Jaipur Journals is a unique, metafictional novel by Namita Gokhale, one of the founder-directors of Jaipur Literature Festival. Set against the backdrop of the festival itself, the book brings together a rich cast of characters and their even richer stories.
We introduce you to some of the characters whose lives intersect and collide within these pages.
A writer who identifies herself as pan-sexual and non-binary, Zoya Mankotia is an icon of queer literature and representation. Her most recent novel, The Quilt, created waves, occasioning both outrage and intense appreciation. Her voice holds a mélange of accents.
In the world of Jaipur Journals, we meet her in a panel, where she introduces herself:
‘I am by discipline a novelist […] as passionate about crossover genres as I am about gender fluidity. I am nonbinary and pan-sexual, and I am committed equally to my writing, my raison d’être, and my wife, my monogamous partner. We can be who we are, write as we like. Sexuality, as a narrative, is a freeflowing river.’
Born in Bijnor, Raju Srivastava is a burglar who is passionate about poetry. He is the son of an unsuccessful tailor-master. He arrives in Jaipur to fulfil two purposes: meeting India’s greatest poet, Janab Javed Akhtar, and covering the cost of the trip through some well-executed burglaries.
Raju nurses a deep-seated desire to become a poet, and is an avid reader of poets like Nirala and Dushyant Kumar, Muktibodh and Firaq Gorakhpuri and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. He writes prolifically, and his preferred form of poetry is the ghazal. His hero and idol in the poetry world, however, is Javed Akhtar.
Anura is short for Anuradha, a twelve-year-old student en route to Jaipur on a school trip. She is a prodigy, having been selected for a Young Adult panel in the Jaipur Literature Festival. She has self-published a dystopian novel.
As is evident from her preference for the shortened form of her name, she is quite taciturn, and likes to save her words for important things.
Anna Wilde is a writer from America, who primarily publishes books on meditation and reflection. Anna is quite renowned for her association with the Beat Poets, especially Allen Ginsberg. She is attending the Jaipur Literature Festival to talk about her books The Inner Eye, which was very successful, and The Third Way, which has recently been reissued.
Anna teaches theology at the University of Colorado. She calls herself a Hindu, by ‘dharma and karma’, and has spent many years in India before returning to America.
Rudrani Rana is a woman in her seventies, who sees herself as a ‘failed novelist’. She always carries around a handbag that contains her unpublished magnum opus; which she refers to as UNSUBMITTED. The novel is actually titled The Face by the Window and is a dedicated to Alice Walker and her book, The Colour Purple.
Rudrani is an alumna of Waverly Girls School in Dehradun. Alongside her unpublished semi-fictional novel, she also writes anonymous letters as a means to express herself.
She is a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey, which is what had drawn her to the Jaipur Literature Festival for the first time, back in 2012. She is often fatigued and lonely, and feels like an outsider within the literature circuit at the festival.
Gayatri Smyth Gandhy
Gayatri Smyth Gandhy is fifty-two, single, divorced and is a self-proclaimed ‘citizen of the world’. She is a historian and cultural anthropologist with an American green card. She is also an aspiring novelist.
She is stuck in her novel, struggling to understand herself what it is about. She lived in Jaipur as an adolescent when her father Brig. Gandhy was stationed there. She considers herself a Jaipurite in many respects, and makes annual trips to the city during the festival. She often feels divided between her Indian and Western selves.
Namita Gokhale’s Jaipur Journals brings together these characters within the setting of the Jaipur Literature Festival, and their stories are as vibrant and diverse as the largest free literary festival in the world!