Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jaipur polo match

Handing over trophy to the polo players with Arun Sahni, Commander-in-Chief, South Western Command, Jaipur 
January 30, 2016: I landed Delhi this evening and checked into Hotel Maurya. I was still busy post the Republic Day celebrations and also after the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur
In fact, I was scheduled to be in Delhi on January 28 to attend the special preview of the India Art Fair, New Delhi, and also to attend the farewell reception of Mrs Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, Director, UNIC, at the UN Lawns, 55 Lodi Estate, New Delhi, hosted by UNIC and IFUNA.
L to R: Sudhir Mathur, Maharaj Narendra Singh and Thakur Digvijay Singh throwing the ball at the Polo Club Jaipur match
I, however, was held back in Jaipur for few other January events and could only land in Delhi in the evening after attending the exhibition match of Raghu Sinha Mala Mathur Memorial Cup at the Polo Club in Jaipur.
Surprisingly, Jaipur has become much warmer this afternoon.
With Maharaj Padmanabh Singh
At the Polo Match, as the Guest of Honour, I gave away the awards to the teams and threw the ball, as customary, to start off the matches.
I shall miss the finals of the Sirmur Cup tomorrow but I did attend the dinner at the City Palace on Friday evening hosted by Maharani Padmini Devi and Sunil Sood, Managing Director and CEO of Vodafone India.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fest fatigue

January 26, 2016. Jaipur: Today is the Republic Day and I plan to go to the Raj Bhavan for tea.
Yesterday I did not attend the Writer’s Ball as I was too tired. Also since last year, the Writer’s Ball has lost its charm because it was attended by everybody else other than the writers.
With Ila Arun
I hosted a dinner on Sunday to celebrate the month of January in Jaipur. This is one month which full of events and happenings. There is this polo season going on full swing; there was the Kite Festival; the Vintage Car Rally, music festivals, film festivals and what not. It was this joyous and festive spirit of January that I wanted to share with selected guests, friends and some authors and writers.
With Shashi Tharoor and Kiran Shaw Mazumdar
Filmstar and politician Shatrughan Sinha, former Minister Praful Patel, industrialist Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Shashi Tharoor and his son Kanishk, Singer Ila Arun, Madhu Neotia, brand consultant Suhel Seth, transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Teamwork head Sanjoy Roy and many other authors of Lit Fest were present at the dinner.
With Suhel Seth
Among my friends who were in Jaipur but couldn't make it were Pavan K Varma, Amish Tripathi, Javed Akhtar and Girish Karnad although they had confirmed their presence in advance.
Varma said that he was dog-tired after having spent the entire day at the JLF and earlier he had attended the Lit Fests at Hyderabad and Kolkata. Tripathi sent me a text early morning today saying that he could not make it for the dinner since he was unable to cope up with the hectic schedule that he had had at the JLF.
Javed Akhtar, who had promised to come, caught the evening flight to Kolkata rather than the early morning flight. This saved him from getting up early once again for catching a flight.
The JLF and other festivals had made him weary. Girish Karnad
With Madhu Neotia
said after his readings of poetry at the
Amer Palace the other night he was suffering from vertigo.
It is surprising that the Kolkata Lit Fest was also organized on the same dates as that of Jaipur Lit Fest. While the Hyderabad Lit Fest was organized a few days earlier. Some well known authors who are in demand have to flit from one festival or the other. Speaking and interacting at the JLF can itself be very demanding with crowds and packed schedules. It seems that the JLF schedule is taking its toll as more and more guests seem to suffer from fest fatigue.
Meanwhile, a diplomat friend informed me that they prefer the foreign authors coming to the festivals one after another since it saves them, as sponsors, from spending twice on their international fares.
As the 2016 Jaipur Literature Festival draws to a close, there is this public interest litigation (PIL) in the court. Hopefully the legal hassles would be sorted out soon so that the festival is held at the elegant Diggi Palace again.
ess bee

Monday, January 25, 2016

Where is the Jaipur in JLF?

