On the 21st of January 2016, a particularly cold and misty morning, the 9th edition of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival opened with warmth and gaiety bringing the five-day feast of author’s thinkers and ideas to the Pink City. It was a great way to spend the morning basking in the sunlit of the front lawns of Diggi Palace away from the freezing fog of Delhi and listening to the authors from across the globe from Margaret Atwood to Ruskin Bond, Paresh Maity to Sebastian Mallaby to Manish Mehrotra and Alexander McCall Smith.
Jaipur spoils you enormously because it is a celebration of thoughts and there is too much to grab in too little time. There are 6 sessions that go on at parallel venues and you have to choose what to attend and what to leave. It is a harsh choice. The front lawns is the most exciting place for journos because in between the sessions one can rush to the roof top press room for author interviews and can also bite into an occasional dal kachori and sip masala chai. I did two author interviews on day one, one for Woman's Era and one for Alive our men's magazine and have two videos to share.
The lady I interviewed for Woman's Era was none other than the Bloomsbury author Shrabani Basu the UK correspondent of ABP and the Telegraph an author of 3 books and one who has appeared on radio and TV in the UK and founded the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust for the Second World War Indian born heroine which was unveiled in 2012. She is the author of "Curry: The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish," "Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan," and "Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant."
Shrabani started off her career as a rookie journalist for TOI in 1983 at Mumbai and later at Delhi and told me how they used to be thrown into situations with little or no preparation or training those days. "It was all happening those days - from the Operation Blue Star to Indira Gandhi's assassination, from the Bhopal Gas tragedy to the Kanishka plane crash and we got a lot to learn from those situations" says Shrabani. "In 1987 I got married and moved to London and soon after I joined ABP and have been with them ever since", says Shrabani a mother of two daughters and an happy to be a Londoner"
Shrabani says she enjoys being a journalist first and an author thereafter because the urge to be into news that is happening is always there. The books I have written have come from my journalistic forays. The Noor Inayat Khan story is something like a feature of a newspaper, only I spend three years researching into the background and collected substantial matter for a book. These books are different from a historian's perspective because the journalist in me moved, investigated and researched before penning down my thoughts even if it meant going after graveyards to find the remains of Abdul. When asked what young journalists should do to be successful, Shrabani says "the first thing is to believe in yourself. The next is to read a lot and also do in depth research in areas you want to write in. You have to keep going at it despite rejections and setbacks ".
There were many other interesting programs at the JLF on day one but one of the most interesting discussions were in a Jerry Pinto session where he engaged with Priya Chhabria and Ila Mehta and Rita Khotari discussing the enjoyment and challenges of translating poetry from Indian languages. This was followed by a poets meet at Ford Samvad which had Alvin Pang, Padmaja Sharma and Nandana Dev Sen amongst several others reciting poetry.