Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 begins with marquee speakers and a host of world-renowned books

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 begins with marquee speakers and a host of world-renowned books
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 begins with marquee speakers and a host of world-renowned books

Known the world over as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 began today, with a sumptuous day of programming, at Hotel Clarks Amer. An illustrious assembly of writers, speakers, and opinion-makers graced day one of the 2024 edition that opened with a tribute to Pandit Kumar Gandharva on his birth centenary by well-known classical vocalist Kalapini Komkali, his daughter. 

Kalapini rendered bhajans, including one popularised by Pandit Kumar Gandharva himself, in her rich and melodious voice, setting a sublime tone for the Festival’s inaugural session at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Front Lawn.

The inaugural ceremony began with Festival Producer and Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy reminiscing about the 17-year- journey of the iconic Festival. He fondly recalled the growth of the Festival from Diggi Palace to Clarks Amer, spreading its footprints across the globe to the United States & London. Sanjoy also emphasised the green initiatives the Festival has taken on in its 17th edition, in its collaboration with ReNew Power and the United Nations India Office. Roy said, “The planet is in stress, and we have people coming from all over the world…” “The idea, the aim is that we’ll make this a carbon neutral festival and a waste neutral festival.” 

Diya Kumari, the Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, in her inaugural comments, thanked the Festival and its organisers for putting Jaipur on the world map. The Deputy Chief Minister said, “I think Jaipur is synonymous with the Lit fest and I have been a part of it since the beginning, since 2006, me and my family. You have put Jaipur on the world map.”

The inaugural session also included obituary tributes luminaries like the late Patrick French and BN Goswamy, who have played integral roles in the Festival. Festival Co-director and renowned writer Namita Gokhale introduced the various sessions taking place in Festival this year, and marvelled at the literary, geographic, and linguistic diversity that this grand literary celebration is able to weave together across just five days. Gokhale said, “The sea of stories where the streams and rivers of our individual narratives return to the conference of collective experiences, and this is a collective experience what we have here.” 

Festival Co-director, historian and well-known writer William Dalrymple spoke about India as the origin of such literary gatherings, which have now spread across the world. Dalrymple said, “It is an interesting question why literary festivals work the way they do in India. Today it is all around in Sri Lanka, Bhutan…. Bangladesh. It all started here. But why?”

The Inaugural Ceremony ended with an address from the Festival Partner – Senior Vice President, Samsung India, Mr. Raju Pullan, and Festival Patron, MD and CEO AU bank, Sanjay Agarwal. Mr. Pullan highlighted the importance of technology in uniting creativity and democratising knowledge, which is key in today’s dynamic world. He expressed Samsung’s excitement to be a partner with such an illustrious festival and said that the Samsung S9 Tab Series is simply “a blank canvas waiting to be filled with boundless creativity”. 

The first day of the Festival offered a range of sessions with some of the most sought after authors and speakers of the contemporary world.

Songs of Milarepa

Speakers: Andrew Quintman and Kelly Dorji in conversation, introduced by Namita Gokhale

Presented by: BluOne Ink

The session explored the work of Tibetan saint as master Milarepa, how his life of great suffering and pain was transformed into enlightenment. The session unpacks his contributions as both a historical figure and a literary persona to not only Buddhism, but also mankind at large. Andrew mentioned how Milarepa had the ability to not only teach humans, but also animals and how he relied greatly on the tools of poetry to teach, instead of obscure philosophical texts making him a great teacher indeed. Quintman said, “So many aspects of Buddhism are so high in the clouds and difficult for the average person to relate to. But what’s so different about Milarepa is that his path is the one that anyone can follow.”

