Humans of Jaipur Literature Festival


Humans of Jaipur Literature Festival

Illustration: Sushant Ahire/Arré

This year, from the people who brought you Banoo Main Teri Dulhann, comes another reason to surround yourself in an unnecessary amount of drama – the Jaipur Literature Fest. At the “Greatest Literary Show on Earth Without Enough Restrooms” expect to be treated to the fine musings of some of the most talented authors, poets, journalists, and PR people the country has to offer. Snark at the quality of the wine as you try and remember the name of a Charles Dickens book that isn’t Oliver Twist. Run your hands through hundreds of novels that are soon going to be made into movies anyway. This is the OG lit fest, where oversmart authors are threatened by fringe groups, and quizzed by oversmart people with fringes.

If this is your first time at this tamasha, worry not. A large scoop of India’s crème de la crème will keep you company through sessions on the finest contemporary literature the world has to offer, and whatever the hell a spoken word Jazz night is. Here’s a few types of people you might bump into.

The “I Read a Book… Once” Bookworm

Before planning a trip to Jaipur Literature Festival, this person spent most of their time talking about Jules Verne’s impact on modern-day science-fiction. Then once you get there, it emerges this person had confused Jules Verne with an author whose name they conveniently cannot remember at this point. But that chap definitely had some good points to make anyway. You can spot such a person furtively browsing through book titles at any given point of the day, because they are constantly living in fear that they’ll be quizzed by the more intelligent crowd around them and confuse Rahul Gandhi for Chetan Bhagat. They are most likely to be Googling “good literature” during a session, and sweating in the restroom during the break – if they can manage to get in.

The “Society has Finally Accepted Me Now”

Touted among friends as the Shazam for literature, this person waits through the previous year to come all the way to Jaipur to show off how little they care about anyone’s achievements. Usually avoided with a 10-foot barge-pole, this human uses terms like “rationalist structuralism” when talking about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and “postmodern deconstructionism” when referring to Harry Potter. They take the term “literary criticism” so seriously, that they are a single disappointment away from turning into the Joker. Make sure you don’t show them a Nobel prize winner or they will be “filled with contempt”. In fact, you’re better off hanging with…

The “Wait a minute… this isn’t Pushkar”

This person has been tricked into coming for what they thought was a giant party in the desert, organised by their more boring friends. Until they reach the venue, they assume they’re arriving at India’s Burning Man (the presence of a hashtag in the title does little to help here). Once they realise “lit” is short for literature and not a descriptor for the festival, they are devastated. But all they did was pack shorts, thigh-high boots, turbans, and Eno, so, by god, will they have a drink anyway. They are then introduced to blue margaritas, and things will never be the same again. This kind of person is usually found putting on some makeup during a session on Syrian Kurds, or going Insta-live from the Diggi Palace.

The “My question isn’t really a question”

This person loves the sound of their voice so much, they’ve just had a hot beverage before the session to relax their vocal cords. Being a member of the “audience” does little to deter them as they provide live commentary over the author’s live commentary about their book. Sentences usually start with, “I have a question”, but then go on to offer commentary, propositions, statements, expositions, indictment, basically anything that doesn’t require a “?” at the end. These people love to hear the sound of their voice so much, they do their own weekly podcast. But since you personally never get the time to check it out, you are treated to an impromptu performance midway through an author’s session. This person is usually found walking into the fest with an air of pomp, and walking out escorted by security.

So there you have it, four more reasons to avoid Jaipur Lit Fest this year. It’s almost like walking into a Crossword bookstore on Sunday afternoon expecting to read half a book, only to find out it’s EDM night. Truth be told, there is too much lit in lit fest.