Pink Jaipur!

28 Jan

Welcome to pink city dubbed Jaipur.

This is my first time here in Jaipur and I didn’t know what to expect. I came with Li Kim, my CEO boss and my favourite pink writer, Jamie Khoo. Coincidentally, both of them love pink and we are all now in pink city. Apparently, pink is the colour of prosperity and the old city was painted pink to welcome an English Prince or something like that and in our case, to welcome HRH Li Kim and HRH Paris Jamie Khoo. I am just the slave.

The old city is called Pink city and the indigenous architecture is pretty much Indian with a heavy influence by the Moghuls. That means Pink City feels like something out of Aladdin.

Talking about Aladdin, during the tour of the city, I tried a few pairs of Aladdin shoes at this quaint Jaipur shoe shop. These are made from Camel hide. Apparently, dead Camels are harvested for its tough hide that looks hardy but is really quite soft and pliable. That is if you believe their sales pitch. So, they make these unique Aladdin shoes. I just love the twirly tip. But its just too obnoxious for conservative KL.

This white pair is my favourite Aladdin shoes. Looking at this photo now, I regret not getting a pair. Jamie bought a few of these and they are just so neat. It looks a little gay so I decided against it. Big mistake.

Now, back to pictures of the real reason why I am here in Jaipur. And that is to attend “The Greatest Literary Show On Earth”. I tell you, they are not kidding when they say that. The likes of Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, Salman Rushdie, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and the list goes on. I was excited! I dunno why i am exited because I know I would sleep through most of the sessions. Anyway, the show is at Diggi Palace, a quaint royal grounds that has now been converted into a hotel.

I love their little pink banners and buntings. Its just so refreshing to see pink and the everything is just so colourful.

I told Jamie, “I looks like a Gay Parade.” She just laughed in agreement.

Unfortunately, not everything is going well. The literary festival was besieged with controversy over the impending arrival of Salman Rushdie. He whose name is like Voldemort, unmentionable because one of his books, The Satanic Verses was banned for its apparent derogatory views on Islam. That was like in 1988 or something but people have a long memory and well, India is running for elections soon and Muslim votes count. Needless to say, Mr Rushdie didn’t appear but Oprah did. That was on a Sunday and it was a stampede! I was crushed by the crowd and still couldn’t get in. I forced my way out and went to another session instead.

Annie Proulx didn’t make it either! However, I discovered another bestseller author that goes by the strange name Simon Sebag Montefiore. In this picture, he was part of the panel of biographers (he is the third guy in blue shirt from the left). He has a London accent and a tremendous passion for expressing, especially about his subject matter. He has books on Russian Royalties, Jerusalem and his latest, Stalin. When he spoke in a session about Stalin, I was flabbergasted! For an hour or so, he spoke without hesitation, fumbling and with neatly timed punctuation. These was passion and even if he memorized his script, it was pretty impressive performance. I wasn’t really interested in Stalin but his talk made me want to buy his book and get it signed. But alas, it was sold out!

This is my second favourite part of Diggi Palace. The first of course is the Full Circle bookstore, although not as picturesque but it was where I could get all the books I wanted. This Penguin tent had a great collection of clever Penguin Merchandise. I couldn’t resist getting the cloth bag designed in the classic Penguin book cover but with the titles slightly twisted.  “The Bag of Small Things”, the mug – “Life of Chai” and notebooks and so forth. They are just so clever with such things. I loved the book the God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

Well, clever Jamie got us invited into the Penguin Party. Unfortunately, Li Kim had already left so its left to the two of us to socialize amongst the literary elite of this country. It was a cold night but we braved it to mingle to a spectacular failure. Not all was lost, we did managed to hobnob with some journalists and local writers  who were bored of the posh party. Nonetheless, I thought the Penguin car parked right in front of the venue is rather a neat icon to celebrate 25 years of Penguin presence in India. I must say, Jamie is pretty good with hobnobbing with the literary elite.

Well, I love Indian food and being India, you eat it almost everyday. Everything is between the extremes of sweet and spicy. This time, I didn’t overdose on paneer and we had most of our meals in the hotel as it was really just too cold at night to have dinner elsewhere.

As with all good things, it had to come to an end. We left the cold dusty streets of Jaipur and reached home smacked right in the middle of Chinese New Year festivities. Gong Xi Fa Chai! May all literary dreams come true!

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