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Freedom, for Afghanistan and for us, rules Day 3 of JLF!

Last updated on: January 20, 2014 09:06 IST

Image: Visitors at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Day 3
Photographs: Chandra Mohan Aloria Sanchari Bhattacharya in Jaipur’s Sanchari Bhattacharya reports on all the action from Day 3 at the Jaipur Literature Festival              

Code, weed, cancer, war, Shiva, Rasa and missionary position.

These were some of the mind-boggling range of topics that were discussed on Day 3 of the Jaipur Literature Festival

Today, the mercury plunged and the number of visitors soared, making Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mark Mazetti admit, “I have never seen this kind of a crowd.”

But the unexpectedly biting weather seemed to bother visitors and festival organisers alike.

“The weather is a factor beyond our control. But next year, we will try to hold this event one or two weeks earlier, so that you can complain about the heat instead of the cold,” said organiser William Dalrymple.

Both Darlymple and Mazetti were part of the panel on ‘Dispensable Nation: Afghanistan after the US withdrawal’, also comprising Senior Advisor to the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Barnett R Rubin and Ben Anderson.

Anderson, a documentary maker who has travelled extensively in interior and restive Afghanistan, painted a chilling picture about the many, many things going wrong with the war-torn country.

“The Afghanistan National Police kidnap citizens for ransom. They take the fuel we supply to them and sell it in the black market. They abduct young boys and rape them. Then they tell you, ‘how else do you expect us to have sex? Should we have sex with our grandmothers’,” he said

“No one knows if the government in Kabul will collapse or if the Taliban will collapse. But the main victims are going to be the civilians in Afghanistan. The changes that have occurred in Afghanistan are both irreversible and unsustainable,” said Rubin.

One of the few light moments at the somber session was when Mazetti commented, “It is funny that you have to come to Jaipur to hear about American strategy in Afghanistan, but you don’t hear about it in Washington.”

Rediscovering the 'coolest god' and the link between coding and writing poetry

Image: Author of the wildly popular Shiva trilogy, Amish Tripathi
Photographs: Chandra Mohan Aloria

At the other end of the venue, writer Amish Tripathi regaled the audience with tales of smoking marijuana on the occasion of Mahashivratri every year.

The author of the wildly popular Shiva trilogy also had a surprising confession to make -- he had been an atheist for 12 years before rediscovering God!

Professing his fondness for Shiva -- “the coolest god “ -- once more, Amish added that he considered himself a “liberal Hindu”.

Up next was acclaimed author Vikram Chandra, whose latest book tries to connect the dots between computer programming and Sanskrit language.

‘How is writing a code different or similar to writing poetry,” mulled Chandra, answering his own question later in the session, “While writing literary narrative, you are dealing with ambiguity. You sit there as a writer and try to get that echo under your language. But while coding, you have to remove all ambiguity.”

But two high-voltage sessions after lunch, and bright streaks of sunlight on a moody day, brought some much-needed exuberance to the contemplative atmosphere. 

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'The State has accepted only the missionary position on Section 377'

Image: The colours of Jaipur Lit Fest on Day 3
Photographs: Chandra Mohan Aloria

At a panel discussion on 'Casualties of Love and Sex: The New Gender Fluidity', Marathi film director Sachin Kundalkar talked candidly about the resentment of growing up as a closeted teenager in homophobic India.

“I have lived with anger all my life. As a homosexual teenager growing up in a traditional Indian society, I hated women. They snatched away every man I loved,” he said.

But he added candidly that he had left that part of his life behind.

“Today, even if I get a bagful of rights, I will sit on it and my life won’t change. I shape my own life,” he said to tremendous applause.

Speaking on the controversy over Section 377, moderator Bacchi Karkaria quipped, “The State has accepted only the missionary position”.

In an equally exciting session on 'Freedom of Expression', author Jerry Pinto set the proverbial cat among the pigeons when he pointed out the irony of search engine giant Google sponsoring the event.

“Look who is sponsoring this event? Google! Look who is reading all your mails? Google! Can you see the irony here,” he asked in an obvious reference to the search engine’s role in the National Security Agency surveillance episode.

He also slammed the statement by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde -- that the government was thinking of watching over Facebook and Google -- observing drily, “Then I guess the Twitterati will have to build roads and construct schools.”

“If the government is watching over and reading Facebook and Twitter, can I be the government? It sure sounds like a fun job,” he said.

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