Jaipur Literature Festival: Part 2.

Because I've demolished my iphone, I'm currently using an old Nokia model whose only claim to fame is that it simply won't break. I've tried everything. Nothing deters that phone. You drop it, it neatly collapses into three parts, and then there's nothing to be done except sigh in resignation and put it together again.

The phone also has a loud and annoying ringtone, and call me biased, but I can always tell when my mother's calling because the ringtone gets just a little bit louder (I'm not sure if she reads my blog or not, so I shall desist from using the word annoying. After all, how could anything associated with my mother be annoying. She's such a bundle of calm, deep delight.) It was ringing particularly loudly at nine thirty, the morning of the second day. 

"Hi Mama," I said, without even bothering to check the caller id. 

"Are you awake yet?" 

I was awake, I'd woken up an hour earlier to a trashed room, I'd had tea, and bread that the hotel insisted on calling toast, and a dubious white looking piece of fluff that was supposed to be scrambled egg, but I couldn't have a bath because there was a power-cut on till ten. So I'd gotten back into bed, and was lying there, contemplating the purpose of literature and other high brow things that seemed suitable for contemplation in the hours before attending the talks. 


"The concert last night was terrible. TERRIBLE!" She'd arrived with her book club the previous evening - and as soon as they landed, they went to their guest house, put their lipstick and concealer on, and went off to the evening concerts which I'd already warned her were going to be bad. 

"I told you it would be," 

"Yes, well. But then we came back and we were all talking till past midnight,"

My mother....she's a wild one, isn't she? 

"Anyway," she said, "what are your plans?"

"Waiting in line to have a bath, and then we're heading to the fest." 

"Okay. I'll see you there. Want me to buy you lunch?"

"I love you so much, and I've missed you so much," I said fervently, genuinely meaning it from the bottom of my heart.

The nice thing about my mother is that she doesn't snort when I say things like that, she gets equally soppy, and a few I-love-you-and-I've-missed-you's went back and forth before we hung up. 

I went in for a bath after Mawii and Rohin. Rhea was nothing but an immobile shape under the bedsheets - the only signs of life were even, well paced snores. 

Jaipur was cold. Especially at night, and inside our hotel room. Therefore, taking a shower had to be a very careful process. Mawii came out, looking very relaxed, saying the water was boiling hot. Rohin repeated this observation. I went in with a light heart. Turned the hot water tap on. Shrieked. It was not boiling hot. To be fair, it wasn't freezing cold either, but because the bathroom felt like an igloo, the lukewarm shards of water falling on me made me feel like I was repeatedly being stabbed by icicles. 

I could write an entire separate blogpost on this experience, but I will carry on to us getting into an auto, and heading to Diggi Palace. Rhea, when we left the room, had managed getting out of bed, but she told us to carry on.

"We can wait for you," said Mawii. 

"Nah," said Rhea, staring at a wall. "I'm really slow in the mornings. I stand around and stare at things a lot." 

She's always had a flair for stating the obvious. 

I called my mother when I got to the fest and told her I was standing by the deep pit where the installations were.

"I don't know where that is,"

I sighed and asked her where she was. 

"I'm sitting on a bench under a tree in front of the British Council reading room," 

I knew where that was. I went to the bench under the tree and saw, not my mother, but Teesta Nayak's. Mawii had spotted her earlier and they were in deep conversation. I said hello, and then set about searching for my own mother. 

After a long phone call which involved raised voices towards the end, I found her on a bench, that was not under a tree, to the left of the reading room. But why quibble. 

She'd made friends with a Chinese lady and they were both enthusiastically discussing Amy Chua and Ben Okri. I introduced myself, made small talk. 

Finally I managed dragging my mother away but just after they exchanged addresses, with my mother commenting on her unusual name, the lady said, "I'm Chinese from Singapore, yes?"

I nodded because I didn't know what to say to that.

"The Chinese from China are very different. They are brainwashed. They're not like other Chinese people." 

Okay then. My mother passed a remark on how cosmopolitan Singapore was, and then we departed. 

Mawii and I went off for a talk by Steven Pinker on declining violence in human history, and I told my mother I'd see her at lunchtime. The talk was disappointing because it was really nothing more than statistics. Left halfway, found my mother, dragged her to the bookstore, bought so many books that she started grumbling, but not really, because the fantastic thing about my parents is that they always let me get as many books as I want, and never say things like, "No more than three now," or, "Oh that's too expensive and not worth it." 

So I came away with a bagful of books, and then she fed me lunch ("THE FALAFEL! THE FALAFEL! YOU HAVE TO EAT THE FALAFEL!") and then I went in for a talk by Jamaica Kincaid and Anna Pavord which, disappointingly, was on gardening, but it was still pretty good - just because of their personalities, especially Ms Kincaid, who never looked at the other speakers, nor at the audience, but straight ahead towards the ceiling, and whose face was one of those faces that have thoughts written across them, and so are incredibly interesting to watch, because the expression changes so frequently: sometimes smooth, sometimes jarring, but always distinct, from one minute to the next. 

I'd gone really early for that talk, with Mawii, so we could keep our seats for the next one, which was called 'After Bin Laden" and had MJ Akbar, Jason Burke, Max Rodenbeck, and Ayesha Jalal among the panelists. Mawii went out after the Kincaid and Pavord talk to get tea, and couldn't get back in because of the crowd. But I stayed and listened and enjoyed it so much. 

After that, everything else was really crowded, so we wandered around. I kept bumping into various members of my mother's book club (including Pixie, who was kind enough to feed me and Mawii patties and tea), and I kept seeing visions of my mother everywhere especially when we lit up cigarettes. 

And then we went home. The others went out to get dinner, but Rohin and I stayed in, and we started on tea but by the time the others came back, we'd moved on to whiskey and rum, and I was feeling pretty happy. But as usual, exercising admirable self restraint, I got myself into bed by eleven (okay, so maybe I was drunk enough to force poor Mawii to tuck me in, and also drunk enough to inform her I was switching beds because I refused to sleep next to her if she was going to cuddle her Vikram, a different one from mine naturally, all night, which she violently denied she was going to do but she did) and then I rolled over and fell asleep. 

I wish I could think of a more interesting way to end this. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was minimal to no cuddling that night.