Top 12 sessions to look forward to at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

  • Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2015 22:10 IST

With a range of respected names including Pulitzer-winning poet Vijay Seshadri, who will deliver the keynote address on 'The Poetic Imagination' and newly appointed vice chairman of Niti Aayog Arvind Panagariya holding forth on 'Rajasthan: Out of Bimaru', this year's Jaipur Literature Festival promises to have something for everyone. But with 170 sessions spread over six venues within Jaipur's Diggi Palace, things can get confusing. Which is why we've drawn up a list of 12 interesting sessions you must attend:

1 Seven deadly sins in our time
Who: Academic Homi K Bhabha, director of the humanities center at Harvard University, Hindi poet and writer Ashok Vajpeyi, 2010 Sahitya Akademi award winner Jewish-Indian author Esther David, and novelist Eimear McBride will take the chairs. The session will be introduced by Namita Gokhale, writer and one of the founder-directors of the JLF.

Academic Homi K Bhabha (Photo: Rajendra Gawankar/HT)

Why: If lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride were the seven deadly biblical sins, then what are those of our times? Do they remain the same or have they changed in the face of globalization and the rise of religious extremism and inequality?

When: 11.15am-12.15pm, January 21

2 Is the 'commerce' of literature today killing 'good' writing?
Who: The panelists for this session are writer Nayantara Sahgal, Tamil feminist writer CS Lakshmi, former journalist and writer Mark Tully, and publisher of HarperCollins India Karthika VK. The session will be chaired by lyricist Prasoon Joshi.

Author Mark Tully (Photo: HT)

Why: A lot has been said about the rising commercialisation of literature. A JLF session on it will probably be the best place to hear out the different voices on the subject.

When: 12.30- 1.30pm, January 21

3 The power of myth
Who: Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik.

Author Devdutt Pattanaik (Photo: HT)

Why: With the line between myth and fact-based history being constantly blurred in contemporary India, it's time to look at what exactly constitutes each. And who better than Devdutt Pattanaik, who has a number of books on mythology to his credit, to do that for us?

When: 12.30- 1.30pm, January 21

4 And then one day
Who: Actor Naseeruddin Shah and playwright and director Girish Karnad will be in conversation in this session introduced by TV producer and writer Nasreen Munni Kabir.

Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah (Photo: HT)

Why: Shah's honest autobiography 'And then one day' garnered a lot of interest when it was released last year. The book revealed the struggles of an actor who thinks and works differently from most of his mainstream colleagues. It will be interesting to catch the veteran actor in conversation with his long-time friends playwright Girish Karnad.

When: 3.30-4.30pm, January 21

5 Sri Lanka: Through the Looking Glass
Who: Journalist Samanth Subramanian and Sri Lankan born British author Romesh Gunesekera will be in conversation with writer and illustrator Ashok Ferry.

British author Romesh Gunesekera

Why: Considering Maithripala Sirisena's victory in the Sri Lanka elections and allegations of RAW's involvement in former president Rajapaksa's defeat, any talk about our island neighbour promises to be interesting.

When: 2.15-3.15pm, January 22

6 Descent into chaos - Pakistan on the brink
Who: Panelists include Pakistani militant-turned-journalist Ahmed Rashid, senior Pakistani diplomat Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Indian diplomat and author G Parthasarathy, and British author and Orwell Prize-winning journalist Anatol Lieven. The session will be moderated by journalist Suhasini Haider.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri (Photo : Sondeep Shankar/HT)

Why: Pakistan. Ahmad Rashid. Mahmud Kasuri. What else?

When: 11:15am - 12:15pm, January 22

7The conflict of dharma in the Mahabharata
Who: Celebrity writer Amish Tripathi and will be in conversation with economist Bibek Debroy in a session introduced by Namita Gokhale.

Author Amish Tripathi (Photo: HT)

Why: Amish, the writer of bestsellers like The Immortals of Meluha, which takes off from mythological tales of Shiva, will be in conversation with economist Bibek Debroy, who has translated the Mahabharata into English in 10 volumes. A session featuring two very different approaches to mythology promises to be enriching.

When: 10-11am, January 23

8 India Shastra
Who: Writer and politician Shashi Tharoor and journalist Mihir Sharma will be in conversation with writer and former news anchor Amrita Tripathi.

Shashi Tharoor (Photo: Kunal Patil / HT)

Why: Both Sashi Tharoor, through his books and columns, and Mihir Sharma, in his opinion pieces, are known for interesting observations. The recent police questioning of Tharoor in connection with the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar adds that element of scandal.

When: 12:30pm - 1:30pm, January 23

9 The writer and the world
Who: Nobel laureate VS Naipaul will be in conversation with Indian-born British writer Farrukh Dhondy.

VS Naipaul (Photo: HT)

Why: VS Naipaul needs no introduction in India. He will be in conversation with long time friend writer Farrukh Dhondy, author of books like, among others, Bikini Murders and Poona Company. Considering the two are long time friends, and that Dhondy has been a loyal acolyte, this should be a love fest to beat all others.

When: 2.15-3.15pm, January 24

10 The spinner of tales
Chetan Bhagat in conversation with Meru Gokhale, editorial director, Random House India.

Author Chetan Bhagat (Photo: Jasjeet Plaha/HT)

Why: Chetan Bhagat. Does one need to say more? To run the cliche, you can hate him or admire him, but you can't ignore him.

When: 10-11am, January 25

11 Devil's Advocate: Ram Jethmalani
Who: Lawyer and politician Ram Jethmalani will be in conversation with journalist Madhu Trehan. The session will be introduced by writer Shobhaa De.

Ram Jethmalani (Photo: Vipin KUmar/HT)

Why: An incisive speaker known for his sharp ripostes, Jethmalani has a fund of stories on everybody who is anybody and is not shy about speaking his mind. Certainly a session that promises to be scintillating.

When: 3.30-4.30pm, January 25

12 Culture is the new politics
Who: Senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta, personality Suhel Seth, Indian-American entrepreneur Rajiv Malhotra, writer-diplomat Pavan Varma, writer Tarun Vijay and writer-translator Arshia Sattar. The session will be moderated by Sanjoy Roy, a founder-director of the JLF.

Suhel Seth (Photo: HT)

Why: The last session of this year's JLF will be a power-packed house of opinion pundits. The idea of 'culture' and what constitutes it in emerging India is so contested right now that any discussion on the topic, especially involving a panel with such differing allegiances, promises to be totally entertaining.

When: 5-6pm, January 25.

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