The Tough Life Of A Litfest Celebrity, 'Fat Scindia Maharaja' And Selfies With Stephen Fry

22/01/2016 8:17 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
JAIPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 22: (L- R) Indian writer and journalist Samanth Subramanian, writer Brigid Keenan English writer Helen Macdonald and English comedian and writer Stephen Fry during the session Selfie at Jaipur Literature festival 2016 on January 22, 2016 in Jaipur, India. Ninth edition of ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is set to witness over 360 participants from the fields of literature, history, politics, economy, art and culture debate and discuss on one platform during the course of the next five days. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindiustan Times via Getty Images)

Day two of the Jaipur Literature Festival and the crowds—though crowdy—were nothing compared to the 3.25 lakhs expected this weekend by one of the men scanning the bar codes at the entrance.

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker

The white wine ran out in the delegates and press lunch area quite fast, leading many people to lament the end of previous JLF hang-out spot Flo Cafe. Part of Diggi Palace's many restaurants, Flo was as essential to the JLF as the kullad-waali chai served by turbaned men (which, thankfully, still remains a fixture.) In fact, in many previous lit fests, the authors just congregated there, making it a good place to hang on to a table and indulge in the mainstay litfest activity of people-spotting. Flo is gone, but there's another bar hidden away behind the Durbar Hall venue called Bae, which is full of young trendies attending. You can expect to spot well-dressed people and lots of hipster men in tight pants and full beards.

shobhaa de

Let them eat... later

Speaking of liquor, you've got to feel kind of sorry for famous authors going to an after party. At Mita Kapur's do Thursday evening, Margaret Atwood could scarcely eat for people going up to her and chatting, while Marlon James kept getting interrupted so that fans could take a selfie. Others in the know—Shobhaa De and Patrick French among others—were invited to Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje's home for dinner and drinks, where presumably, no one except the authors themselves took selfies, as evidenced by Ms De's Twitter feed this morning.

jaipur literature festival 2016

Family Matters

In related news, the “Vicereine” panel on day one waited outside their session for quite a long time because of all the TV cameras and security outside it. They were convinced all the press was there for someone else, and when unable to wait any longer twenty minutes later, they went in, they found the CM had been waiting to watch them the entire time. Author Anabel Lloyd then went on to read long passages about the “fat Scindia maharaja” from The Indian Journal Of Mary, Countess of Minto with Ms Raje sitting right there in the front row. Thankfully, no one took offence, except for one man with a camera, whose bag of books kept getting moved by Raje's security guards as he left them unattended on one chair on another, looking rather suspicious. (The bag that is, not the gentleman himself.)

jaipur literature festival 2016


Margaret Atwood's book signing line made two loops around the massive Diggi Palace front lawns, so kudos to everyone who did manage to get her to autograph their book. Meanwhile, Stephen Fry—who loathes selfies, apparently, despite taking one of himself and his fellow speakers appropriately on a session called “Selfie”--took the line of the day when he asked a fan what her name was. “Vidya,” she answered. “Oh, did you kill the radio star?” he joked. (Say the name out loud in a British accent if you're uncomprehending.) (It was Fry's New Year's resolution not to take or pose for any selfies, which he tweeted about, leading to an interaction between him, Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling that I would literally pay money to watch on a panel.)


Is speaking at JLF adding extra street cred? Maybe. According to author Bibek Debroy on Twitter, he and ten other Penguin authors speaking this year were all given the Blue Checkmark Of Famous People by Twitter.

Notable Quotables

“I've always been a cat person [...] finally got my hands on one and dressed it up in a bonnet as one does.” - Margaret Atwood

“When I was a child, I didn't want to read about children, I wanted to read about grown-ups.” - Cornelia Funke

“The only person I could be brutally honest about was myself.” - Stephen Fry

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