Zee Jaipur Literature Festival

This year I attended Jaipur Literature Festival, also known as Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, this year. This festival happens every year, for five days from 24th Jan till 29th Jan. Festival organisers are Mr. William Dalrymple, Mr. Sanjay Roy, and Ms. Nandita Gokhale.Festival venue is Diggy Palace, an old haveli on Tonk Road. It has been converted to a hotel and festival happens in the premises of this haveli. A few guests also stay there.

At Diggy palace, literature festival happens in five venues – Front Lawn, Charbagh, Mughal Court, Baithak and Samvad. Each venue can hold at least 200 people, may be more. In each venue eight discussions / lectures of one hour duration take place, along with audience interaction, from 10am till 7 pm. Eight lectures multiplied by five venues multiplied by five days. A total of 200 discussions / lectures are delivered by eminent guests from fields which include academics, writers, poets, film personalities, politicians, members of civil society even scientists with flair for writing. All venues remain packed from morning till evening. First hour of the festival from 9 am to 10 am remains dedicated to live performance artists playing Indian classical music.

One can register for the festival by logging into the festival website. One can book a hotel through website of the festival. Different hotels suitable to different pockets are listed on the site. It is important to register twice, once for hotel booking and second time to register for the festival. Registration to festival is free. Of course, one can also register as a delegate by paying fee. A delegate may have access to speakers for a more intimate conversation. Because the festival does not charge any entry fee, many students from Jaipur and around visit the venue. Most days, venue is chock a bloc with young people milling around the venue. According to statistics, nearly 60% visitors to the festival are students. Hope these people imbibe knowledge and wisdom of eminent people who participate in the festival.

While delegates get to eat lunch in festival cafeteria, common participants have to buy tea, coffee, snacks and meals. Cash does not work in festival venue. Every one that buys food have to use cash card by depositing money. Cash card can be refunded to get back balance. A whole variety of foods ranging from Rajasthan kachori to chicken Tikka roll is available for purchase. So are Belgian waffles and filter coffee or Masala tea. Participants also can purchase gifts using their credit cards.

From New Delhi one can avail Ajmer Shatabdi for up and down journeys. Journey takes around five hours. Another superfast train is double Decker Jaipur-Sarai Rohilla express, which also takes around five hours to cover the journey. Once in Jaipur, travel is easy because one can dial Ola cab, and auto. Interested tourists can also avail Ola bike service. Ola cabs go by map and fare is more reasonable and honest, compared to private auto / cabs. One should be little careful about choosing right hotel. The one I selected was not a great one. But, fortunately I spent most of my time at the festival venue.

I enjoyed my two days at the Jaipur Literature Festival. I had the good fortune to listen Pico Iyer, Lisa Randall, Tridip Suhrid, Dipanka Gupta, Rohan and Sudha Murthy, Ashok Bajpayei, Hamid Karzai, Nandita Das and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, among others.  It was an invigorating experience to be aware of raging debates in our society. It is a great forum to create better citizens of tomorrow. I wish to go back next year for five days.

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Padmavat Protest : Blurred Line Between Fact and Fiction

