Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jaipur Literature Fest

Image Courtesy: Google

Most of the literary festivals around the word are supposed to offer the following things:

Books, stories, poems, words, and the wonderful chance of meeting the people who write them.

Literature festivals never talk politics or race or casteism or gender.

Exposing certain breeds of cultural tyrants is not deemed to be the purpose of Jaipur Literature Fest; at least, I think so.

Who in the world would buy what I just said about literary fests? At least I won’t. In this paradoxical idealism, I can see the traces of myself being negated and asserted and negated again.

Literature festivals do talk politics, race, caste and gender.

This later thought is the reality and the former, naïve idealism. One can see in this case, reality creates wounds while naivety heals them.

After previous year’s fray by the Islamists and Hinduists, I was doubtful if there would be another JaipurLiterature Fest in the coming year, meaning 2013. I was so sure about the cancellation of this years Fest, as anyone, familiar with the excessive influences extremist groups have in the Indian illiterate mind. Salman Rushdie was banned from the Fest the previous year and his Satanic Verses was sacked. In an attempt to express solidarity many writers read out parts from this text of holy Islamic blasphemy.

Image Courtesy: Google
Even though banned, Mr. Rushdie, like in many of his novels and especially in The Enchantress of Florence, took a magical realistic avatar and through ‘Creative Praxis’. He appeared on a virtual screen as a reflection of his mortal self. The concept of ‘Creative Praxis’ proposes that an individual, if oppressed by tyranny, can use creative measures of finding and expressing his individualism. The video conference was the ‘Creative Praxis’. And Mr. Rushdie was successful in it.

But how long would Mr. Rushdie be able to evade the practitioners of cultural tyranny? What about the Literature Fest Vs religious-terrorist duel? Religious Terrorists or RTs get a major media coverage in India. That was the reason why I doubted the possibilities of seeing the Jaipur Literature Fest another year. But here it is!

Proving that they have the guts enough to face the RTs of both green and saffron clad, the Jaipur Literature Fest entered another year of its journey. It disappoints me how erroneous my assumptions were about the future of the Fest. I did not anticipate the arrival of the Fest and so could not reserve a seat beforehand by train to Jaipur, adding to my embarrassment. Well, for me it is just another year of not attending the Literature Fest, whatever the reasons be. Hopefully I can be there next year. But at the same time, it relieves me to a great extend finding literature and the fantasy of “people talking about books” still going on.

Mr. Rushdie might appear in his metaphysical avatar on a TV screen, probably, this year too. The writers who read out from Satanic Verses the previous year are banned from the Fest by the Islamists. Will they be able to attend the Fest or will they use Creative Praxis and find their own paths to come round the obstacles, is a question that adds masala to the event. Another major attraction this year would be the announcement of the Man Booker prize for best fiction.

The Hinduists have this strange idea, lately of banning writers from Pakistan, in the Jaipur Literature Fest. Oddly enough, this idea rhymes with the nationalistic spirits of the Indian masses, in the aftermath of the recent breach of Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, by Pakistani army cum terrorists cum sepoys. This assures that there would not be a single Pakistani writer in the Fest this year.

The reality once again knocks on the door. Strange ideas are the result of a not so strange strategy. And of course, literature festivals do talk dirty things. Sshis Nandy had his turn already. Who will be next?
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