North India has been in the news lately mostly for disappearing under a dense layer of fog. Jug Suraiya in TOI speaks of it as …”fog-so thick and impenetrable that you felt you could cut it in huge chunks that would help replace all those melting Himalayan glaciers that RK Pachauri’s been carrying on…about and which mayn’t be melting after all-smothered Delhi in a total white out and wiped it off the face of the map.”
What better than to escape to places that didn’t evanesce off the map in a swirling white cloud but stayed determinedly on and were sunny to boot!
So that is what we did at Pratham Books. We went to sunny Jaipur. The vast temporary descent of literary luminaries for the Jaipur Literature Festival only helped add to the glow. The hype of “The Greatest Literary Show on Earth” notwithstanding, it had its moments that stay with you like the play of light in your eye after a star burst…
Gulzar reciting his extraordinarily simple but moving poems about afternoons in old Delhi, his love for mountainscapes, a patch of sunlight retreating from a room as evening comes and much more…Pavan Varma, his perceptive translator laughing uproariously as a fair Gulzar turned to him, his darker skinned interlocutor and twinkling affectionately said,“Mora gora ang lai le, mohe shyam rang dai de…”
Shabana Azmi spoke passionately about Shaukat Kaifi’s book on her life with Kaifi Azmi. She gave us a glimpse of the great love between her talented parents and their early family life in a commune. She traced the roots of her growth as an actor with activist leanings as well as how her own feminist ideology has been tempered by her mother’s experiences.
It was a packed programme with many hard choices to make at every hour as there were readings, panel discussions and larger events. There were the Bhaskar Bhasha events with a focus on Indian languages and writers. There were international authors such as Wole Soyinka, Roddy Doyle, Christophe Jaffrelot, Romesh Gunesekera….to name just a few.There were Om Puri and Girish Karnad reading from Tughlaq…There was Kancha Ilaiah speaking about the Dalit experience.
There were book launches and TV style events on topics such as Can the Internet Save Books and In a Tough Neighbourhood with writers and political activists from across South Asia.
Diggy Palace was overrun by students, professors, book lovers, star struck teenagers who wanted Rahul Bose’s number and the Delhi fog-escapers.
Fortunately for us, they all made their way to the Pratham Books’ stall. They bought books and asked questions. We also star gazed as Ratna Pathak Shah and Rahul Bose came and browsed through our selection (and no, we did not ask for his number).Many visitors were old friends who brought new ones with them so that our circle of friends grew. A selection of our books reached the groups of children who were taking part in the Being Human workshops that were happening in parallel.
We also brought some of the Jaipur warmth back to Delhi. The fog seems to be lifting finally.
View more images here.