Yesterday was the first edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival in London at Southbank Centre.
I left with apprehensions and a caramel frapuccino buzz and came home, close to 12 hours later, with pages and pages of notes, an original 1810 map of India, two small poetry anthologies, a much longer summer reading list and reassurance.
I remember being frustrated in my last year of high school because ‘there’s nothing I know better than Harry Potter.’ I don’t remember if it was on New Year, but I had at some point, resolved to change that. Yesterday, sitting in Dalrymple’s session on The Last Mughal and listening to Priyamvada Gopal argue impassionedly about empire and capitalism, I realised that I was familiar with the ideas and lines of argument. I don’t know anywhere close to as much as I’d like to, but I do know something. In a year of university education, empire has replaced fantasy fiction as ‘my thing’.
Having sessions with Girish Karnad and Mary Beard and so many fantastic writers at once getting together to talk about myth, religion, language and identity was just awesome, in the true sense.
Taking breaks to stroll around Southbank in the glorious sunshine was just as essential to the experience as the discussions. The book market under Waterloo Bridge went perfectly with the feel of the day and I spent an hour there but know I could have spent days. I also had a ‘cactus burrito’ which was an interesting and surprisingly delicious experience. A cone of mint chocolate chip from the ice cream van was the chocolatiest mint I’ve ever had- so drool worthy.
Having professor Khilnani introduce me to William Dalrymple as, “Megha, a student at King’s.” was surreal. I’m increasingly realised that the people I’m enamoured by are academics and intellectuals, rather than being by starstruck by glamour and I’m so glad things have changed in our Bollywood household from 6 years ago.
This is an unstructured, awkwardly written post, but it had to be written.
I spent a day being desi and studenty and booky, by myself, at Southbank. And it was such a good day.