Today is the last day of the Jaipur Literary festival. And I don’t feel so good. It’s cold, I’ve got a cold, I’m tired. But James Shapiro, an expert on Shakespeare (Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?) is talking to William Dalrymple and I want to hear him, so I rush through breakfast and sit through the talk. It’s lovely. But I’m still tired – and cold.
I leave the Mughal tent, the venue for another promising talk, and wander around. First of all, I find a patch of sun and sit down to bask in it (I swear I’ll never again snigger at sun-crazed whites lying out all day in the blazing sun!) I drink two cups of boiling tea, my lips kissing the small mud pots, and feel new strength flow into my tired body. I head up to the room and sit around, doing nothing. Nothing. I don’t read, work on the laptop or even think.
Then, as I begin to relax, to slow down, I give thanks for this wonderful (and warm) moment that I am privileged to experience. I’m surrounded by literature, books, inspirational words, clever authors, my friends; all is well in my world, I am indeed blessed.
And on another note
Muslim hardliner groups objected to Salman Rushdie’s teleconference. The book is banned, but obviously they want the author to be banned too. Not a happy day for a moderate Muslim like me. But then, thankfully, there were some delightful discussions on how this whole freedom of speech issue should be taken forward – and what was better, one of the hardliners himself, was included in the panel. He, of course, was unable to defend his ridiculous position about not even wanting to ‘see’ Mr Rushdie on a TV screen, but it was important to have him up there and hear his side of the story, rather than shut him out and alienate him further. It is important that we give everyone a voice – and listen to this voice respectfully – as discussions, talks, an exchange of ideas and concepts seem to be one of the best ways forward.
The festival ended with a debate on ‘Has Man replaced God?’ which had us in splits, as Javed Akhtar, Suhel Seth and a bunch of others tore into the arguments of Swami Agnivesh, Salim Engineer (leader of a conservative Jamaat), and another lady. It was good fun, but not really fair to pitch a bunch of fairly straight-forward godmen against some of the cleverest poets and writers that we have. Most of us came away with the feeling that the idea of God as we see it, was not represented at all. Now if only Oprah had been on that panel, the discussion might have turned out differently.