The first day of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival’s ninth edition saw audiences flock to a vibrant mix of sessions focusing on privacy, the environment, big personalities and moving personal stories and everything in between.
The world’s largest free literary festival opened to a packed audience at the Rajnigandha Silver Pearls Front Lawns, which filled with the spellbinding performance by classical singer Gaayatri Kaundinya, followed by a highly atmospheric performance of traditional Rajasthani folk music, including a rousing fanfare of ceremonial drumming and horns, led by Nathoo Lal Solanki and Chugge Khan.
Rajasthan Chief Minister of Rajasthani Vasundhara Raje welcomed the audience and described the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival as ‘the greatest equalizer’. She expressed her delight that the festival showcased Jaipur and Rajasthan to the world, urging the audience to ‘Enjoy Jaipur, enjoy the festival, and come back again and again’.
Margaret Atwood held the audience spell bound with the opening keynote address ‘Writing is the means whereby light is shed on darkness. There are many darknessess but also many voices.’ Atwood declared. She emphasized the important role played by key stories in building and protecting culture. She expressed her excitement to be visiting India, observing that Indian culture is unique, due to its extreme variety and multiculturalism.
There has been much anticipation around much-loved author Ruskin Bond’s first appearance at the Festival and today a packed out Char Bagh Tent celebrated him in a session which was funny, poignant, and heart-warming.
The inspiring life of Subhash Chandra, chairman of ESSEL Group and ZEE, provided a perfect example of how perseverance and belief can lead you to achieve big ambitions. Chandra threw a fascinating light on how he developed his business acumen, and grew an empire from such small beginnings, facing enormous challenges along the way: ‘I was driven by my passion to do something different which never existed before in India.’
Molly Crabapple joined William Dalrymple in an electric session at the Mahindra Humanities Centre Durbar Hall. Crabapple spoke movingly about her experience of creating illustrations and subtext for her work on Syria. Her poignant images were displayed on a projector for the Festival audience to see: one sketch of a woman going mad in the aftermath of a bombing was particularly striking. Crabapple said that she draws because she wants to ‘restore the dignity of people’ when war takes it away. The pictures that emerged from Syria are full of gore, but her art establishes the essential humanity of citizens in the wake of horrifying oppression.
On day two, Amitabh Kant, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion showcased two of the government’s major campaigns to attract investments and create jobs: Make in India and Start Up India. He is author of Branding India – An Incredible Story and has been a key driver of the Incredible India and God’s Own Country campaigns, which positioned and branded India and Kerala state as leading tourism destinations.
Overall, the Festival sees a very lively and invigorating days, packed with thought-provoking discussions and interesting debates, much laughter and bathed in sunshine.