Assistant Director Yvette Judge gives us a snapshot of the team’s visit to Jaipur LitFest

After a wonderfully easy flight with Emirates to Delhi (where Isobel and I were joined by Manisha Dutt) and a quick hop to Jaipur with Jet Airways we found our wonderful hotel and made our plans for the coming days….

Day 1 at Jaipur Literature Festival

Isobel and Yvette at the Diggi Palace Hotel

It was an early start so that we could find the Diggi Palace Hotel where everything happens and make sure we knew where all the venues were. First on my list was Margaret Atwood in conversation; very excited to discover that she is writing a comic book series featuring cats – book one is due out later this year! We are also meeting some publishers, and so next on the agenda was a chance to discuss some great potential authors for our own Festival with Pan Macmillan, and snatch quick coffee.

Then raced over to hear Stephen Fry, Helen Macdonald, Christina Lamb, Esther Freud, Blake Morrison and Brigid Keenan in a session entitles Selfie – basically about family and its influence. Yes, that is a lot of people on one panel!

I decided to skip the cricket session and we met with the HarperCollins publisher instead – more great suggestions for us.

JLF 5Manisha and I then discovered the perils of not having ticketed events as we tried to see Piyush Pandey in conversation with Suhel Seth; let’s just say that I needed my elbows and then having fought our way in, we were overcome by the heat in the tightly packed room and fought our way out… so not our favourite event so far.

I then had the pleasure of hearing Kanishk Tharoor, an engaging and eloquent young man launching his first book – very enjoyable, and then segued into The Creative Process: How Writers Write, with Esther Freud (Brilliant) and Sidi Vadukut (very funny) amongst others. Having really been enthralled by Sidin I persuaded Manisha to join me for his solo event (only 30 minutes after his previous session…) and we both laughed out loud at him; born in Abu Dhabi, family from Kerala, has lived in UK – something to entertain everyone. His latest book is on Indian history.

JLF 6Delighted to finish the day hearing Colin Thubron talking about his book on Tibet; inspiring speaker and a very uplifting hour.

Please notice that there is no mention of lunch above – so at 18:15 we dashed back to our hotel for food – well, to be honest, I had my first proper taste of Jaipur traffic. I love the driving here (yes, honestly, as long as no one makes me get behind the wheel) – the sheer recklessness of motorbikes, bicycles, auto-rickshaws, buses and cars (oh yes and pedestrians) all fighting for position. Was painting lines on the road a job creation scheme? I can see no other reason for them to be there, other than to set a challenge to cross them. We did make it back safely and enjoyed some great food; as a mutton curry fan, I was in second heaven. My two vegetarian companions also seemed to enjoy their meal.

Yvette and Meera SyalFinished the day off with a reception hosted by Penguin Random House; met Meera Syal, Stephen Fry, Eugene Rogan and Ruskin Bond (Manisha’s hero) so all good!

Overall, first impressions are of bright colours, good-natured crowds and a chaos that somehow seems to work; school students in smart uniforms; food frying; intelligent conversation and political discussion; and too much to look at in one go!