Editor, Bloggers Programme
What was your primary hope for the Jaipur Literature Festival when you started?
I hoped to draw attention to the fact that the problems of the world are the same across all regions and we need to respect that different parts of the world find different solutions to the challenges. I wanted to create a global platform, bringing diverse voices together, including through our focus on South Asia and the regions around it.
We need to share ideas. The primary problems remain same anywhere in the world – America, Europe, The Far East – divisions along lines of religion, colour, race, class, international boundaries. Because of the troubled times we live in, as more walls are being built, it is more important than ever to exchange ideas, and discuss these issues from all perspectives. And crucially, to listen and to learn. This morning’s disruption at the festival was an example of a missed opportunity to enter into a meaningful debate.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is the essence of humankind, the driving force behind science, art, ideas, realizing excellence. The more platforms there are to celebrate this the richer the world will be.
Is literature your favourite art form?
I love all art forms: reading, music, theatre. I enjoy dance, puppetry, visual arts, crafts.
Do you write yourself?
I direct theatre productions and make historical documentaries from time to time.
What are the challenges of being an artist today?
Artists choose to be different: being a fulltime artist is a lifestyle choice. It brings with it different challenges to being a retailer, banker, or psychotherapist. They have to reinvent their work each time. It is deeply rewarding: anyone who chooses to be an artist will be fulfilled intellectually, creatively, socially, but probably not financially!
What are your defining moments in 10 years of the Jaipur Literature Festival?
Six years ago, when we first set in place a comprehensive security system for the festival, it was 7.20 in the morning, and I was standing by the fountain at Diggi Palace Hotel (the Jaipur Literature Festival venue). A man and a boy walked through the venue gates, and were stopped by security. I went over and asked, ‘What can I do for you? ’The man replied, ‘I sleep on the pavement opposite SMS hospital. I know I can’t ever buy a book for my son or send him to school, but I thought if he heard a story, it would change his life and I heard you tell stories here.’ He realized he could belong here. That moment made me realize how essential it is to make stories accessible to everyone.
Meeting the Dalai Lama, who spoke at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2013. He is such an incredible soul, I can’t even call him a human being. He has such a sense of humour too. I asked him, when you were born, did you have a sense that you had been born with this aura, this huge knowledge? The Dalai Lama replied, ‘My knowledge comes from years of meeting people and listening to them. It’s a cumulative model, it never ends.’ His presence at the festival was one of the most incredible experiential moments of my life, because you just know when you are with him that you are in the presence of an incredible soul.
What is your hope for the next 10 years of the Jaipur Literature Festival?
Every year, the festival themes appear by accident, but we are very clear that politics needs to continue to be addressed, so that will continue to have equal play at the festival with our celebration of creativity and the imagination.