The Jaipur Literature Festival was uncomfortably crowded, the food was rubbish and you could write a novel waiting for a chance to use the loo. But it was enlightening and fun at the same time. I had imagined that the over abundance of speakers would mean talks that lightly skimmed the surface of their subjects. But many of the sessions, even though they weren’t in-depth, were wonderful teasers of the works and thoughts of writers.
The scrum outside Diggi Palace on the third day of the festival. Thousands had come to watch Oprah and the crowd was unmanageable. The organisers stopped letting people in. This led to much anger and confusion outside. Just when we thought we’d have to wait till after lunch to get in, the convoy of the Queen Mother of Bhutan of all people exited. There was a gap in the barricades and the waiting crowd sprinted in. Astonishing, as this is the sort of behaviour one expects at Bollywood events.
Jason Burke from The Guardian, the philosopher AC Grayling, the organiser Palash and Farrukh Dhondy
One of the strangest sidelights of the festival was a memorial for Christopher Hitchens. It was bizarrely announced at the Caravan-New York Times party as some sort of after-party. The invitation, I am told, said Black Label would be served. People rushed over excitedly only to find a sombre gathering. Guardian writer Jason Burke, AC Grayling, Farrukh Dhondy, someone on Skype whose name I couldn’t catch and the organiser of the event, one Palash, remembered Hitchens. Dhondy spoke volubly about his fellow Trotskyite. For those expecting a ‘rocking’ memorial, the Black Label was the only compensation.