oppn parties Standing Ovation to This Man at Jaipur LitFest

News Snippets

  • Corona cases in India cross 4000 and the death toll stands at 124
  • The government decides to double the testing of corona suspects from 10000 now to 20000 in the next three days
  • Flipkart assures employees that there will be no job or salary cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
  • Centre asks states to allow licensed street vendors to sell essential items
  • 8000 samples were tested across India on April 2, but the government said that testing will be need-based and will not be used as a confidence-boosting measure
  • Air India operating special flights to fly passengers stuck in India since the lockdown
26 nurses and 3 doctors test positive for COVID-19 at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai, facility cordoned off, no entry or exit permitted from the hospital
oppn parties
Standing Ovation to This Man at Jaipur LitFest

By Tisha Srivastav
First publised on 2016-02-02 18:06:49

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Tisha has 23 years of field and bilingual work experience across media platforms. She specialises in human interest stories.
Indians gave a standing ovation at the Jaipur Literature Festival to this man

Who is this man?

Stephen Fry is not really well known in India, you might think. Either for his comedy or his many artistic hats. As a resident of the UK, nor is he known as an active LGBT activist with an Asian presence. But something seems to have come together on a January 2016 morn, something as cosy and gentle as a Jaipuri rajai (or dohar/quilt) Because his session at the ‘world’s largest free lit-fest’ got a standing ovation, twice. In many of the festival reviews which followed, this session gets a mention. The session’s video is now available, for you to see why.

What clicked with Indians?

While Indian society maybe seeing a generation gap with the young often actively supporting LGBT rights and the conservative elderly rejecting it, here was a gay man who stood up to speak of another gay man from more than a century ago. One who figured in English Literature undergraduate courses in India too. In a great combination of a personal connect and pure literary joy, Stephen Fry stood for an hour to deliver a lecture on Oscar Wilde. It is this back and forth between the personal and the literary, between the natural and the oratory, between anecdote and quote which showed immediate promise. Something between discovery, rebellion, love and standing up for yourself. (Fry was visiting Jaipur with his husband evidently)

Waqt - a flashback

Fry spoke of himself as a young boy in a cut off small town (hinting wryly that the distances may differ between Indian small towns and opportunities in comparison to 60s England) and how a passing librarian’s truck introduced him to a writer called Oscar Wilde. Each incident became almost like a magically retold nana-nani ki kahaani (grandma’s tale). Of how a young boy finds his own thoughts echoed in another's powerful words.There is mention of bullying. Of how Victorian England seemed not very different from conservative India. Of how excellence is admired in Oscar and brings him fame. And expectations to conform with the elite. And when he breaks norms, how the same society which recognised his literary brilliance, puts him into prison. Breaks him. Or tries.

The hero who dies in the end. But does he?

But his works are still well remembered, long after he is gone in 1900. In a riveting conclusion, Fry shares how his grave had to be jointly redone recently, since the outer wall had wearied by the thousands who had kissed it. Somewhere, in that sharing he brought us back to our time. He had become a rebel voice who seemed to connect with those who were lonely, rebellious or speaking out now. An Indian’s emotional connect with the underdog is often well oiled by cinema. An echo of our own struggles, while navigating some societal norm or the other. But to find this connect with a man long dead, from another century and a foreigner needed an orator - echo. Stephen Fry was possibly that echo who brought a human being alive to the Jaipur audience. A human being with possibilities, struggles, victories, losses, yet a brilliance which societies may try hard to diminish, but something leaks through time.

Connecting with a different audience

At a literary festival, what is a more appropriate leakage than a brilliant lecture introducing a brilliant mind, who seemed way ahead of his time? Most festival goers seem to agree that these festivals are great for young people to listen directly to authors and ideas. But, if you watch the video, there seems to be a twist in the tale. It is the young who seemed to ask the most intelligent questions. Observations too. Q.E.D – When a connect happens, a standing ovation becomes a gracious, spontaneous response, right?

You can watch the full Jaipur Literature Festival session here

More about Stephen Fry on his official site here