Baal-O-Paar: The Beating Heart of Poetry

Speakers: Gulzar, Rakhshanda Jalil in conversation with Pavan K. Varma 

Presented by RedFM

Gulzar Sa’ab prefaced the session by telling audiences that this book is a confluence of his unpublished work over the years, and there still remains a sea of unpublished writing from which just as big another book can be made. The session focused on the art of translation, the unseen difficulties that exist and most importantly, the relationship between the writer and translator. While talking about how translations can manage to preserve the integrity of the original work, Gulzar Sa’ab said “Maanta hoon ki perfume scent liquid jo hai vo kam ho jaata hai… lekin khushboo kam nahi hoti”. Pavan K. Verma, who has also worked as a translator with Gulzar Sa’ab, shared with the audience how difficult it is to recreate the poem with the same meaning, brevity and feeling in a different language. He said, “As a translator I have really enjoyed translating his poems and sometimes before translating I have spent an entire night and day thinking about them”. 

Philosophy, Fantasy and Fandom

Speakers: B. Jeyamohan and Suchitra Ramachandran in conversation with Anjum Hasan

Presented by Malayala Manorama 

The session began with an introduction to B. Jeyamohan’s work in the arena of philosophy, with him introducing his idol Tolstoy and how he has been influenced by Tolstoy’s major works throughout his writing journey. Jeyamohan emphasised, “Every writer must have a root in philosophy and in history. I need to be a good writer and not a popular writer.” Ramachandran then went on to discuss the literary movement in Tamil Nadu and how many Tamil writers and authors have made a connection with their readers through newer, modern mediums such as websites allowing them to develop a steady force of readers across various platforms. The session progressed to discussing Jeyamohan’s book “The Abyss” or as it is known in Tamil, “Ezhaam Ulagam” which directly translates to “the seventh world”. 

A Bigger Picture

Speakers: Malcolm Turnbull in conversation with Navdeep Suri

The session began with Navdeep Suri and Malcolm Turnbull reminiscing about their respective tenures as the High commissioner of India to Australia and the Prime Minister of Australia. Turnbull highlighted the diversity and multiculturalism within the continent of Australia that made his time memorable, saying, “Our greatest assets are not under the ground but walking on top of it. And so, we have to be very careful always to have zero tolerance for hate speech, zero tolerance for people who seek to drive division and ensure that we maintain strong, mutual respect among all of our citizens.” He spoke about how his government developed the idea of essential structures which would stop Australia from falling into the traps of commercial espionage, carefully laid out by China. Further, continuing on the theme of political influence wielded by the media, Turnbull spoke about the balance between freedom of speech and expression of the media and their ability to influence the masses. While freedom of speech is necessary, he said, so is the need for accurate information. 

Prophet Song

Speakers: Paul Lynch in conversation with Nandini Nair; introduced by Kevin Kelly, Ambassador of Ireland to India

Supported by the Embassy of Ireland

The 2023 Booker Prize winner Paul Lynch remarked this was his very first visit to India and was looking forward to exploring it further. Appreciating India’s vibrant and colourful beauty, he expressed that County Donegal in Ireland where he grew up, seemed “monochrome” compared to India. Prophet Song is a confrontational portrait of a society on the brink; it portrays Eilish, a mother of four, struggling to save her family in a dystopic Ireland sliding into authoritarian rule. During the conversation, Lynch shared his journey as a writer, his inspirations, and the need to hold on to it, because “the lesson here is that rational mind knows very little about what’s going on”.  While speaking about the process of writing the book, Lynch remarked, “I had this feeling, an intuition that there was something better waiting for me…and I had an intuition…and I sat down and I closed my eyes, and I waited and I then I just started to write…at that moment in time I couldn’t have said to you what the book is going to be, I had no idea what it was I was embarking on…if had truly known I would’ve stopped writing…” 

Intertidal: A Coast and Marsh Diary

Speakers: Yuvan Aves and Robert Macfarlane in conversation with Colin Thubron

Yuvan Aves carried a thirty-million-year-old fossilised trilobite, hard-shelled arthropod as a witness from ocean and coast while Robert Macfarlane who joined virtually carried a fossilised ear bone of tympanic bulla whale. Aves reminisced about his childhood and mother, and how they were integral to his connection with nature. While thinking back about how his relationship with nature has evolved, Aves remarked, “Nature was the way I found to recast suffering…be in touch with a space and presence which is beyond one’s shrunken selfhood which causes one to suffer and turn suffering into something like connection, fertility and life-driving force”. His book, Intertidal: A Coast and Marsh Diary, is a deep observation of the coasts and marshlands that Aves himself hails from.

