don’t-bother-me’ look. But the goggle-eyed girls couldn’t care less and forced the rather reserved Nigerian writer to spend a long time with them. Next they approached actors Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and her husband Javed Akhtar.

“Om Puri has promised to give us his personal phone number,” one of them squealed. Later they were heard asking a reporter, “Is there any other author here?”

Not too candid a camera

America-based author Bhasharat Peer has come to Jaipur with his tall girlfriend and they both are staying together in a hotel. But it seems the Kashmiri writer wants to keep his amorous relationship a secret. In the evening, as he was immersed in exchanging grave literary theories with the lady in one corner of the lawns, a photographer on the job asked if he could take a picture of the young couple. Basharat didn’t want that at all. He got up immediately to rush behind the photographer and his camera saying, “Just take her picture... if you have to.”

Seating arrangements

Italian writer Roberto Calasso may be a star speaker at the festival, but when he rushed to claim an empty seat for dinner, the other men at that table — all foreigners — stopped him short by hollering, “Nooooo, this belongs to us!”

The author of the bestselling Ka finally did find a place where he was seen sitting quietly with his girlfriend.