David Park - An author in India
Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council, accalimed author David Park is this week attending the globally renowned Jaipur Literature Festival in India. David has been documenting his trip through this blog.
Day 2: Magic Tricks of Epic Proportions
Jaipur hosts one of the world's largest literary festivals with a footfall of several hundred thousands. What is remarkable is that it is completely free. How it performs this magic trick of epic proportions is a mystery but clearly it draws on some very deep pockets. My first impression of it is that it in its crowds, vibrancy and noise it resembles a pop festival - Woodstock in its ethos and Glastonbury in its meticulous organisation.
When I read at literary festivals I sometimes play the game of 'spot the young person' as I stand at the podium. Here the festival heaves with the young - from children in school uniform to young adults. There is an air of excitement and expectation. One of the festival's many pleasures is to engage with so many writers, artists and readers from such varied backgrounds and it creates, to borrow a line from New Order, a sense of a world in motion. People introduce themselves as being from a particular place but living in a different one. Some seem to live in a variety of locations. All are interested in Northern Ireland. At one point I briefly suspect someone is playing a game on me and the people I meet have been planted. This would explain how the Indian couple I meet at random have a best friend in Banbridge and have visited there, how this Pulitzer winning journalist's mother comes from North Antrim and how this Indian artist has friends in Derry and Belfast.
It is a festival that unites many diverse origins and interests, a place where it suddenly feels perfectly normal to sit between Roy Foster and Kate Tempest. It also strikes me that the purpose of all literary festivals is no longer exclusively about books. In a fragmenting world they have become the places people go to express a faith in human values, to share and make connections and to affirm that they are united in this language of hope. So festival organisers, wherever you are and however big or small your festival, a big thank you. What you do is more important than ever. And if it ever becomes possible, reward your efforts with a visit to Jaipur an experience that cannot fail to provide new inspiration.
Day 1: The Road
The road from Delhi to Jaipur is not for the faint hearted. From the driver it demands a physical resolution, a precision of judgement and nerves forged in some molten furnace. The enduring principle that dominates the journey from the gridlocked suburbs of Delhi is you will blink before I do. The last possible second of blinking ensures the journey is one of constantly impending collision averted only when you think it's too late. The five hour trauma is accompanied by a cacophony of horn sounding from the lorries, cars and motorbikes that choke the highway, all at different pitch and intensity. For some reason the brightly decorated lorries all have 'blow horn' emblazoned on their rears. The reason is unclear.
We see a variety of animals along the way - camels, horses, monkeys, wandering cattle and creatures whose name escapes me. The roadside is a ravelling confusion of small shops, houses and fragile looking structures whose purpose is unclear but generally have small groups of men sitting outside them on plastic chairs. Women are glimpsed in the fields or walking with purpose, their coloured saris vivid exclamations amidst the dust and car fumes.
When we get close to Jaipur the sky is filled with children's kites. School has just ended and it looks as if every released child has rushed home to fly their dreams. I do not know if this has been inspired by their experience in school or is a reaction against it but there is something in it that speaks of hope, the possibility of forging a future despite circumstances and when the kites soar above the poorest areas it carries a resonance louder than the ceaseless blare of horns.