Cricket:The Spirit of The Game

Speakers: Amrit Mathur, Ajay Jadeja and Venkat Sundaram in conversation with Amrish Kumar

The session was a confluence of interesting anecdotes from each of the speaker’s experiences and interactions with the sport of cricket. Former Indian captain Ajay Jadeja reminisced about the memorable 1992 series against South Africa in Australia, “… Cricket was played differently, I think it was the approach of the game was totally different. I don’t think people used to go tours before that being prepared, it was more to experience.” The session also discussed the diminishing role of the captain in the Indian team which they termed as unfortunate. 

Lessons in Chemistry

Speakers: Bonnie Garmus in conversation with Bee Rowlatt

Bonnie Garmus started the session by sharing the inspiration that led to the creation of her book: a bad day at her male-dominated workplace. On writing, Garmus said, “I think writing is really hard. There is nothing more terrifying than looking at a blank page or feeling stuck or not knowing where your story is going but, in the end, when it all comes together, and it works it’s just the most incredible feeling that you can communicate something that you care passionately about to other people.” She emphasised that she tried to maintain a balance between dark and light in the book. 

Breaking the Mould: Reimagining the Economic Future

Speakers: Raghuram Rajan and Rohit Lamba in conversation with Naushad Forbes

The session highlighted the un-conventional lessons of the new book co-authored by Raghuram Rajan and Rohit Lamba, Breaking the Mould. In conversation with Naushad Forbes who asked which mould he was trying to break, Rajan said that “The mould in some sense is the traditional trajectory of growth that almost every country has followed till date.” Both Lamba and Rajan stressed on how there are other, newer ways for India to grow. The session ended with the urgent need to focus on education in India and ensure social mobility is improved to allow people the opportunity to progress. 

The Great Experiment: Democracy, Elections and Citizenship

Speakers: S.Y. Quraishi, Girish Kuber and Yascha Mounk in conversation with Mandira Nayar

The speakers talked about how democracy in India, in its truest sense, is an experiment. Quraishi said, “When we chose democracy, it was an experiment. It was a misadventure. The Western world thought that we had gone mad, to choose democracy. Our population was illiterate and socially divided. The Western democracy thought we would flop.” The speakers stressed on how one vote or one moment cannot, and should not, determine all the political power in a country – a democracy allows its people to change their minds. Yascha said that he believed, “When politicians say that ‘I am the only true representative of the people’ – to me they are traitors of the system!” 

This year, the Festival featured a new venue, Nand Ghar, which is a flagship social impact project under the Anil Agarwal Foundation. It is a model project working towards strengthening the Anganwadi ecosystem of the country.  With 5800+ centres currently present across 14 states in India, Nand Ghar aims to transform the lives of 7 cr children and 2 cr women. On the first day of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival, many interesting sessions happened at the Nand Ghar venue, including one conducted by artist and writer Abhisek Singh who discussed ancient Indian stories and the sources of our beliefs.  

In the coming days, the Festival will host classical jazz saxophonist, Phil Scarff and classical musician, Anoop Banerjee to carry on the tradition of harmonious Morning Music performances. On day two, the Festival will host bestselling historian Ben Macintyre who will speak about his latest book Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle; G20 Sherpa and former President of Niti Aayog, Amitabh Kant; and fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani, to name just a few. The first day set the tone for the rest of the Festival, generating excitement around the diversity of sessions. In every edition, the Festival strives to bring the brightest minds of the world in one place to inspire creativity with sessions ranging from literature to politics to mathematics.