Musings on the mark the festival left on me
Spent three days in Jaipur, my first time in the city. Didn’t visit a single fort or do any sightseeing. But, don’t regret it one bit.
So here’s something you need to understand about the Jaipur Literature Festival - it’s hectic. It begins at 10am and goes on till 6 in the evening. Sessions are spread across multiple venues, with only a 10 minute gap between them. At any given time there are four sessions being held simultaneously and It’s hard not to cave into FOMO because all of them sound incredible on paper. You need to be strategic about the ones you want to go for because it’s foolish to try and attend them all. It’s a lesson I learnt the hard way.
The scheduling heightened the intensity. Because over the course of a single afternoon, you can find yourself hopping from a session on nationalism to one about the creator economy to a poetry open mic to a book launch. It’s a lot. There’s no time to process and imbibe what you’re listening to.
For me, it was an assault on the senses and sensibilities, in the best possible way.
You see, I’d only done a cursory check of the speaker list before booking my tickets for JLF. I wasn’t there for any writer or session in particular, I was there for the vibe. I wanted to experience what it’s like to be in the presence of thousands of kindred spirits who are driven by creativity and self expression. I was a sponge at the festival, floating around, absorbing as much as I could from all that was around me.
Which is why I reached a point of saturation by Day 3. I was filled to the brim already. I didn’t need more enlightenment, I needed lightness. It’s why I attended only two sessions on my last day - one with film critic Anupama Chopra and one featuring a panel of writers in a session titled ‘Where Does Fiction come from?’
The realization hit me after returning from Jaipur that JLF had helped me reconnect with something I hadn’t noticed had slipped away - purpose. The feeling that what I’m supposed to do in this life is write. Being around and up close with some of the foremost poets, writers and leaders of the country filled me with a steeliness. That I need to keep going. Their words touched something within and I realized how desperately I want to do the same to others with mine. The vulnerability in their art inspired me and their authenticity emboldened me.
I’m as fascinated by the creative process as I am by the creative life. It’s why I also felt a sense of longing. I want access to the artists lounge and the chance to interact with the finest storytellers in the world. I want the opportunity to read out my work on stage in front of an audience. I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling.
Of course, I wasn’t able to make sense of these emotions yesterday. I just felt something stirring within. I felt powerful yet so peaceful. I’d gotten what I wanted out of JLF so I left early and went to a tattoo studio on the other end of the city.
I’d wanted to get a tattoo for a while and I knew exactly what I wanted too. Something had always held me back from actually going through with it but yesterday, the timing just felt right. It felt like a consecration of all that I was feeling. So, it was a spontaneous decision but it wasn’t on a whim.
The loudspeaker is a nod to The Jerky Loudspeaker, the blog I set up nine years ago.It helped me discover writing, self expression and in the process, myself. It isn’t a part of who I am. It is who I am.