If Oprah Winfrey — the queen of tell-all — was the highlight of Jaipur in 2012, the flavour of 2013 was the Lord of mum —the Dalai Lama. If last year was all about hushed whispers on fatwas and writers, the literature festival in the Rajasthan capital this year is awash with peace — at least so far.
Salman Rushdie skipped the meet last year; but left his mark on the festival. This year, despite brief protests voiced by some agitators against the presence of Pakistani authors, the air at the lit fest is bereft of any controversy. The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival which opened on Thursday morning at the Diggi Palace in Jaipur is mellower and less chaotic.
The overcrowded session with the Dalai Lama — with some spectators perched atop a terrace and some squatting on the stairs in a crowded arena — was about moral ethics, religion, tolerance and humanity.
The ‘Hindi-Cheeni bhai bhai’ dictum should be followed genuinely was his response to a question on India-China relations. “China is the most populated nation while India is the most populated democratic nation. It is important for both to come together and build mutual trust,” he said. “I retired from political life two years ago,” he added, when further questions were asked about Tibet, India and China.
But the lighter side of the spiritual leader was evident at a brief media session. On being asked about his literary tastes, the Dalai Lama said, “I am a man with limited knowledge of the English vocabulary. And then I am also a lazy person. So when a new word comes up in an English book, I am too lazy to look up the word in the dictionary. So I say bye-bye to the book.”
With the country still debating over the Justice Verma Commission report on rape laws, his opinion on the death penalty was sought. He was opposed to the death sentence, he replied, but added that every country had its own law to follow. The 21 st century, the Dalai Lama stressed, should be the time for dialogue, unlike the 20 th century which, he said, was about blood.
“The need is to be content with material development and to be discontented with mental development. But the opposite is happening now,” he said.
The other draw on the first day of the annual fest was Mahasweta Devi. The inaugural session by the author-activist on “ To Live Again!” opened to a full house. “At my age the desire to live again is a mischievous one,” the 86-year-old writer said. She called for the “right to dream” to be the first fundamental right of all human beings.
“Write in the language you dream in,” she replied when asked by a young girl in what language one should write. “I have a middle class morality. It is such a sham everything is oppressed,” the writer said while talking about her growing up years.
The slogan of living again — whether from the writer’s point of view, or from the Dalai Lama’s — set the stage for the first day’s sessions. By the evening, everybody indeed was living it up.