Recently, I was returning from Jaipur. At 5 am in the morning, I saw Mr. Lokendra Kalvi, supreme leader of Karni Sena, at the railway station. He was coming to Delhi NCR region. We travelled in the same compartment. I sat a few seats away from Mr. Kalvi. Despite his age, Mr. Kalvi was standing ramrod  straight. He had confident stride and was self assured. A few people came to touch his feet in the platform. He was gracious to bless them in Indian style and talked to them. Inside the train, when ticket checker asked for an identity, Mr. Kalvi did not throw his weight around, showed his papers. In general, I found Lokendra Kalvi to be a reasonable man who was at peace with himself.
Now from the deeds of Karni Sena in recent times, it is hard to explain with a leader like Mr. Kalvi, how can position of Karni Sena be so unreasonable? Time and again group members have been found to shout out opposition in TV debates, threaten actors and directors of film with physical violence, vandalise public property in defiance of Supreme Court order, stone a bus full of school children and try to set it on fire. To top it all, group had hired a lawyer in Mr. A P Singh to Singh virtues of Rajput pride and Rajput women like Rani Padmavati. It must be remembered that it is the same Mr. A P Singh, who had represented rapists in Nirbhaya rape and murder case. After losing the case in the supreme court, Mr. Singh had famously claimed, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” It is ironical that Karni Sena has chosen a misogynist to sing virtues of Rajput women.
Till date, I have not understood what is the objection of Karni Sena towards Padmavat(i).
Is this antipathy is rooted in a sense of personal affront to Mr. Kalvi, that director and producer did not consult him while writing the script? Mr Kalvi had declined to watch the movie. He was seen to comment what would I say about a movie. I do not even understand English language. It seems there is a sense of hurt in being ignored. But no one is admitting such a thing.
Alternatively, is the outrage represents a more global affront to Rajput pride and sentiments? Without going into arguments around existence of Rani Padmavati and benevolence of Alauddin Khilji, it has been reported from time to time that Rajput Karni Sena is angry about  a dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. The scene it was believed to have show a romantic affair between Khilji and the queen.  Director had denied existence of such a scene. Even if the scene is there in the film, it is Alauddin’s dream and not that of Rani Padmini. Can a person not have a dream about subject he desires and can a director not take liberty to think of such a sequence?
There was a discussion on a dance sequence in the film. Rajput groups have claimed their women, let alone queens, do not dance in open court like that shown in the film. We do not know how Rani Padmavati acted more than 800 years before. Rani Padmavati is eulogised for her bravery and her desire to die than to give up her honour. Still, unlike Meera Bay, another queen from the same lineage a few generations later, Rani Padmavati was no saint. Could a queen not dance in inner palace in the presence of ladies? Can a director not take such a liberty to show a sequence?
In the movie Rajput king and people have come out looking good. Rajputs have been shown to defend their fort and honour but eventually lost. This is history. We cannot change this history. But we can act and behave in such a way that future historians discuss us in a better light.
As a sign of sanity and apparent maturity, Karni Sena has decided to make a film on mother of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The idea being, if mother of Rajput people is being insulted by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karni Sena would insult Bhansali’s mother. I find the move childish because for a successful film, one has to have a target audience that may be able to enjoy or relate to sequence of events. Life of Mrs. Leela Bhansali is otherwise indescript. Why would anyone like to watch it? But that is Karni Sena’s choice. They should resort to doing anything they feel like in a peaceful manner
Meanwhile, I think our governments have a lot to learn how to uphold rights of people who cannot defend themselves from organised gangs like Karni Sena and many other similar groups. If we start taking objection to every scene and sequence in movie or a story, then in a culturally rich and diverse nation like India no one can make a movie on the life of a personality from past. Along the same line, in the west, the move “Last Temptation of Christ” had shown fight of Jesus Christ with lust among other things. This  movie was released all over the world. Only in France there was an explosion where 13 people were injured. In rest of the world, film went on peacefully.

All Pervasive Duplicity

I am stuck by double standard displayed by left and left leaning civil society groups. Assault and murder of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Junaid and Afrazul, were horrible and repulsive. No amount of rationalisation can justify such acts. Killers should be punished in the harshest manner possible. I agree and accept every life is equally important. No one should be bullied for their personal choices. Loss of everylife must be mourned. Life and liberty cannot be measured in terms of statistics.

The same logic, however, was deserted on the issue of triple talaq. It was put forward that only a miniscule number of Muslim women get instant divorce. Should every life of a Muslim women not be equally important, irrespective of her marital status?

It was argued who will take care of a Muslim woman, if their husband is jailed for issuing instant divorce? More important question, never ever raised in 70 years, what used to happen to a divorced Muslim woman and her kids when man used to walk out? Why sudden concern?

Then the eternal dilemma why not address issues of Hindu women, specially those who stay in old age homes in Varanasi and Vrindavan? Problem is some Hindu widows renounce society and live alone in old age is search of their spiritiual quest. Without denying there are many women who are deliberately abandoned by their kin. It must be remembered that such a Hindu practice is social in nature not bound by religious diktat. Unlike the practice of triple talaq, as claimed by preachers, banning a Hindu practice will not hamper Hindu dharma. So why equate an apple with an orange?

Some politicians have even brought marital status of prime minister into debate. It is true, Mr. prime minister did not lead a married life. But his wife was free to seek a divorce and marry anothr person of her or her family’s choice. She chose a life of her choice, that is to stay single. How is this situation related to women who are pronounced to be divorced by uttering talaq thrice?

I think many civil society and political party organised protests are motivated less by plight of victims, and more by deep antipathy to prime minister and ruling party.

Revolt in Supreme Court

Four senior judges of supreme court of India expressed their discomfort with the chief justice of India is functioning and assigning cases. Honourable judges held a press conference to express their angst. While there was no specific charge that came out, it appears that honourable judges felt sensitive cases with far reaching consequence are going to junior judges.

