By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 06, Feb 2024, 14:59 pm IST | UPDATED: 06, Feb 2024, 15:11 pm IST
New Delhi: The final day of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series Jaipur Literature Festival 2024 suitably concluded the grand and iconic 5-day literary marathon with a set of marquee speakers who spoke on a range of topics from memoir to sports, history to migration, and food to gaming.
The morning began with a performance by Saptak Chatterjee, a third- generation Hindustani classical vocalist who played melodious tunes on his classical violin.
Some of the sessions on the final day included:
Shahjahanabad: On Delhi’s Broken History
Speakers: Swapna Liddle and Rana Safvi in conversation with William Dalrymple
Presented by Rajmahal Palace RAAS
The session began with Festival Co-Director, writer and historian William Dalrymple dwelling in the historical background of Shahjahanabad and its rich cultural heritage of arts and literature. Historian and author Swapna Liddle spoke about her book Shahjahanabad: The Broken Script which discusses the history of Delhi under the last of the Mughals and the East India Company, with a focus on the role of religion in defining oneself. Liddle remarked, “Of course, religion was an important part of your identity but it was not the only part of your identity.” The session ended with Liddle and Safvi discussing the harmony with which all the various religious communities lived in the 19th century.
Pranab My Father: A Daughter Remembers
Speakers: Sarmishtha Mukherjee in conversation with Veer Sanghvi
The session began with Mukherjee revisiting the conversations she had with her father regarding the journey of Congress as a political party. Mukherjee further divulged the diary entries of her father, which her newly released book Pranab My Father: A Daughter Remembers is mostly based upon. While talking about her father, Mukherjee said, “In a personality-centred political culture, the supreme leaders might find it a bit irksome to work with somebody who has a mind, a very strong mind of his/her own, but with a formidable combination of experience, expertise and knowledge, that kind of person can never blindly toe the line.”
Migrants: Interconnections Across Time
Speakers: Sam Miller and Sureshkumar Muthukumaran in conversation with Aarathi Prasad
The session took the audience through not only the migration patterns and habits of only humans, but also plants and animal species. Former BBC Correspondent and author Sam Miller spoke about how borders and passports and visas are new creations; how movement of humans has only recently been so politicised. He said, “There is no quicker way to bring on a war of words, and wars of other types, than migration issues. We often forget that all of our ancestors were migrants.” Lecturer and author Sureshkumar Muthukumaran provided further insight into the role of crops and plants moving across borders, and how that has influenced trade and political relations.
Around the World in Eighty Games
Speakers: Marcus du Sautoy introduced by Sanjoy K. Roy
The session discussed writer, mathematician and Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, Marcus du Sautoy’s recent book Around the World in Eighty Games, in which he traverses the globe while exploring the genesis of games and what makes them fascinating. Sautoy exclaimed, “I think that games and stories have a lot in common; they have a kind of drama to them, a beginning, a middle and an end, but I think games are special because a story might make you feel sad… but a game can make you feel quite guilty about what you did in the game, because in a game, you are an active participant in the story.”
The Narrative Arc
Speakers: Mridula Garg and Kalpana Raina in conversation with Aditi Maheshwari Goyal
Presented by Amar Ujala
Veteran writer Mridula Garg and literary activist and translator Kalpana Raina spoke of the trajectory and narrative arc of their illustrious literary journeys and iconic contributions to translations. Raina spoke about the journal and digital literary magazine ‘Words Without Borders’, which provides a platform to the people who don't have a voice in the English-speaking world. Speaking about the power of translation, Garg added, “Translation is also creation. It is like writing; the only thing is you have to make your ego subservient to that of the writer’s.”
The Day I Became A Runner
Speakers: Sohini Chattopadhyay in conversation with Amrita Tripathi
Award-winning journalist Sohini Chattopadhyay discussed her recent book The Day I Became a Runner which presents the life story of eight female athletes from the 1940s to the present moments of Independent India. She added, “I tell a story of India, from the late nineteen thirties to the present moment through the lives of nine women athletes… why is this a woman's history of India through the lens of sport, because sports give women the legitimacy to cross the threshold from the private spheres of the home, into the public sphere.” Chattopadhyay expressed her concern regarding the substandard conditions for running in Indian cities, especially for women. The session ended with Chattopdhyay stressing on the need for robust infrastructure and investment for athletes across the country.
