You’re going to the Jaipur Literature Festival, and so are one and a half lakh other people. That makes 1,50,001 of you, even if more people don’t show up. Chances are, they will, given the steady increase in its popularity over the years. This, like any other festival, can get overwhelming, confusing and borderline frustrating. We’ve made all the rookie mistakes, spent more time navigating than attending a session and been an indelible part of many a human tsunami.

Maybe we’re making a literature festival sound more dramatic that it probably should! But, we shared our own personal experiences and {in}experiences and decided to put them down to help you avoid making the same mistakes and make the most out of your trip here.

Register is the magic word

Although free, the festival requires that you register beforehand. The venue tends to get over-crowded and chaotic across five days, so we recommend pre-registering to save time at the entrance. Register here.

Where are you at?

sessionsJLF has six venues, Baithak, Char Bagh, Ford Samvaad, Rajnigandha Silver Pearls Front Lawns, Google Mughal Tent and the Mahindra Humanities Center Durbar Hall. As soon as you walk in, your first stop should be the information desk. Arm yourself with a map and programme schedule; consider them your lifelines for the entire festival.

Watch the clock

Sessions run parallel across six venues, with a fifteen-minute gap between each one. Everything runs like CLOCKWORK. We suggest leaving a session ten minutes prior to it ending if you’re switching venues. Seats fill up fast and the entourage of press at each session makes standing at the back as good as not attending.

Pick your favourites

With over 250 speakers and authors and multiple sessions on each day, it can be overwhelming for the best of us. We suggest shortlisting preferred sessions and talks beforehand, so you have an idea of how you want to spend your days {and you can map out your routes to switch talk venues!}

Who, what, wear

A useful tip about the weather: The festival has hot, sunny days. We’re not sure if it’s the temperature or body heat from tens of thousand of people, but dress with that in mind. We recommend layers rather than heavy jackets or just T-shirts.

Beyond literature

musicThe JLF music stage is held at another venue, Clarks Amer, and has a fantastic line-up. This one is ticketed and sells out fast, so buy beforehand! Normally priced at INR 400 per day.

Book shopping

Full Circle is their official bookstore partner and they retail in Diggi Palace. You can buy featured, launched and JLF authors’ books. For author signings, buying at the venue makes sense unless you’ve arrived at JLF, books in tow.

The fancy

Although the festival is free, you have the option of registering as a delegate either for a day or for the entire festival. The delegate badge entitles you to lunch and dinner with featured speakers, sponsors, publishers, festival directors and organisers, access to the music stage, goody bags, {wheeee!} and local transport and accommodation at special rates.

The delegate tent is different to the registration tent and is located opposite it; it is situated at the first entry point of the festival.

The loo situation

Although not an organisational defect, the bathrooms leave much to be desired considering the sheer volume of the population using them. The silver lining is, you’ll find bathrooms that aren’t on wheels and carry the underlying threat of tipping over. We recommend you keep handy rolls of toilet paper and bottles of sanitiser.

LITERATURE AWARD RECAP

While trying to shortlist your sessions and reading the brochure, you’ll come across a lot of authors with a lot of awards. Although most of us have a vague idea thanks to strategically placed PR plugs on book covers, here’s a quick overview of all the ones that figure repeatedly in anything you’ll read about JLF.

Nobel Prize in Literature, Sweden; Year of Inception: 1901; Presented by: Swedish Academy

Awarded annually to an author for an outstanding contribution to literature. More than one novel, the Nobel Prize awards an author’s work as a whole. A Nobel Prize laureate is presented a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation and a sum of money, which is dependent on the income of the Nobel foundation that year. Previous winners include John Steinbeck, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, Orhan Pamuk.

Man Booker International Prize, United Kingdom; Year of inception: 2005; Presented by: Man Group

Awarded every two years to an author for a piece of writing published in English or available in English translation. The award is a recognition of the writer’s body of work, rather than any one title. The prize is worth £60,000, and a lot more book sales! Previous winners include Ismail Kadare, Lydia Davis, Chinua Achebe.

Man Booker Prize for Fiction, United Kingdom; Year of inception: 1969; Presented by: Man Group

It is given to the best, original, full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland or Zimbabwe. One of the world’s richest literary awards, the prize money stands at £50,000, with a cheque for £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book. Previous winners include works by VS Naipaul, Penelope Fitzgerald, Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai.

Pulitzer Prize, United States of America; Year of inception: 1917; Presented by: Columbia University

The Pulitzer celebrates journalism and is given for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature or musical composition. Pulitzers are given across 21 categories, journalism and literature included. Previous winners include works by Harper Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, William Faulkner, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Sylvia Plath.

Sahitya Akademi Award, India; Year of inception: 1954; Presented by: Sahitya Akademi, Government of India

A literary honour in India, it is given to writers for books of outstanding literary merit written in one of the major, recognised Indian languages. It carries a cash prize of INR 1 lakh, and is awarded annually. Previous winners include works by Anita Desai, Vikram Seth, Jeet Thayil, Ruskin Bond, and RK Narayan.

Feature image courtesy: PrintWeek