Every year, towards the end of January, Diggi Palace in the city of Jaipur hosts the Jaipur Literature Festival. Writers, poets, academics, actors, musicians, lyricists and still more categories of artists descend from all parts of the world to celebrate art and revel in it for several days together. This year, I was determined to experience this festival and packed off to Jaipur on the 24th of January with three other spontaneous friends.
We wanted to get there in as little time as was possible with our modest student budgets and zeroed on the thousand-rupee Volvo tickets that bought us an exceedingly comfortable and smooth six-hour journey to the city. We stopped on the way at a little resort for lunch and a couple of hours later we pulled into a Jaipur bus stop. Jaipur was predictably warm, and our Delhi shivers were forgotten the moment we stepped out of the air-conditioned air of the bus.
Arriving at the venue of the fest was easy with Google Maps which is accurate and detailed beyond what one would expect. We also navigated our way through Jaipur smoothly, not considering the few auto drivers who knew out-of-townees (like us) when they saw them, and blatantly tried, every trick in the book to swindle a little extra something out of us.The people we met at Jaipur, particularly the organizers of the fest were very polite and warm. As we walked into the fest, an unmatched positive atmosphere enclosed us. We spent a lot of our days at Diggi Palace, exploring and learning about various issues ranging from society and its problems, to the state of India’s economy, and even the degradation of Indian cinema.
When I’m away from Delhi I’m always amazed at the sights and sounds of other places. It’s almost as if I was looking at human civilization for the first time, and I like to preserve this childlike innocence. Absorbing the place and its many wonderful aspects made this travel much more fulfilling. Shopping was somehow uninteresting and we did not waste much on time on it beyond a few local bags and chappals purchases. The rest of the brief vacation was spent breathing in the culture of Jaipur, the purity of its people, and the surprises of the modern architecture that seemed to spring up alongside the old, dusty buildings that had withstood this onset of modernity.
It is a sprawling city, bigger than one would expect, and auto journeys easily become twenty-thirty minute affairs. We would lose daylight quicker than we would anticipate, but learn to adapt to the ways of the Pink City. The minor hiccups along the way soon gave way to the deep feeling of longing people from metropolitan cities who are visiting sleepy, content towns. I found myself questioning the pace of my life, and felt an overwhelming urge to lengthen this holiday to find the answers to these questions I was facing. The fest was a success and the controversial events that created a stir are bound to attract more footfalls next year.
I returned to Delhi with an itchy nose that usually indicates the onset of a cold, and several questions in my mind, many of which I’m still examining. The trip made for a good change, and the memory of it is sure to pull me toward the JLF next January, for sure.
Contributed by Geeta Spolia