Culture & Lifestyle / A Novel Idea: The Jaipur Literature Festival Comes To Toronto With A Glam 3 Day Event

A Novel Idea: The Jaipur Literature Festival Comes To Toronto With A Glam 3 Day Event

Culture & Lifestyle Oct 30, 2019

As part of their years-long global outreach by creating various international versions of The Jaipur Literature Festival, for the first time ever, the team at JLF brought their literary magic to Canada. The very first Jaipur Literature Festival in Toronto was a booming success as it featured three days packed with panel discussions and keynotes while the overall attendance set a record at 5,000 people. Check out our highlights right here! 

The annual pilgrimage for literary enthusiasts — Jaipur Literature Festival hosted its first Canadian event in Toronto. The world’s largest free literary festival had three power-packed days at Distillery Historic District with host readings, discussions, performances, and interviews.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival:  Shashi Tharoor at the Opening Night Gala Reception. Photo Credit: JLF Toronto

The opening night gala reception was a hit with literary enthusiasts in the city engaging in conversation with the award-winning author and Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor. The evening also saw festival co-director William Dalrymple question the politician about the lingering effects of colonization on India. The discussion also inadvertently crept into the right-wing politics that exists in India.

Another highlight of the event was the presence of diplomat Vikas Swarup, the current Indian High Commissioner to Canada. Talking about the fest, he said, “JLF is an event that is made in India but that speaks to the world. The fest is also bridging a gap between the US and India, however in a cultural aspect.” The festival producer, Sanjay K Roy was in awe of the venue space and the old world charm it brought to the event.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: (L-R) Jaipur Literature Festival producer, Sanjay K. Roy and founder of TD Mosaic Festival 2019, Asma Mahmood, at the opening night gala reception. Photo Credit: JLF Toronto

Some of the events that grabbed the spotlight were the discussion between Vanessa R. Sasson and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The authors spoke about the agonies, joys, and angst faced by Yasodhara, the wife of the Gautam Buddha, and Sita, the female protagonist of the ancient Indian epic The Ramayana.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: Audience listening attentively at one of the sessions that were a part of the Jaipur Literature Festival. Photo Credit: JLF Toronto

Travel junkies were delighted to be a part of travel writer, Pico Iyer’s discussion about his latest book, Autumn Light. He also participated in a discussion with William Dalrymple. As part of a slide show that he presented, William spoke about the New East India Company, one of the most powerful empires in the world. He also emphasized the power of corporations in the 20th century and anti-colonial revolt in India.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple speaking at the JLF. Photo Credit: JLF Toronto

One of the most popular sessions of the JLT was the session with diplomat Vikas Swarup, who spoke about his first novel, Q&A which eventually became a runaway hit, Slumdog Millionaire. Talking about his experience of writing the book and its success, Vikas said, “Writing the book started as a top-secret and I was strategic about it. I wrote about 4.5 chapters and sent it to 10 agents who never got back to me. I then met an agent randomly on the internet and he took an interest in my book. I researched about him and realized he is an agent who also backs the likes of Ian Fleming and Georgia Hill. And then the story began. I chose to set my novel in the underbelly of India because it’s about a kid who comes from the slums and because of his life experiences he wins the show.” The audience was also excited to learn that the author is at it and is currently penning his next book, The Six Suspects.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: Vikas Swarup being interviewed by noted author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Photo Credit: Hina P. Ansari


Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: Avid book readers posing for the shutterbugs at Jaipur Literature Festival. Photo Credit: JLF Toronto

A JLF event without touching upon the subject of Indian politics is hard to imagine. Enter, Navin Chawla, former Chief Election Commissioner of India who spoke about the democratic principles as part of The Democracy Index. We Shall Not Hate was a session with global importance. The conversation was with Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Harvard-trained Palestinian doctor, who lost his three daughters during the Israeli incursion into Gaza. He spoke about his book, I Shall Not Hate that stressed upon reconciliation between Israel and Palestine.

Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur Literature Festival: Dancers strike a pose at Distillery District as part of the Jaipur Literature Festival. Pic Credit: JLF Toronto

Epicures were completely immersed in a conversation with Madhur Jaffrey, also known as the “queen of Indian cooking”. The session with the internationally renowned and award-winning cookbook author, cooking show host, restaurateur and actress were moderated by Lucy Waverman, a food journalist. As part of the session, she spoke about her book, Instantly Indian Cookbook which has easy-to-follow recipes — some entirely new, others reworked classics — for preparing fantastic Indian food at home.


Mrinalini Sundar

Mrinalini Sundar


Mrinalini Sundar (new_girl_in_to) has worked with various Indian national, international publications including Times Of India and is currently based out of Toronto. She's constantly in search of high adventure, exotic food, and new experiences. She is the happiest amidst mountains, with no wi-fi.