Question arises, can a judge complain why he / she was not assigned a case? According to a Times of India report, in last 20 years 15 very sensitive cases including 2G scam, coal block allocation scam etc have gone to junior judges. If dissenting judges claim chief justice is first among equals, but he has no special power. Does the same rule not apply to other judges of the supreme court? There are almost 20 other judges serving the highest court of India. Are junior judges not equal in terms of their ability and power with esteemed four dissenting judges?

Suspicion that there may be politics behind the revolt gets sustenance from the following facts:

  • Mr. D Raja, a Rajya Sabha MP of CPI, was seen meeting Justice Chelameshwar within hours of press conference.
  • Congress party raked up issue of death of CBI Judge Loya. Does congress president has any basis to link dissent in supreme court to alleged murder of CBI judge, when Bombay high court is looking into it and surpeme court also has taken note?
  • Mr. Prakash Karat, a senior member and a former general secretary of CPM, had demanded that all sensitive cases, be it adhaar or Babri Masjid or triple talaq or investigation of death of CBI judge Loya, must be heard by four dissenting judges.
  • Same view point was expressed by Mr Prashant Bhushan, Mr. Dushyant Dave and Ms. Indira Jaisingh, senior lawyers of supreme court. Because senior lawyers namely Mr. Dave believe that junior judges have pro government leaning and may be compromised. The same lawyers were accused of forum shopping by chief justice of India, earlier.
  • Are our opposition parties and civil society not guilty of the same interference in judicial procedures, they are accusing ruling BJP?

Does cases presented before a court depend on merit or inclination of judges? When looked in the light of Mr Kapil Sibal’s request to postpone supreme court verdict on Ram Mandir – Babri Masjid issue till 2019 general election, further confirms that opposition parties are unto something very malicious. They know it may be difficult to beat ruling party on merit, they are now out to subvert the system.

Reference:

‘Super sensitive’ cases being given to junior SC … – Times of India
Find out why senior CPI MP D Raja met Justice Chelameswar soon …
CJI vs Judges row: Rahul Gandhi demands investigation by senior …
CPM’s Prakash Karat triggers massive controversy by dragging …
SC dissent out in open: From politicians, ex-judges to lawyers ..
Jasti Chelameswar, the chief dissenting justice of India – ThePrint
Loya: Loya case judge is close to BJP: Dave | India News – Times of …

Train Travel in Foggy New Year

I love to travel by train. Of course, I have to have a seat by the window, I should not have to haggle with co-passengers for a luggage space, food is served during travel and train has a clean toilet. So with a great hope and expectation, I boarded executive class of Delhi – Lucknow Shatabdi express on the penultimate day of 2017. I had hoped to look through the wide window, while sipping hot coffee and enjoying snacks, as the country side flew by.

Train started on time. Lo and behold, dense fog covered countryside. Instead of travelling at 60 mile per hour, we were travelling at half the speed. We arrived at our first station, Ghaziabad, 30 min late. As we moved along haze covered countryside, often simply standing on the track, we were getting late by the hour.

At Aligarh station around 11 am, like a weary traveller Howrah-Delhi-Kalka mail entered the station, running late by nearly 18 hours. In my mind I had an image of Kalka mail from my childhood days. In those days, Kalka mail used to be a premier train. Travellers were prepared to face any hardship to get a seat on this train. Not only very punctual, travel time from Kanpur to Howrah used to be less by Kalka mail, compared to other trains. With time, Rajdhanis and Durontos have replaced Kalka mail from its premier position. Now the train looks awful in its blue coloured coaches with small pigeon hole type windos. Train runs slow and is often out of schedule. But why blame Kalka mail alone? This journey we saw many premier Duronto’s, Rajdhani’s and Shatabdi’s falling way behind their scheduled arrival time.

By the time we reached Kanpur, it was 3.30 pm. We were running late by four hours. Sun that came out at some point, was beginning to be covered by fog. Hungry and tired we moved on towards Lucknow. We had our scheduled breakfast. No meal was expected to be served as we were to arrive in Lucknow by 12.30 in the noon. It was indeed a relief,  when hot rice and dal were offered by railways after Kanpur. We reached Lucknow five hours late at 5.30 pm.

We spent a sunny day in Lucknow. That is another story. Return journey, on the first of Jan, 2018 was even more eventful. Departure was delayed by six hours. We started at 9.30 pm in the evening, instead of 3.30 pm in the afternoon. We reached New Delhi at 11 am in the morning, nearly 12 hour late. Train was half empty. Passengers could stretch out on the seats and sleep at night. Not much breakfast in the morning. It was not part of plan. Relieved when disembarked in New Delhi. Some start to New Year!