Jaipur Literature Festival 2016: Zombies, cricket and war dominate sessions on the second day
Jaipur: The sun shone and sessions inspired and entertained audiences on the second day of the ongoing ZEE Literature Festival as crowds gathered again on the lawns of Diggi Palace to see and hear the world’s greatest writers.
It is impossible to leave a Margaret Atwood session without being utterly charmed by her wit. In conversation with the novelist Naomi Alderman, Atwood regaled the audience with her take on zombie apocalypses, giant robots, politics, literature and even ‘Game Of Thrones’. She quipped that the zombie government was set in ousted Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper’s term, to the general amusement of the audience. The audience found Atwood speaking passionately about zombies immensely endearing. Atwood even read from her latest novel, ‘The Heart Goes Last’, which is set in a dystopian future that sees people voluntarily sign up to spend six months of their year in prison making the audience think deeply about how exciting and frightening their own future may be.
Post Atwood’s session, the crowd stayed on for ‘Selfie’ which had not one or two but seven speakers. As author-journalist Samanth Subramanian, who was moderating the event, quipped, “This is the maximum number of people that Jaipur Lit Fest has ever seen on stage. At another lit fest, seven would be number of people watching it.” The session had some big names including Stephen Fry, Christina Lamb, Helen MacDonald, Blake Morrison, Brigid Keenan and Esther Freud speaking about memoirs and how much of it is autobiographical. Keenan even recited ‘Little Miss Muppet’ in Hindi much to the delight of the audience while Fry admitted he hated taking selfies but was quick to take his phone out and click a photo of the crowd that had gathered to hear him.
— IBNLive Books (@IBNLiveBooks) January 22, 2016
— Samanth Subramanian (@Samanth_S) January 22, 2016
A cricket legend, a football genius and two sports writers enjoyed rapturous applause as they came to the stage on Friday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, the session on Indian sport managed to focus almost entirely on cricket and the audience enjoyed the contributions of Anil Kumble. However, Baichung Bhutia got an enthusiastic round of applause when he said ‘football is slightly better’ in relation to the casual way in which people view the IPL! Perhaps the audience reaction is an indication that India has realized the importance of supporting its young people in sports other than the national obsession—cricket.
After stimulating sessions yesterday, discussion returned once again to the topic of privacy. Cultural theorist Homi K Bhabha laid the historical and theoretical groundwork for the conversation, moving seamlessly from Justice Brandeis’ 1890 essay, On The Right To Privacy, to the 2015 independent Hindi film, Masaan. The world’s biggest social media website Facebook and the world’s biggest search engine Google were at the centre of a lot of the debate among the panel. Bhushan declared ‘Snowden is the hero of a new age’ because his actions have led to a total revolution in our knowledge. Snowden informed us, according to Homi K Bhabha, of how ignorant of our ignorance we really were.
The landscape of war journalism has altered massively over the years. One thousand journalists have been killed covering conflicts since 1961, and the numbers keep rising. According to British Journalist Christina Lamb, journalists have now become targets of war.
While the other panelists covered war as ‘outsiders’, Grossman resides within the Israel-Palestine conflict; in 2006, he lost his son in the Lebanon war. On being asked what it is like to cover a conflict you live in, he said that he experiences it in the most intimate, personal way and doesn’t think of it as ‘covering. ‘I try to look at the effect of this conflict on both sides. I try to understand how conflict affects human relationships, language, prospects of a future. There are so many things that are polluted and poisoned by conflict’, he iterated.
India was explored in very different sessions today. In the morning, audiences heard from Coomi Kapoor whose incisive book ‘The Emergency’ reveal her own horrific personal experiences of political persecution. The afternoon began with Bhasha: Freeing the Word, which brought together a wonderful panel of Dhruba Jyoti Borah, Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Anita Agnihotri, K. Satchidanandan and Vivek Shanbhag to debate the plurality of India’s 24 languages and test the theory that they constitute many languages and one literature.