Skip to main content

Poets & Purple Ink in the Pink City: Jaipur Journals Review


Synopsis:

Authors, poets and academics gather together at the Jaipur Literature Festival to share their work and to bask in the adulation of fans. Rudrani Rana is both a fan and a writer, and brings her work in progress in a canvas bag to the festival: a manuscript of a novel, titled ‘UNSUBMITTED’. Not just any manuscript, however: this is something Rudrani has revised and rewritten over the course of most of her life, until only one sentence remains unchanged: ‘my body is a haunted house.’ Perhaps this will be the time she actually submits the great work of her life.


Review:

The book follows Rudrani and a small cast of other characters as their paths intersect and they experience their own epiphanies and life-changing moments at the festival. Anyone who has been to a literature festival or other literary event will recognise the descriptions of the performances, the panel discussions, the audiences. But this one seems to be a microcosm of the world outside, and the connections forged over the course of those few days are as intense as they are transient.

It was refreshing to see an older female protagonist at the centre of a book, and Rudrani is independent and memorably eccentric. Her penchant for writing lists and sending poison-pen letters in the form of cute cards depicting kittens and flowers, with harsh truths / accusations spelled out in purple ink, made me think of her as a cross between Vikram Seth’s Mrs Rupa Mehra and Shirley Jackson’s Adela Strangeworth – but without the maudlin streak of the one or the sinister side of the other.

The rest of the characters are not without their foibles either, so we have a tailor-turned-thief-turned-poet, an unlucky-in-love academic, and a gay journalist who goes saree-shopping with strangers. There’s even a tongue-in-cheek reference to Rupi Kaur fans.

Gokhale evokes a sense of the atmosphere and beauty of Jaipur – the distinctiveness of the landscape, the heat and colour of the city. She also gives a sense of the myriad unique stories bubbling beneath the surface of the seemingly ordinary people whose paths we cross every day in a bustling city like Jaipur.

I enjoyed this affectionate but teasing love letter to the Jaipur Literature Festival, and the way author Nimita Gokhale pokes fun at literary circles and the sometimes self-absorbed pretentiousness of artists and academics. The mix of humour and pathos in their behaviour and their stories reminded me of David Lodge in some ways, and it felt like Gokhale had an intimate knowledge of these events and the kinds of people who attend them.

I enjoyed it all the more because for 223 pages I could escape from our current reality and imagine myself at an actual literature festival, with actual human contact, rather than the virtual versions we have been compelled to have in the past year.

Recommended for anyone who loves and misses travelling, conferences, and the literary ‘scene’. Also anyone who has their own ‘Unsubmitted’ sitting in a drawer somewhere; take it out, dust it off, and send it out into the world before it’s too late.


Author Namita Gokhale

Thanks to Anne Cater @RandomThingsTours and HopeRoad Publishing for sending me a copy to review.

Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Join the conversation at The Brown Brontë's Book Club .


Comments

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

Home Is Where The Heart Is: Hashim and Family

It’s a difficult time right now for debut authors to be releasing books. So as a book blogger I’m trying to do my bit by sharing my thoughts on this wonderful debut novel: Hashim and Family, by Shahnaz Ahsan. Before we start I have to tell you that I know the author personally, and OBVIOUSLY I’m bursting with pride for her, so if you feel you need to take this review with a grain or two of salt, please do so. However, rest assured that I never recommend a book that I don’t genuinely think is worth reading. The story: It’s Manchester in 1960 and Hashim has just arrived in Britain from East Pakistan – now known as Bangladesh. He moves into a shared house with his jovial cousin Rofikul and sets about trying to build himself a life. We see the two men going to work, socialising with their friends and navigating life in a new immigrant community. It’s not easy to adjust to a foreign country – the weather, the food, the unfamiliar ways. And people aren’t always friendly. But

50 Years of Bangladesh

 Today is the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh. Growing up, my sisters and I would hear stories from parents and relatives about the War of Independence of 1971. We would go to community events commemorating Bangladesh Independence Day, Victory Day, Language Martyrs Day, and listen to veterans and members of the community who lived through that period, talking about their experiences. As they stood in front of rows of nodding elders and bored schoolchildren, the pain and pride in their voices rumbled through the microphone in their hands and filled the small community hall, along with the aroma of biryani stacked in boxes at the back, waiting to be handed round later.     Although we often had mixed feelings about sitting through those three-hour programmes, I've begun to realise that those parents who dragged their children along to those events knew that one day there would be nobody left alive who had witnessed that history.     As second or third generation di

Rediscovering My Roots: Literacy and History on Mother Language Day

 You may know that today is International Mother Language Day , but why is it important?      On this day in 1952, in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Bengali university students were shot and killed by armed police, while protesting for the recognition of Bangla, rather than Urdu, as the official language of East Pakistan. It would be some years before Bangla was officially recognised as the state language of East Pakistan, but this day marked the beginning of the independence movement for a sovereign Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh mark today with a national holiday, songs and poetry recitals, repeating the words “amra tomader bhulbo na.” We will not forget you. monument to the martyrs of the language movement      My parents have always tried to instill in us a sense of the importance of learning Bangla, but for many Bangladeshis in Britain, their mother tongue is not actually the ‘standard’ Bangla but one of the regional dialects from Sylhet, Noakhali, Chittagong o