Jaipur Diary – The Disappointing Third Day

2010 Jaipur Literature Festival

Notes from the Jaipur Literature Festival.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Click here to reach the complete compilation of the Jaipur Diary

There is no reason why The Delhi Walla shouldn’t feel lucky to be in the fifth Jaipur Literature Festival. I chatted with the former New Yorker editor Tina Brown. Nobel laureate Wole Soynka looked into my eyes for full five seconds. William Dalrymple, the author of City of Djinns, hugged me. The queen of Bhutan threw an exclusive smile at me. Actress Neena Gupta offered me beer. Author Roddy Doyle shook my hands. Actress Shabana Azmi sat beside me for half hour. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Lawrence Wright took a stroll with me. Another Pulitzer Prize winning author, Anne Applebaum, had tea with me. Saleema Hasmi, the daughter of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, gave me her phone number. But I have discovered after the two days of the festival that I’m not enjoying.

I don’t like being with the famous. Interesting people have nothing interesting to say when they are basking in their famousness.

In most cases, the authors are different from what we imagined them from their books. [I thought Basharat Peer would be nice; he was haughty. I thought Tina Brown would be haughty; she was nice].

Some writers are arrogant. Some mingle in their own exclusive club. Some simply write bad prose and do not deserve the adulation they receive. A few are very nice but lost in the trappings of the festival – name tags, seminars, speeches et al.

Just three days and I’m missing Delhi. Its streets, its smell, its fog, its autos, its buses, its bookstores, its ruins, its people. Festivals are too noisy, too packed, too manufactured, too removed from the real world. It’s like being in India Habitat Center, 24/7. I will rather meet the authors at their home than in a place whether they come attached with their reputation.

Take this: At one moment I was talking to Lahore-based author Ali Sethi. He is a charming, intelligent, literate, sensitive, fun-loving man next door. Next moment he climbed the stage and shhewwww — he becomes an Oracle. People clap at his words, ask him important questions, take his pictures, request him for exclusive interviews. Ali Sethi was no longer the Ali Sethi I knew. He had morphed into an inaccessible man. He did come down the stage but — to my eyes — he would never revert to what he was an hour ago. I would never be able to connect to him on a personal level. This was no fun. I want to be back in the real world, back in Delhi.

Click here to reach the complete compilation of the Jaipur Diary

Chatting with Tina Brown

Tina Brown

Smiling with Steve Coll

Steve Coll

Careful, Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir

Close encounter with Ali Sethi

Ali Sethi

Face-to-face with Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

Quiet moments with Saleema Hashmi

Saleema Hashmi

Walking past Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A brush with the Queen of Bhutan

The Queen of Bhutan

Dining opposite Vikram Chandra

Vikram Chandra

Eavesdropping on Rahul Bose

Rahul Bose

Listening to Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

Intruding into Om Puri and wife, Nandita

Om Puri and wife, Nandita

Catching William Dalrymple on Blackberry

Catching William Dalrymple on Blackberry

Laughing with Ashok Vajpeyi

Ashok Vajpeyi

Staring at Sam Miller

Sam Miller

Talking to Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

Being introspective with Baldev Krishna Vaid

Baldev Krishna Vaid

Speechless with Hanif Qureshi

Hanif Qureshi

Free Tibet for Tenzing Tsundue

Tenzing Tsundue

Al Qaeda lecture from Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright

A still moment with Romesh Gunesekera

Romesh Gunesekera

Coming up to Amit Chowdhury

Jaipur Literature Festival