Hard-sell overshadows literature

Salman Rushdie is busy signing autographs on scraps of paper, reports Namita Bhandare.

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Salman Rushdie is busy signing autographs on scraps of paper. Suketu Mehta is less than thrilled with the hygiene standards in his hotel and Jerry Pinto is busy exhorting people to read his Helen: The Life and Times of an H Bomb.

Outside, basking in the afternoon sun are Delhi‘s A-list culturati — Bim Bissell, Shireen Paul, and Lady Plaxy Arthur. Literary agent David Godwin, whose clients include Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai, is there too, adding to the firmament of stars at the second Jaipur Literature Festival.

Yet, the three-day festival, which concluded on Sunday, left many people less than completely satisfied. “The hard sell is overshadowing some of the literary aspects,” said Antara Dev Sen, editor of The Little Magazine. Agreed Malashri Lal, professor of English at Delhi University: “There should have been more opportunity for writers to speak about the craft of writing. This could have taken place only if there was a dialogue on stage.”

Despite the frisson of unhappiness, the festival has had its high moments. A one-on-one discussion with Desai had a sell-out audience with people spilling out onto the verandah of the grand hall at Diggi Palace, the venue. Rushdie brought the festival to a close, again to a packed hall.

For much of the time, however, the festival has comprised of book readings rather than discussion. “The festival was started for writers to interact with readers, unlike other festivals where issues are discussed,” said Pramod Kumar, one of the organizers and the director of last year’s festival.

Eleanor O’Keeffe, CEO, of Jaipur Heritage International Festival, said: “Yes, I would have liked a little more discussion but we are still new. You have to introduce new ideas a bit at  a time.”  

Email Namita Bhandare: nbhandare@hindustantimes.com

Literature Fest in Jaipur

The three-day festival aims to promote and encourage a love of literature by bringing authors and readers together, reports Namita Bhandare.

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One of India’s biggest literature festivals with such major stars as Salman Rushdie and Kiran Desai kick off on Thursday at Jaipur. Billed as a ‘festival within a festival’, the literature festival forms part of the Jaipur Heritage International Festival which began on January 13 and runs through January 22.

The three-day festival ‘aims to promote and encourage a love of literature by bringing authors and readers together,” says festival director Mita Kapur. Adds author Namita Gokhale, an advisor to the festival, “What’s very exciting for me personally is the blurring of lines between Hindi and English, mainstream and regional.”

The line-up includes Urdu poets, writers from Pakistan, and best-seller writers in Hindi and English. Also included are publishers and literary agents including the celebrated David Godwin who is Vikram Seth and Arundhati Roy’s agent. 
The festival kicks off with a session with Baby Halder who shot to fame last year with A Life Less Ordinary, an account of her experiences as a domestic worker in Delhi.

The first day will also see sessions by Marathi and English writer Kiran Nagarkar (God’s Little Warrior); Christopher Kremmer (the former Delhi correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Commission) who will speak about his recent book, Inhaling the Mahatma; William Dalrymple, the Delhi-based author of The Last Mughal and a poetry reading session where Keki Daruwala, Jeet Thayil and Jane Bhandari will read from the works of Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel and Arun Kolatkar.

The readings also include Seematini Raghav who will read excerpts from works by her father, the well-known Hindi author Range Raghav. Across the Border, the representation will include a performance on violence against women by Feryal Ali Gauhar.

Winner of the Man Booker prize for her novel, The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai features on the second day of the festival. Suketu Mehta whose Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found won the Kiriyama Prize and made it to the final list for the 2005 Pulitzer will also feature on the second day. The festival’s biggest star, Salman Rushdie will interact with NDTV’s Barkha Dutt on the final day.

The literature festival also features a range of performances from qawallis to electronica.

Email Namita Bhandare: nbhandare@hindustantimes.com

No working woman, no cry

How does a modern woman strike a work-life balance? Seema Goswami has answers, says Namita Bhandare.

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Woman on Top: How to Get Ahead at Work
Author: Seema Goswami
Publisher: Random House
Price: 200

In the 16 years, and more that I have known her, I’ll say this for Seema Goswami: she’s never been short of an opinion or shy about voicing it.

Right from her days as Features Editor of the now defunct Sunday magazine and, later, as Editor of Graphiti, The Telegraph’s Sunday magazine she
launched, Seema has had all the answers for which we’ve had only questions.

Many of these eminently common-sensical solutions find expression in Brunch, the magazine this paper produces every Sunday and for which Seema writes a
column called ‘Spectator’. Boyfriend problems? Seema has the answer. Stuck with a gift you don’t really want? Seema will know what to do. What does one wear for a job interview? Ask Seema.

So it comes as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with her work that Seema would sit down to write a ‘how-to’ book — in this case How to Get Ahead
at Work, the subtitle of Woman on Top. In her typical chatty style, Seema runs
the gamut from first impressions to office romances and staying fit to striking a work-life balance.

Woman on Top is not a feminist rant. Though it is an ‘essential book for every
working woman, it neither offers bleeding heart sympathy nor does it adopt
the tone of an outraged crusader. If anything, the book is unapologetically politically incorrect: physical appearances do matter; sexual harassment is not that uncommon in the workplace and the glass ceiling remains in place (“For every Naina Lal Kidwai or Indra Nooyi, who seem to rise effortlessly, there are thousands of career women who stop just short of their full potential.”).

Instead, what the author sets out to do is offer practical, news-to-use type tips to women on surviving the workplace jungle. How do you write a killer
resume? What are the common rookie mistakes at an interview, and how does
one avoid them? How do you look the part of a hardworking employee? (Don’t
take long lunches.) How do you deal with office politics? What are the 10 golden
rules of dealing with the boss?

Though the book has been written for women, much of the advice it dishes out could be useful to men too. Yet, this book does have a strong working woman focus: striking a work-life balance is much more of an issue with women than men.

So, how does a modern working woman with ambitions of getting ahead in her chosen career make time for her family? The book offers invaluable advice, again from a solid, common-sense perspective. With the number of women in the workplace on the rise in India, this book is both contemporary and relevant. An everywoman guide that, unlike many other self-help books, offers solid, practical advice.
E-mail Namita: nbhandare@hindustantimes.com