All roads lead to Jaipur this weekend. Thankfully Padmaavat or Padmavati has nothing to do with it. It is the annual literary cornucopia that is the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). It is estimated that approximately three lakh people with be attending it this year. Like any other festival, this rather popular festival can get overwhelming, confusing and borderline frustrating. So I can say from personal experience that there are a few things that, if kept in mind, and followed, will make life at JLF easier for you.
Here are five things that will help you make the most of this five-day extravaganza…
1. Be Organised
While JLF is free (only prior registrations required), this also means there will be massive crowds. It is always good to register beforehand to save time and energy at the entrance venues.
You also have the option of registering as a delegate either for a day or for the entire festival. The delegate badge entitles you to lunch and dinner with featured speakers, sponsors, publishers, festival directors and organisers, access to the music stage, goody bags, and local transport, and accommodation at special rates – rather nice if you can afford it.
Once you reach the main venue, that is Diggi Palace, head straight to the information desk. You absolutely MUST equip yourself with a map and programme schedule – these are your lifelines for the duration of the JLF.
The other thing that you have to remember to get the max out of the festival is that there are several sessions spread over many different venues, with a fifteen-minute gap between each one. And all this runs with clockwork precision. There is only one way you can hope to attend as many sessions as possible. Leave a session 10 minutes before it ends if you hope to attend another session at a different venue. This is because seating is on first come first seated basis and the hordes of press and dignitaries at each session will mean you will have to stand at the back – this is just as good as not attending a session!
Think of JLF as a mission rather than a holiday. So instead of waking late and lingering over breakfast, have an early and hearty meal and get to Diggi Palace before 9am to avoid security queues at the entrance. This is especially important on the first day when there are long lines of attendees waiting to collect festival badges and the keynote address.
2. It is OK to pick favourites
With close to 300 speakers and authors and multiple sessions on each day, it may not always be possible to attend everything or meet everyone. In this scenario, prioritise. Which are the sessions you just don’t want to miss? Which ones are you willing to let go of? Shortlist talks and sessions beforehand – and this is where the program schedule that you picked up at the information desk comes in handy. Also, this will allow you to make a note of logistics – how you want to spend your days (and map out your routes to switch talk venues!)
In case a tent is already packed by the time you reach, make your way right up front and sit on the floor. There’s a fair amount of floor seating space for the big sessions on the front lawn.
3. Dress Right
Jaipur has tricky weather. It sees a lot of what I call ‘inversion’. The days are warm (almost hot) and sunny. Dress bearing that in mind – layers, rather than heavy and bulky clothing. Also, there will be a lot of elegantly dressed men and women. Wear something dressy and yet practical – pair a full-sleeved shirt with corduroy pants and a silk jacket. A nice stole to finish the look. Look casual but smart at the event, and you never know who you will meet. And yes, do not skip the value of wearing comfortable shoes (not sneakers, please). Thank me later
4. Book shopping
At the various stalls at JLF, it is possible to buy books from featured authors and if they are signing them, it’s even better! Authors are a friendly bunch! If you spot Rupi Kaur wandering around, go and say hello!
5. Beyond books
While they are the biggest draw, there is lots more happening at the fest. ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) hosts several cultural and musical nights at historic monuments and grand hotels around the city. Always a popular part of the programme, the JLF music stage is held at another venue, Clarks Amer, and has a fantastic line-up. This one is ticketed and sells out fast, so buy beforehand! Alongside your enriching experience at the royal retreat, the Diggi Palace, explore the nearby cluster of magnificent forts, museums and palaces while visiting the pink city. There is also a regal shopping experience awaiting you with a wealth of antique jewellery, traditional jootis and fabrics. Famous for its flavours the city offers foodies much to relish in its Lal Maas, Dal Batti, Kachori and other Rajasthani dishes.
If you have any other suggestions, please do write in the comments below.
Text by Aarti Kapur Singh