After Orhan Pamuk failed to show up, it was Anil Kapoor’s turn to cancel. The biggest event of the Jaipur Literary Festival, the grand premiere of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, has been turned into a “delegates-only” show. Last year, with the Indian premiere of Atonement, based on Ian McEwan's novel, getting into a tangle with the authorities over certification-permission etc, the organisers decided to play it safe this year. But if the filmi crowd was disappointed, they could take solace in the fact that lyricist-poet Gulzar mesmerised a 'house-full' audience while in conversation with diplomat-author Pavan.K.Varma. Bets are on at this point if Amitabh Bachchan, slated to arrive for the launch of a book on his films and memorabilia, will show up or not.
Ready, get Seth, go
The first half of the day belonged to Vikram Seth. The author suitably read out from The Suitable Boy, the breakthrough novel that he said “gouged out his 30s”. When the moderator compared the novel with War and Peace — probably the thickness — Seth replied, “There was a lot of peace in it, but I can't say much of war.” His response to a query about the facts behind his fiction was sharp. Who did he write the beautiful poem, All You Who Sleep Tonight, for? “Poems are notes,” he said, “and one doesn't keep notes on notes.”
Basharat Peer, writer of the moving Kashmiri memoir, Curfewed Night, spoke on ‘The fundamentals of fundamentalism’. He told the audience that he had seen students, teachers and even cricket teams “disappear”. Fundamentalism, he said, is a wandering word whose trigger lies in local history. “Religion can become a tool of mobilisation — when events like Gaza happen, it doesn't make you a moderate.”
While the literati guzzled (free) beer, professor'n'foodie and author of Paan...Leaf of Many Delights Pushpesh Pant was heard moaning the loss of ‘paan culture' in India. He even used the paan being served at the lunch as a good example of “gooey gump”. Nice pitch for his book, but should he be chewing the hand that's feeding him in Jaipur?