Regardless of the testing times, Jaipur lit fest to go on

Sanjoy Roy.
JLF Producer Sanjay K Roy. Photo: IANS
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New Delhi: Earlier this year, the Rajasthan government ruled that the iconic Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), dubbed the greatest literary show on earth, would have to shift out of the Diggy Palace, its home for 13 years on logistical issues. Then came the coronavirus pandemic that has locked down India and much of the world and there was a question mark on whether the situation would stabilise for the 14th edition to be held as scheduled for January 28-February1, 2021. Regardless of the testing times, the show will go on, JLF Producer Sanjay K. Roy asserts – though there may be changes in the format.

"It's too early to look at what form the Jaipur Literature Festival will take for 2021. We are confident of hosting the festival in 2021 albeit with changes given the challenges presently," Roy, the MD of Teamwork Arts that conducts the event, told IANS in an interview.

"These are testing times. Times which we had not ever foreseen or even quite comprehend. This is also the perfect time to reboot our thought process and create something fresh and vibrant. But every crisis comes with many opportunities. It's on us to figure them out, nurture them and share it with others," Roy added.

This is also a time "when we turn to the hope-instilling powers of literature", he said, adding that JLF has always celebrated the glory of the word and the spirit of the community that books build.

"The Festival believes in linking people through the universal language of art and literature at a time which defies every known challenge. Now more than ever, when de-globalisation is the need of the hour, a free-flowing exchange of ideas must be kept alive. Hence, we came out with ‘JLF Brave New World', an online literature series, a virtual initiative to celebrate books, their power and positivity," Roy noted.

Noting that it was ironic that a 'tiny virus' has "turned the world upside down and in true sense teaching us the fact that all aspects of life can get affected by a single object", he said: "The pandemic has shown us that the road ahead is filled with unwanted barriers, but it's not the end of it. It is going to give us knowledge which we never had a chance to visit in better times. It will bring us the wisdom to fight with even worse situations. JLF Brave New World is a reflection of the same idea which brought us together to keep fighting the pandemic and be together in these tough times."

JLF Brave New World engages a well-defined process involving the entire workforce to make the sessions as interesting as the original festival is. The sessions get simultaneously live-streamed on social media handles including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Curated by co-festival Directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, elaborate list of speakers includes Orhan Pamuk, Jhumpa Lahiri, Abhijit Banerjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Bruno Macaes, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Peter Frankopan, Peter Morgan, Ruskin Bond, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Shubha Mudgal and Simon Schama, to name a few.

"We have also created new digital programming for the music, theatre and the arts and artisan space. META will go online shortly, #ArtMatters is online to focus on artists and artisans and Under The Banyan Tree and a new exciting music project around Jazz India Circuit," Roy added.

In all this, the preparations are in full swing for JLF 2021.

"The curation of the programming is a lengthy procedure for the Jaipur Literature Festival. We plan a year in advance to deliver each edition on time. Indeed, this is an ever-ongoing process which happens over 18 months," Roy said.

Some of the offshore JLFs have however, taken a hit.

"India by the Bay Hong Kong, India by the Bosphrous, India in Morocco, etc have been postponed and JLF London, JLF Belfast and JLF USA are looking to become virtual online festivals," Roy said

The message, at the bottom line is: We Shall Overcome.

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