Can I Speak Freely?
Speakers: Amia Srinivasan in conversation with Pragya Tiwari
Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford and celebrated author Amia Srinivasan spoke about the role of policing and the ‘cancel culture’ in today’s public and private spaces. Talking about the consequences of one’s speech, Srinivasan said, “We are all probably a bit too quick to criticise each other, especially on social media… it’s very anti-intellectual.” She stressed on the need to defend and protect free speech in all spaces, whether they are academic, political or social.
Silk: A History in Three Metamorphoses
Speakers: Aarathi Prasad in conversation with William Dalrymple
Presented by Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Series
Writer and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad’s Silk: A History in Three Metamorphoses is a cultural and biological history from the origins and ancient routes of silk to the story of the biologists who learned the secrets of silk-producing animals. Prasad mentioned that she was always fascinated by the feel and luxury of the fabric. She further marvelled at the numerous uses of silk, noting “..it’s also being used for electronic sensors and plastic… this is a natural biodegradable material...”.
Flavours of Diversity: The Indian Palate
Speakers: Vir Sanghvi and Asma Khan in conversation
Presented by RED FM
Indian-born British restaurateur and cookbook author Asma Khan talked about her recent cookbook Ammu: Food to Nourish Your Soul. She shared her life in Cambridge while studying and then starting a ‘Supper Club’ to organise dinners and serve Indian food to provide employment to women in need and to break the stereotype that “Indian food is ghee, cream and loads of tomatoes”. The session ended with Khan expressing her concern for women being mistreated in the kitchen at restaurants and dismissed at home.
Like every year, the Festival closed with its now-legendary Closing Debate on ‘Free Speech will Survive Surveillance Technology and Privacy Invasions’ with former diplomat, politician and writer Pavan K. Varma, resident editor of The Hindu and author Varghese K.George, senior advocate Pinky Anand, Oxford academics Amia Srinivasan and Marcus du Sautoy, Chairperson & Founder of Teamwork Arts Mohit Satyanand, moderated by veteran journalist Vir Sanghvi
As technologies advance and economic and government surveillance expands its footprint, stellar speakers debated the role and responsibilities of free speech and the changing boundaries of privacy.
Pinky Anand, writer and advocate
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. I have to be answerable for what I do. I can't be an Ayn Rand or a Fountainhead and do what I like… my rights have to be limited somewhere and ladies and gentlemen, I think surveillance technology is here to stay
Varghese K. George, Deputy Resident Editor of The Hindu and author
Big tech and a big state are promising us great things, but there is a price to be paid. Speak less, speak when asked, speak only what is being told. Before free speech, you have to have free thought. Without free thought there is no free speech
Mohit Satyanand, Chairperson of Teamwork Arts, entrepreneur and investor
" without free speech, there would be no Jaipur Literature Festival… free speech is very closely akin to freedom, without free speech, you don't have freedom, and without freedom you don't have free speech, the history of society is a struggle between freedom and power, it's a struggle that never ends…
Marcus Du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and author
I guess you could argue that the (digital) mob is asserting its own right to free speech but I think this ignores the aim of the digital onslaught which is to intimidate people into being quiet. These technologies are creating an environment to fear which destroys the freedom of speech
Amia Srinivisan, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford and author
It is up to us, the citizens of ostensibly precarious democratic societies, to decide whether we will allow these technologies to further erode our civil liberties, our right to protest, our right to consent, our right to power. So it’s important, I think, to remember that free speech is not the historical default, it’s not just a natural or given reality to be potentially disrupted by some new technology.”
Pavan K. Verma, writer and former diplomat & politician l:
There is a theoretical construct and a practical aspect and it affects you today. We are not talking of some unforeseeable future. We are talking of today. Today as a theoretical construct, Article 19(1) provides us the right to free speech and expression, but in practical terms you have a situation”
The definitive coming together of ideas, perspectives and the vast treasury of knowledge that this Festival has come to embody globally, will once again be awaited for the course of the coming year, with anticipation and curiosity. The 2025 edition of the Festival will be held between 30th January and 3rd February 2025.