The fourth day of the Jaipur Literature Festival sees a range of ideas in focus
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On Tuesday 08 March 2022, day four of the 15th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival unfolded on its virtual platform. The day’s sessions were a testament to the rich variety of storytelling that the Festival explores, ranging from books, ideas, performances. The day opened with the calming strains of Sufi music by the gifted singer-songwriters from Srinagar, Kashmir, Ali Saffudin & Noor Mohammad. The two came together to give the audience a unique never-seen-before experience that set the tone for an exceptional array of sessions.
At the Durbar Hall, historian and archaeologist Himanshu Prabha Ray, along with the chair of Tantric Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, Andrea Acri, explored the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism, Sanskrit and Indic forms of art and architecture on large swathes of Southeast Asia. Together, Ray and Acri were in conversation with the Festival’s Co-director Willian Dalrymple. While talking about Buddhist Masters, Ray said, “I would like to say that the term Indianisation itself is a Pizza effect. It started as a European terminology and really was an effort at couching what the Europeans, particularly the French, considered the civilising mission in Asia.”
At another session, retired diplomat Vinod Khanna, along with independent Delhi-based researcher Malini Saran, surveyed the Ramayana traditions of Indonesia and the way in which Indian cultural elements were absorbed in it. Their book Ramayana in Indonesia is comprehensive and extensively researched. With historian and Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple, they discussed the spheres touched by the Ramayana traditions in Indonesia which include literature, performing arts, philosophy, and regional traditions. During the conversation, Saran talked about Ramayana in the art of Java and Bali and gave an exciting presentation. “The inherent qualities of the Ramayana – to entertain, to instruct and to edify – promoted their special status…the malleability of Ramayana gave local artists freedom to shape and interpret this material within the bounds of their artistic forms to make it their own,” said Saran.
Veterans of the digital world, Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, along with chemical engineer and co-author Tanuj Bhojwani, discussed their new book, The Art of Bitfulness, which unravels the toxic relationship that people share with technology in this unprecedented digital age. They were in conversation with economist and writer Mihir S. Sharma. The duo discussed an approach that is not ‘anti-tech but ‘pro-you’, they helped reverse the blurred lines between work and home, recreation and repetition, our lives and our screens, and the boundaries necessary for time, privacy, and attention.
Amitava Kumar, an author of The Blue Book, was seen in conversation with journalist and news anchor, Ravish Kumar. At a session featuring the two Kumars, Amitava said, “Ravish Kumar is Dilip Kumar in the field of journalism!”Later in the session, Amitava talked about how Namita Gokhale has emphasized that the Jaipur Literature Festival is invested as ever in multilingualism. While talking about journalism, he also added, “Journalism is the rough draft of history.”
Master storyteller Ken Follett discussed his latest novel Never along with author Zac O’ Yeah. It is an action-packed thriller with heroines, villains, false prophets, jaded politicians, and opportunistic revolutionaries, steeped in cautionary wisdom for our times. Follett explored the world of this globe-spanning drama and gave us a glimpse into his inspirations and writing process. “I am not cleverer than my readers; my readers are smart people. And they don’t want me to tell them how to think and they certainly don't want me to tell them how to vote.” said Follett.