It was a fantastic atmosphere at the music stage, as a packed and attentive audience listened to the beautiful compositions of Rock Veda, a Delhi based rock fusion band who sent the crowd into raptures with their performance that incorporated elements of Indian classical music with mainstream rock music. An unusual combination of base guitar, rock drums and sitar, combined with the powerful singing of lead vocalist Kabul, produced a form of music which was soulful and harmonious. The stage was shared by Rajasthan Josh, a band that incorporates vocal styles ranging from the mystic Sufi traditions & bhajans to popular folk songs of Rajasthan. Lead singer Chugge Khan mesmerized the crowed with the famous track Nimbuda in a delicate yet fiery music performance.
–Mukund Lath in conversation with Ashok Vajpeyi and Om Thanvi
Scholar and historian Dr. Mukund Lath, awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna award by the President of India, moderated this fascinating poetic session, poet and essayist Ashok Vajpayi, awarded the Sahitya Akademi, that somebody asked him the meaning of ‘anrahnee rene do’ to which he replied, mia pehle kavita padho phir khud hi samajh jaoge. Mukund ji ne kaha ki main ashok ji ko credit dena chahta hun meri kavita ko publish karwaane k liye. He then read two poems from his book which were titled “pankh uske hain sada” and “yam ki takni ka purnchand” which was followed by a great round of applause. Om Thanvi, awarded the Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Puraskar for his excellent work in the field of journalism, said ki main Mukund ji ko 30-35 saalon se jaanta hun par mujhe nahi pata tha ki who itne acche kavi hain aur mujhe ye samajh nahi aata hai ki unhone apni yeh kala logon se chipa k kyun rakhee thi. Iske jawab me Mukund ji ne kaha ki yeh chupke-chupke karne ka kaam hai jo sirf ekaant me ho sakta hai. All the three people from the panel came to similar conclusion that aajkal bahut saari kavitaaen likhi jar rahi hain jo hadbadi ki kavita hai, jabki asli kavita bahut shaant hoti hain. He went on to say that ki aajkal ki kavitaen bahut loud hoti hai. Uske baad teeno kaviyon ne kavita me maun ki zarurat k upar baat ki aur yeh nishkarsh nikalaa ki maun bahut prakaar ke hote hain aur kayi kavitaen maun ka arth samjhane me samarth hoti hain. The session concluded with interesting recitals from various poems with left the attendees visibly impressed and moved.
– Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Saraswati Mathur, Devyani Bharadwaj, Om Nagar, Premchand Gandhi and Atul Kanakk supported by Smita Tewari Jassal.
aaj is kavi sammelan me sabhi kaviyon ne mil kar ek adhbhut samaa baandha. Darshakon aur shrotaganon ne jam kar kavita path ka anand uthaya. Sammelan ka udghatan Sitanshu Yashaschandra ki kavitaon se hua. Unhone apni kavita ‘Samudra’ me kavi k vyaktitva k anoothe pehluon ko darshaya. Unhone apni gujarati kavitaon k angrezi me huye anuvaad ko bhi kavita premiyon k samaksh prastut kia. Saraswati Mathur ne ek taraf Viklang bachhon k jeevan me vasant k aagman ko bohot khubsurti se apni kavita “vasant k aagman par” me dikhaya to wahin dusri taraf apni kavita ‘ye baccha kiska hai’ se shrotaganon ko anaath, asahaay, sadkon par bhiikh mangte bacchon ki stithi par sochne k liye majboor kar diya. Premchand Gandhi ne apni kavita ‘pehla chumban’ aur ‘Prem k din’ ki panktiyan prastut ki. ‘bhookh ne hamesha se banaye rakha hai pet aur peeth me faasla, pet k liye peeth ne dhoya hai kitna bojh.’ Om Nagar ki kavita ‘bhookh’ ki in panktiyon ne jeevan ka nanga sach darshaaya. Premchand Gandhi ne apni kavita se Delhi me huyi dukhad ghatna ki shaheed ko shraddhanjali arpit ki . Devyani Bharadwaj ne bacche k jeevan k rangon ko apni kavita ‘bacche’ me bikhera. Atul Kannak ne apni kavita ‘Pita’ me beet chuke bachpan ki saadgi aur bholepan ko bohot saral bhasha me darshaya. Kuch is tarah ‘Kavitanama’ ne darshakon ka man kavitapath se moh liya.
–Homi Bhabha in conversation with Reza Aslan
Bhabha and Aslan discussed whether 9/11 had led to a fundamental shift in the way America sees itself, as the protector of others and itself, to being a victim of attack. Bhabha read a poem written by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rori Graham, to illustrate that for many Americans, ‘everyday life would never be the same’ post 9/11. Aslan cited de Lillo’s book, Falling Man, which contains the line, ‘everything is now measured by after’ and questioned whether this was ‘more of an artistic sentiment than reality,’ since as far as he could see, there had been no profound change in America except the increase in security surveillance, quipping that it meant the CIA now knew which library books he took out. Aslan, who describes himself as ‘an Iranian, a Muslim, an American,’ wondered how fiction writers should approach events as 9/11, since essentially, ‘stories are not about events, they are about people.’ He pointed to works such as Amy Waldman’s Submission, and Jonathon Safran-Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which both deal with ‘the aftermath of this psychic trauma,’ adding that it was for writers ‘to create meaning at an individual level.’ Aslan also talked of the tremendous cost in economic terms, saying America had spent over a trillion dollars on it’s ‘War on Terror’ since 9/11, and was currently in the midst of its largest economic crisis in a hundred years. Bhabha observed that whole communities had also been affected, and talked of the difference between national and trans-national movements, the latter of whom see themselves as ‘representatives of a larger solidarity,’ and are motivated by feelings of shame and anger at their marginalization, rather than by patriotism. Aslan agreed, saying that the best policy to disempower transnational organizations was by ‘addressing the grievances that empower the organizations.’Bhabha said that the literature of 9/11 ‘has been very very subtle,’ focusing on how politics post 9/11 have changed the lives of people, creating ‘a new empathy.’ He pointed out that novel protagonists since were usually highly ‘ambivalent,’ and that the self-questioning and introspection that had emerged since 9/11 was an opportunity for a ‘learning experience.’ Bhabha predicted that it would be ‘the literature of 9/11 rather than the historical documents’ that would therefore have much more to teach us in the longterm, because it tells the true story. Aslan agreed, saying ‘it is for the small stories to drill deeply into the human condition.’
