If literature does strange things to people, literary festivals have a stranger effect on them. This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) found schoolgirls swooning over a former cricket star; crowds booing at a distinguished sociologist for making an allegedly offensive remark; and an award-winning author, with a reputation for stirring ‘trouble’, being shadowed by a bodyguard.
But the visitors had a jolly good time. Hundreds of kulhar chai were consumed; bags, boxer shorts and slippers printed with cute dogs, donkeys and elephants were bought; books were thrust at the wrong authors for autographs; and even a mini stampede ensued one afternoon, although there were no pop icons in sight. And of course, everything under the sun, from James Bond to the Buddha, Kashmir to Kumbh Mela, was discussed, debated and dissected to bits in several languages.