The first day of the Jaipur Literature Festival is usually the best of days. The IPL of book fests – no one now doubts JLF’s place in the hierarchy of book fests – is enjoyed best on Day 1.
It’s before the selfie-seeking crowds start pouring in and we only have the serious literature aficionados. The very first thing that strikes any visitor – no matter how many times he has attended in the past – is the plethora of colours that one chances upon: pink, red, shades of burgundy and colours that are too hard to differentiate for philistines.
Throwing open the festival, Sanjay Roy said that the growing tribalism around the world meant that we could no longer afford to be silent, saying the world needed to ‘speak in one voice, with empathy against tribalism’.
Meanwhile, author and Festival Co-Director William Dalyrmple noted how the first-ever iteration in 2006 barely had any attendees, many of them lost tourists who had turned up unknowingly.
In contrast, the 2019 edition had half a million people turning up and had become without a doubt the biggest of its kind in the world. This year 350 festival directors form 300 literary fests also turned up to see the magic that goes behind the scenes.
Noting the rich history of literary fests – albeit oral ones in ancient India – William Dalyrmple paid tribute to the audience. Sharing an anecdote about poems never being written down before they were recited to an audience, Dalyrmple lamented that without an audience a literary fest was like a ship without a helmsman in the open sea.
This year’s edition has the who’s who of the literary world with recently-minted Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, the usual suspect Shashi Tharoor, anchor Ravish Kumar, Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson, Pulitzer winner Paul Muldoon, Emmy-winning journalist Ruchira Gupta and a host of other luminaries.