"The Satanic Verses" author Salman Rushdie may have skipped the Jaipur Literature Festival but more than 5,000 weekend revellers - including housewives and students - Saturday hopped from one tent to another to catch snatches of literary nuggets.
If Rushdie grabbed the headlines at the festival on the opening day Friday, the fever had ebbed by Saturday. "There is a big world beyond Salman Rushdie and debates about religious thorns," a wag said. Literature, after all, is a mirror of everyday concerns and society.
The world is on the lit fest platter. A food court inside Diggi Palace is offering almost everything from Pushkari Chaat from Pushkar, to Jaipur samosas, Rajasthani golgappas, sandwiches, pastry and the odd sherbet.
The food court aside, the Diggi family is feeding more than 1,000 delegates with "passes for the festival" everyday at the venue with their "thikaana" cuisine - a traditional feast of "mithi pyaz ka bhujiya", "tamatar ka jhol", "dal ka salan", "baigan begum bahar", an assortment of paranthas and other rare delicacies that hearken back to the family's tryst with Mughal and Rajput history.
Hosts Rampratap and wife Jyotika, who hail from a smaller clan of erstwhile Rajput rulers, are mingling with the guests decked in their traditional family finery.
Call it literature with royal Indian class.
Cow and all
The Mughal Tent, one of the venues at the festival, has been drawing all and sundry, including a posse of milch bovines, to react to the dons of letters waxing on an amazing variety of subjects.
On Thursday, the cows mooed in assent to veteran journalist David Remnick's critique of US President Barack Obama's performance and the challenges he faces in the new electoral run. Each time, Remnick made an observation about Obama, the bovines responded in chorus from a cowshed next to the decorated tent. "The cows too agree," Remnick quipped.
Cows and India - can they ever be apart?
Run for bytes
Around 920 journalists are chasing nearly 260 authors. And the writers are at their wits' end.
"Keep it to three questions and no more," barked a writer, a biggie in the European non-fiction circuit, to a newbie in the media. The shaken journalist was tongue tied in sheer terror.
"It is a logistical nightmare," rued an insider from the organising committee.
"Writers are like your Bollywood stars," a leading publisher from Britain laughed, gazing at a flock of interviewers trailing behind a leading playwright.
Lit Fest in school
The Literature Festival has fanned out to at least 10 schools in the Pink City to give students a flavor of quality literature - and to ease the surge of school crowds to the festival. An initiative between the Jaipur Literature Festival and Pratham Books, the School JLF took 20 top Indian and foreign authors across schools to talk to students.
Next year, the festival hopes to bring 100 schools under its outreach banner - and some day the state, a member of the organizing committee hoped. Students are the future of any wise nation!