"Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary" writes Boris Pasternak, a Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator.
At the Jaipur Literature Festival 2019, the students of the first year of Diploma Programme had the unique opportunity to discover the extraordinary world of literature, beyond the four walls of their classrooms. From the 23 to 25 January, a selected group of thirty-three students travelled to the pink city of India – Jaipur to attend the world-renowned festival held in the historic Diggi Palace. In the past decade, the festival has hosted over 2,000 speakers and welcomed over a million book lovers from India and abroad, and this year's festival witnessed a range of voices from the celebrated Indian Poet, lyricist and film director - Gulzar to the Yale Professor and renowned astrophysicist - Priyamvada Natarajan.
The inaugural keynote address was by the Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society and author of Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome, who described the 'role of science in today's world' which was indeed a delight for every science enthusiast. Following this the students dispersed into groups to attend sessions and panel discussions of their interests which spanned across a spectrum of topics with illustrious personalities from the literary world – an engaging dialogue with prolific writer and popular politician Shashi Tharoor; a beguiling conversation with the versatile Indian Pop singer Usha Uthup; and, an enticing session of readings and discussion by India's iconic Bollywood couple, actor Shabana Azmi and poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Undoubtedly, the talks spanning from politics to music, history to sports, and literature to science piqued the interest of each student.
On being asked about her experience Sanskriti Kohli said, "The talks I attended were diverse ! My favourite was 'Beyond the Female Eunuch' by Germaine Greer, obviously. Her take on rape truly changed my perspective." While Sanskriti reflected on how she embraced her true feminist-self, Aryan Dugar remarked, "I liked the talk on Ancient DNA the most. It was simply so engaging, and not every day do we get the opportunity to hear highly regarded geneticists and paleoanthropologists." Salil Sodhi summed up his experience eloquently by saying, "I honestly loved the entire experience. Getting an opportunity to listen to such wonderful, renowned personalities, their thoughts on such diverse topics, I think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
While taking a break from the engrossing sessions, students also had the opportunity to satiate their appetites with Rajasthani delicacies, and pick traditional souvenirs and trinkets like jhumkas (earrings), mirrored diaries, and yellow-and-red turbans. The students returned home with a smile on their faces – having discovered how songs such as Jiya Jale made it to the screen, or how Human Civilization came to being. The experience was a delectable feast of ideas and it whetted their appetite to an extent that pacts of returning to the festival next year have already been made – a testimony that the students truly relished the experience at the festival and the learnings.