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It’s that week of the year when all the SUVs in Delhi hit the Jaipur highway. Only those who are absolutely illiterate, ill-connected, or simply ill will stay back in the capital this weekend. So as the illuminati gather at the Jaipur Literature Festival, and as the ghosts of Salman Rushdie and Ashis Nandy hover over Diggi Palace, here’s what in store. At first glance, there are no big ticket A-listers, no Orhan Pamuk or J.M. Coetzee (Jhumpa Lahiri is perhaps the biggest draw), and no Oprah Winfrey or the Dalai Lama either. But that’s probably a good thing, as a closer look at the list of speakers throws up interesting names. There will be Jonathan Franzen, Gloria Steinem, Harold Varmus, Amartya Sen, Taiye Selasi, Sunil Khilnani, Jim Grace, Vikram Chandra, Narendra Kohli, Vaidehi, to name just a few of the 240 speakers.
There are also some major changes in the sponsors: it’s called the Zee JLF this year as the media house steps in as the lead sponsor in place of realty firm DSC (though the DSC Prize of $50,000 for South Asian Literature will be announced here at the JLF). According to the organisers, Zee has put in more than double the amount DSC used to, but they will not reveal exactly how much. British Airways, Ford, coffee brand Bru and soapmakers Dove also join in. Last year JLF made losses of over a crore but this time they hope to break even. But have jamborees like these lost a bit of their sheen after the controversial Think Festival in Goa? “Not at all, we have had our share of controversies, but JLF has only grown in terms of authors, sponsors and fans,” says Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork, the organisers of JLF.