At the Vintage Car Exhibition
January 25, 2016, Jaipur: In the morning I went for the Vintage Car Exhibition and in the evening I hosted a dinner at the ITC Rajputana poolside to celebrate “January in Jaipur”.
With Shatrughan Sinha and Ila Arun
For the past few year January is dotted with events in Jaipur. Cultural and literary events like Jaipur Literature Festival, polo season, Rajasthan International Film Festival, Vintage Car Rally, Kite Festival and so on. So, I thought of celebrating January in Jaipur as a get-together format.
With author Anuja Chauhan
Held at the ITC Rajputana poolside, the event was attended by film stars, politicians, eminent writers, JLF delegates and the select few from the Pink City. Needless to say, ITC Rajputana did a fantastic job. Scrumptious spread of food and drinks that was much relished by one and all. What added to the charm of the evening was the mesmerizing Sufi music of the famous Sabri brothers.
With Kiran Shaw Mazumdar
The event was attended by Shatrughan Sinha, industrialist Kiran Shaw Mazumdar, MP and writer Shashi Tharoor, brand consultant Suhel Seth, former Union Minister and industrialist, Praful Patel, singer and cine actress Ila Arun, transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, producer of JLF Sanjoy Roy and many other prominent authors.
With Maharani Divya Singh of Bharatpur and Shashi Tharoor
I am thankful to Mr Raghunathan Murali who went out of his way for first time ever not only to give whole Rajputana Poolside but also to allow the Sabri brothers to perform from Jharoka Bar.
With Kazam Ali Khan of Rampur
One question that comes to my mind often is that - Where is the 'Jaipur' in the Jaipur Literature Festival?
The city of Jaipur is conspicuous by its absence in the mega literary event. The city's culture is missing even as JLF becomes a global event.
Under pressure from the local writers and artists – some representation, of course, is being given to them at the JLF since past three years. However, their representation remains minimal.
With Praful Patel
At another level, there are many writers from Jaipur and Rajasthan who avoid attending the JLF. Their grouse is that Rajasthani literature is not aptly represented. A couple of years ago, on a request from the JLF team, I had approached few eminent Rajasthani writers requesting their resume to be forwarded to the festival team. The writers refused. They told me that they do not get appropriate respect and recognition from the JLF management. The local society of writers feel that they do not belong to the festival in any way.
For the Pink City, JLF means commerce. On the positive side, JLF has made Jaipur into a super brand. People from all over the world converge on to the Pink City to attend this Festival. Today, the rooms of all hotels are sold out; eateries have people waiting outside; the cabs have all been hired and the retail outlets are happy.
Another happier side to the Festival is that at the same time there are parallel events going on in the five star hotels, heritage properties and resorts in and around the city. For instance, I had four invites last evening to attend a dinner at Amer Fort's restaurant 1135 AD. Another one at the Fort, a dinner at Rambagh Palace and not to forget the evening dinner at Hotel Clarks Amer while I was hosting a dinner for Hindi, Urdu and Jaipur authors in Rajputana.
I was surprised to find that as many as 34 students had come to the JLF from a University in Sonepat to do a course on Jaipur Literature Festival: A Critical Analysis. The festival management decided to use all the students who had opted for the course to become volunteers at the event so that they get a firsthand knowledge of how the festival is run. There is no denying that the format of the festival is a huge success. I am sure, very soon a full-fledged study would be done by the famed Universities of the world.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Festival, Sanjoy Roy, said that a father and son have come all the way from the USA in their private jet to attend the event. They were complaining about the lack of parking facilities at the Jaipur airport for their private jet and had to park it at Udaipur.
ess bee

