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JLF Day 2 Diary: 'Glad Rushdie didn't make it to the fest'

January 21, 2012 23:22 IST's Abhishek Mande, who is attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, brings forth all the details of a 'rather slow' Day 2 of the festival.

When Day One of a literature festival is as delightful as it got on Friday, Day Two can tend to get a little slow. And slow it was.  That, however, isn't to say that it wasn't crowded, as thousands of people thronged the festival venue, and getting around became a real task.

Also Read: Glimpses from day 1 at Jaipur Lit Fest

Sessions of bestselling authors like Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi were packed even as Tripathi later told me it was a nightmare for him trying to simply get to the lunch venue to grab a bite. Just as we were walking towards the lunch venue, Tripathi was promptly pulled back by another of his fans. The ever-charming Tripathi gave in.

Right, so thanks to a promised interview that ended up being less of a bang and more of a whimper I just about managed to attend about two-and-a-half sessions. And here are a few lessons I take back.

Ben Okri loves to talk

The Nigerian poet-author had the audience eating out of his hands as he read out some of his poems and talked about life and literature.

Okri, as it turns out, also has a fear of flying, which kept him away from the festival for many years.

The Nigerian poet who was in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury also regaled us with tales from his childhood and how his father would ask him questions whereas his mother would tell stories. The stories, he told us, seemed to have nothing to do with the situation at hand and it was only much later he'd realise that there was a lesson hidden in there somewhere.

Indirect way is a great way to learn, he said, adding that he likes to be misled a little and be surprised.

Surely the cabbies in Jaipur would be happy to hear that.

'Reading out' and the priest foretelling the end of days

Samanth Subramanian is the most promising rising literary star from India.

The journalist-turned-author who has written a fascinating account of his travels along India's coastline was attending a session on travel writing where he read out a passage from his book Following Fish.

In the readings that followed, the only one that really stood out was William Dalrymple's reading from From the Holy Mountain that traces the ties of Eastern Orthodox congregations in the Middle East. Dalrymple had the audience in splits as he read out, animatedly, passages about a priest's foretelling the end of days.

Little else really happened in this session as the venue was cleared out for the next session -- one featuring leading journalist and author Vinod Mehta.

'Glad that Rushdie didn't make it to the festival'

The thing about Vinod Mehta is he has a lot of tales to tell. The veteran editor was in conversation with Tarun Tejpal who once worked under him, and even though the whole thing seemed like a grandfather telling his kids stories from his life, it was a fantastic session thanks to the multitude of anecdotes Mehta had to share:

Here are some that stood out:

When he was the editor of the girlie magazine Debonair, he printed an interview of Atal Behari Vajpayee. When he went to meet him and thanked him for being so gracious, Vajpayee told him: 'Aapki magazine achchi hai magar takiye ke neeche chupani padti hai!' (Your magazine is great but I have to hide it under my pillow!)

Salman Rushdie isn't one of Mehta's most favourite persons. Back when Ground Beneath Her Feet had been published, Outlook printed a scathing (and a rather long) review of it.

Many years later, when the two met at Dalrymple's farmhouse, Mehta told Rushdie that he hoped didn't hold the 1250-word-long review against him. "1253" Rushdie reportedly quipped.

Mehta added that he has never seen any man more besotted with a woman as he was with Padma Lakshmi. "I am glad he didn't make it (to the festival)." Mehta said.

The most interesting, however, was one of the time when he received a call from Protima Bedi who offered to send him some pictures of her in the buff to be published in Debonair.

It seemed to Mehta that he had hit the jackpot till two goons that Kabir Bedi sent asked him not to print them. Mehta told them off saying the printing was already in process. Sometime later Protima called up requesting him not to publish the pictures telling him '(Kabir) is being a bastard and my marriage is on the line'.

Mehta promptly pulled off the pictures and never published them.

Incidentally Kabir Bedi was at a party that Mehta found himself at and claimed he never sent any goons.

"Then just as we were about to leave, Kabir told me he may have possibly forgotten that he sent them," Mehta said.

Award for book on 'the greatest cricketer to walk the earth'

Kabir Bedi was in town to announce the DSC Prized for South Asian Literature. The award went to Singapore-based Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka for his book Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew (published by Random House, India), which is a novel that explores cricket as a metaphor telling the tale of a retired sportswriter who spends his final months trying to track down Pradeep S Mathew, an elusive spin bowler who he considers 'the greatest cricketer to walk the earth'.

The US $50,000 DSC Prize along with a trophy was awarded to Karunatilaka by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan.

Karunatilaka was one of the six authors who were part of the shortlist for the Prize -- UR Ananthamurthy: Bharathipura (Translated by Susheela Punitha), Chandrakanta: A Street in Srinagar (Zubaan Books, India, Translated by Manisha Chaudhry), Usha KR: Monkey-man (Penguin/Penguin India), Tabish Khair: The Thing About Thugs (Fourth Estate/HarperCollins-India), and Kavery Nambisan: The Story that Must Not Be Told (Viking/Penguin India).

Image: Shehan Karunatilaka awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2012 on Day 2 of the Jaipur Literary Festival

Click here for more Realtime News on the Jaipur Literature Festival!

Abhishek Mande in Jaipur