Friday, January 28, 2011

Jaipur Lit. Fest Is Free

When we use the word 'Free' with any product or service, it almost always refers to the monetary price one would have to pay for its consumption. Having just returned from the Jaipur Literature Festival, I can attest that this maxim is woefully inadequate.

The JLF does proclaim 'Free Entry'. Anybody and everybody can walk in to the Diggi Palace Hotel Compound and attend any of the hour-long sessions that take place over eight hours everyday for five days, including the three-hour music sessions every evening.

But, JLF's freedom extends well beyond mere free walking rights.

There are no beeping machines at the entrance that I had to walk through, ready to swoop in on you like children in a game of 'apples and oranges'. No men in khaki performed a body-sweep with a diviner, as if seeking treasure. My bags weren't required to be kept in a locker at the entrance. My bags weren't opened and scanned through. I could literally walk anywhere in the festival and nobody bothered me, no restrictions hindered me. And it was the same with the other 50,000 people who attended the festival.

My friend took a couple of minutes to realise that he was standing next to Kapil Sibal at the music concert one evening. Kabir Bedi sat swaying to the music at a table and conducted a genial conversation with an elderly gentleman who sat next to him. Jon Lee Anderson and Junot Diaz stood with beers in hand. These are people who rock their respective worlds - political, social, literary - and there they are, mingling with everyone else, as normal as anybody else, there for the arts.

The barriers had been broken. The walls had been demolished. Everybody who was in the Jaipur Literature Festival was on an equal footing, were on the same level. All that was requested of people was common sense and courtesy, and they responded, all 50,000 of them. They were trusted and given self-responsibility and they repaid that faith many times over.

Literature flourished, and suddenly, the world really was flat.

1 comment:

Raveena said...

And yet, in the very same festival, Orhan Pamuk and Chimamanda Adichi refused to accept that we live in a world where globalization has truly been achieved.