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book viewing vs book buying

January 24, 2016, Jaipur: Yesterday I could not spend much time at the Lit Fest as I hosted an Ek Mulakat event with Jayshree Periwal Foundation at the ITC Rajputana in the afternoon. Javed Akhtar was in conversation with Sangeeta Datta on her CD Anant.
With Javed Akhtar
Sangeeta sang well and Javed Akhtar was as usual popular among the
Jaipurites.
I hardly slept a wink yesterday night because it was 2:30 am by the time I finished dinner hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in collaboration with Vani Prakashan for the Hindi and Urdu authors. By the time I got back to my room it was 4 am.
So I decided to pen my blog now. Tomorrow at 10 am I have to leave for the Vintage Car Rally flag-off ceremony.
L to R: With Ish Madhu Talwar, Padashree C P Deval and Arun Maheshwari of Vani Prakashan
The dinner was attended by all the prominent Hindi and Urdu authors of Rajasthan who had come for the Lit Fest. Almost all the authors, directly or indirectly, expressed their feelings against the discriminatory treatment of English and regional authors. Padmashree Deval spoke on the mike about this as well.
With LC Pant, Resident Editor, Dainik Bhaskar
Honestly, I too have always felt this. The reason I requested Vani Prakashan to come on board with us as host during the Lit Fest was to create a feel good factor among the regional authors who felt left out. It is a known fact that the English publications houses have lavish dinners at the city five star hotels for the English authors only.
The Jaipur Literature Festival is the biggest of fests in terms of scale, quality of programmes and the eclectic mix of writers from all over the world. The organizers take huge pride in the fact that from a small festival it has become a mammoth five-day literary jamboree with lakhs of people coming in attend.
With author Prabhat Ranjan
One question is that while lakhs of people come to JLF but how many really buy books?
My experience with Jaipurites is that they love book viewing. The thronging crowds at the JLF flaunt fashion, indulge in shopping, knick-knacks, drink wine and beer and even fill up the sessions. But they rarely buy books. Some of the book stalls set up by leading publishers are in awaiting for the customers who swarm around the food and beverage kiosks.
Similarly, the booths selling trinkets, clothes and even pickles and chutneys, for that matter, are witness much better footfalls than the bookstalls. One observation that I would like to make is that the majority of the books bought at the JLF are by the visitors who come to Jaipur from other places.
With transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
One of the many excuses is that the tech savvy youth of today prefer reading on their mobile phones, laptops and kindles. Gone are the days when people would wear an old coat and read a new book. Today people buy a designer dress or a bag rather a book. The sad faces of the book sellers who shell out quite a bit to set up stalls in the Lit Fest reflects this hard fact. What is even more astonishing is that even outlets selling fancy stuffs like mugs and diaries attract more people than book stalls.
I had organized a book launch session of a well-known celebrity author in a luxury hotel. The elite of Jaipur was present and only about 10 copies of the book were sold despite a discount. Indeed a sad commentary on the so called book lovers of Jaipur.
The JLF organizers also need to ensure that the moderators and the presenters who go up on the stage know the correct names of the author and the guests while calling them to the dais. Yesterday, at the launch of a book by a well known editor, the presenter announced the author's name, and said his other friends would join in which included biggest Hindi publishing house owner and a very reputed Hindi author as well.
ess bee

Friday, January 22, 2016

JLF is also about kachoris and leisurely lunches

January 22, 2016, Jaipur: Yesterday I met Shashi Tharoor who is also staying in ITC Rajputana with his newly-married son Kanishk and daughter-in-law Amanda.
With Sashi Tharoor
Sashi said to me, "Sundeep, rawat ki kachori kab khila rahe ho?" Despite a sumptuous spread of lunch and varieties of snacks at the JLF, there is always a huge demand for 'Rawat ki Kachori'.
Rawat Misthan Bhandar in the walled city of Jaipur claims to have "invented" these kachoris many years ago and they have become so famous that any visit to Jaipur is considered incomplete without Rawat's kachoris.
Food, along with literature, art, culture, theatre and gossips, is an important part of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). A large number of writers and festival organizers like Sheuli Sethi and others have great love for this unique kachori of Jaipur. 
I always try and arrange Rawat ki kachori in my room in Diggi House, during JLF, where they can come and savour it. Shashi and his son Kanishk came over and enjoyed the kachoris. Even when Shabana Azmi was in Jaipur for JLF during in the past she used to get these kachoris delivered to Marriott.
Another popular beverage in the JLF is the 'Diggipuri ki Chai'. Served in traditional kulhads (earthen cups), the chai is popular among the authors, celebrities and visitors alike. The gentle winter breeze, the intellectually stimulating JLF sessions and the hot chai make for a perfect combo. The warm and friendly turban clad chai wallahs (tea sellers) attracts one and all. Not having chai at JLF is really missing out on something. However, there is no sugar free version available for the diabetics.
From the balcony of my room in Diggi Palace, which opens up to the lawns, I don't have to go down to hear the sessions. Through out the day there is an inflow of guests and the chai and kachoris are a big hit. I, on my part, ensure that there is a fresh supply from Rawat five times a day.
A large number of people turn up every year at the JLF only to socialize and mingle. From kulhad chai to chaat to various types of coffee and patisserie and sangria, a multitude of food and beverage items are available to binge on. Not to forget the pints of beer which sell like hot cakes. Food is a crowdpuller, and not just between the sessions, many choose to miss out on the sessions to get a pizza or burger. Food, in fact, has become a very very important part of the festival.
In this context, when it comes to bonhomie and camaraderie – the two hour lunch in the courtyard of Diggi Palace is a great place to socialize, interact, network and mingle. People leisurely have their Jocob's Creek wine and assorted chilled beers.
Yet another popular eating joint during JLF is the Anokhi Café especially for those who would like to take a break from the milling crowds at Diggi Palace. Going with the season, there is also a popular demand for gajak and til papdi and so I decided to get some gajak from Bharatpur and til papdi from Beawar for my author friends.
It is only apt that the LitFest is also a great package of academic sessions, music, cultural programmes. Not to forget the food. Yesterday I had some amazing food at Mita and Rahul Kapur’s residence in the evening attended by some authors and friends.
ess bee