–Charles Allen with Anita Anand
The session told the story of one the greatest rulers Asia has ever known. Moderator Anita Anand introduced British writer and historian Charles Allen, who praised the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival for organizing such a wonderful event. He commented on how strange it was that Ashoka’s name has been obliterated from `the pages of the Indian history, since he was undoubtedly one of the greatest rulers India has ever known. Allen spoke about his book,Ashoka: The Search of India’s Lost Emperor, and discussed the ruler’s spiritual outlook after the destruction caused by the war of Kalinga, which completely changed the mindset of Ashoka from violence for killing thousands, to one of tremendous remorse and regret. Anand described Ashoka’s dharma in some ways as ‘secular,” saying he respected all religions equally and was a great promoter of non-violence. Allen said he had not written his book ‘as a Buddhist or Christian or a Hindu but I am writing effective history.” He said he felt the real meaning of Buddhist teachings was that it taught us “How to deal with life”.Allen described himself as the defender of “Orientalism” in India, and said he believed in the “age of reason” and not in superstition bemoaning lack of “political will” for safeguarding the ancient monuments in India.
–Diana Eck, David Shulman in conversation with Devdutt Pattanaik introduced by Kota Neelima
Kota Neelima introduced Diana Eck, author of India: A Sacred Geography, who talked about her book written to explore the notion of ‘sacred geography’. She explained how the geography of India has been ‘sawed by sampradayas and pilgrims for hundreds of years’ and footsteps to Rameshwaram, Kedarnath and Badrinath have created the space. Eck distinguished between pilgrimages and dhams by labeling them as areas of spiritual crossovers and restful spiritual abode, respectively, adding that pilgrims go to dhams to be with divinity. Eck discussed the ‘linking of places from one to the other’ to create a landscape which was imagined and in the mind’s eye, as well as somewhat ‘geographical’. She pointed out that this same landscape existed ‘before the modern notion of a nation state had come into being’. David Shulman said he regarded ‘temples not as restful or peaceful places but as places of great movement internally’. For Eck, the temple was not the end but rather, it was the ‘journey which was the revelation’. Devdutt Pattanaik, speaking from his own experience, said ‘the travel’ to pilgrimages provided quality family time and ‘the learning of values was the pilgrimage.’ He concluded that the God becomes personal, and part of the being, through the practice of ‘sacred tourism.’
The session started with Kabir Bedi introducing the audience to the fantastic books shortlisted for the annual DSC South Asian Literature Prize. The welcome speech was given by the chairman of DSC Limited, H.S.Narula, who spoke about the festival’s involvement with various controversies. He said, “What to the outside world seems as a controversy is actually a health debate carried out in this festival.” He observed that that the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival was one of the upholders of Freedom of Speech. Kabir Bedi praised DSC Ltd for its unwavering commitment to literature. He then introduced the audience to the panel of judges headed by K.Sachidanand who had selected the DSC prize. Sachidanand spoke about processes through which the shortlist was prepared, explaining that the major things that they looked for in the books were novelty of theme, fresh outlook on South Asian society and contribution to the form of novel as a whole. The shortlisted writers spoke about their books. Jamil Ahmad said that his book was an effort to capture the life of tribal people: “I wanted to present some images to dispel the myths that have been associated with tribal society.” Chiki Sarkar, the publisher of Tahimna Anam, spoke about The Good Muslim saying that the book portrays wonderful characters against the backdrop of Bangladesh politics. Uday Prakash spoke about his collection of three novellas titled The Walls of Delhi, which examines how globalisation has affected India. Jeet Thayil said that his novel, Narcopolis, describes the evolution of Bombay by looking at its underbelly, the secret history of Bombay. The publisher of Mohammad Hanif spoke about Hanif’s book, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, which uses dark humour to examine the plight of Pakistani women. Chiki Sarkar spoke about Amtiav Ghosh’s River of Smoke saying that Ghosh, through his Ibis trilogy, has tried to rewrite the history of the subcontinent and bought a new dimension to the genre of historical fiction. Actress Sharmila Tagore congratulated DSC Ltd for introducing this prize, and there was a victim of sexual assault whose story has become an inspiration wihtin India, on stage with the actress to present the DSC South Asian Literature Prize. Jeet Thayil was announced as the winner, and said “I have been shortlisted four times but I have never won a prize. It is a great honour to win such a prestigious prize. I dedicate this prize to Jamil Ahmad who is my wonderful friend.”