By Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy
Editor’s note: The Jaipur Literature Festival, widely acknowledged as India’s premier literary festival got underway at the Diggi Palace on Friday. The festival made headlines well ahead of its inauguration largely due to the furore over Salman Rushdie’s proposed visit. However the festival also features a star studded line-up with notable names such as David Remnik, Ben Okri, Deepak Chopra and Nilanjana Roy.
Firstpost Editors Sandip Roy and Lakshmi Chaudhry are at the festival, where they will be live blogging the sessions, as well as other interesting activity in and around the Diggi Palace environs.
First up today is Oprah Winfrey, the host of the award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show, she entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for 25 years.
Oprah Winfrey is in conversation with Barkha Dutt today at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
12:15 pm: Finally the question about marriage
“What’s the marrying kind. Ask the women in India. Had we gotten married we would have been divorced by now. He would agree. I am my own woman. I don’t comform well to othre people’s ideas. marriage calls for some conformity. I have great great respect for marriage and admiration for way women are being able to be married, arranged marriage and now we are in a love marriage…arrange marriage would be hard for me.”
“I am too old now?” NO screams crowd.
“I wanted what everyone wants. I wanted to know he cared enough about me to want to marry to me.” As soon as he said she didnt want it.
much adulation. no questions for audience….
Queen mother of bhutan claps. unfazed she has been upstaged by mere mortals
12:10 pm: Talking about her book club – In the united states million people is a lot of people. Here it is a restaurant.
OW – again – life is better when you share it…. this is the mantra of OW being driven into the audience
She says with the James Frey controversy had forgotten to be compassionate. Had forgotten to listen to him. Her apology was for the way I did it. Not often someone admits to apologizing…
Oprah takes over the show…. asks the audience have you signed my no cell phone while driving…
Texting while driving is stupid. In india it is insane. You cannot text and drive in India when people dont obey the red light…
People applaud . Not sure this mantra is one you carry home.
But Oprah knows how to work an audience.
This is a show. as the man next to me on the phone says “Haan haan listening to Opera yaar.”
OW says Obama is a man not god, but world forgot we were on the brink of a depression.
Noon: “I know some rockstars. I am not a rockstar. I have hung out with Bono.”
Does your gender make you different? “No, I dont allow myself to accept criticism of me that is not valid. (Big applause). I appreciate a good critique. I read a review and realized I do talk too much.”
“Book club was originally buried at the back of the show… authors look nothing like the picture at the back of book. Exposing people to books.
“My ideal day is to spend a great book and knowing i have another one to read… aah something perfect for the JLF. Slow yourself down as you get to the end of Shantaram..
“Toni Morrison is my favourite living author… called the fire department in her city and asked them to call Toni M after reading Beloved.”
11:55 am: Oprah sounds more like a self-help guru than a talk show host. But what’s nice is about altruism as a path to happiness.
Hilarious– she’s asking the audience to imagine the moment of conception, when the sperm hit the egg. The aunties smile nervously. Barkha giggles like a naughty schoolgirl.
O is perfectly at ease. She could be talking to her buddies back in Chicago.
O talks about reading, turns to Barkha, saying I know you’re going to ask me what I’m reading…Barkha refuses to, perhaps because its an interesting question?
11:47 am: Barkha is angling for a job? second time now she has said “you must hire me”.
Oprah says I wanted people to know – it also happened to me
Interesting the conversation has turned to abuse of the girl child a touchy subject in India. Will Barkha bring that conversation to India… instead of staying in America and Oprah’s life. “The shame of abuse, and its lasting impact. All my life i had to fight. fight my uncle, fight my brothers. a girl child aint safe” – Oprah quotes sofia from color purple.
O says she went down elevator in silence every single show… SILENCE.. how radical is that… much more than everything she said about sharing energy.. . can India addicted to mobile phone learn this lesson about the success of Oprah…?
OW makes a comment about little sperm hitting the egg. audience titters.
African expression – Ubutu — I am because we are…
11:40 am: How nice to be able to say after seeing the plight of widows “I immediately emailed my friend Maria Shriver” Crowd does not bristle when she talks about eradicating discrimination against widows. The way she de-stings that is by saying this is not just India. Am sure it happens to women around the world as in upperclass women get invited less to party when husband dies. As if death is contagious.
Mantra of Oprah – “You have to speak up for yourself.” (much excitement)
“When you are excellent people pay attention” (not that much excitement in audience…)
My life has been a Taj Mahal, says O.
When you’re excellent, people notice. Always be the best even if you’re flipping fries at McDonald’s.
11:37 am: India is a paradox, says Oprah
Calls her visit one the greatest life experiences she’s ever had.
Her detailed observations — about the ox pulling steel beams — shows O has been paying very close attention. Wonder what she made of the gazillion skin lightening ads, as a colleague wondered last night
Will she come again?
A noticeable hesitation before she says, “Uhhh, Yes!”
11:30 am: Important for her go to the slums but not show “the worst of the worst.” But show that people can live in poverty with dignity.
This is the brilliance of O: that she understands that showing people eating out of garbage in a slum actually makes for bad TV. It shocks and alienates her American viewers and upsets the Indians.
11:20 am: Oprah calls Deepak Chopra a great thought leader of our time.
What she will take with her is an underlying sense of calmness, sense of karma. People don’t just talk their religion, they live it.
What is it with red lights? Does it mean stop or not? Or is it just for your entertainment?
She gets the sense of how glorious it is that this is a country that has no respect for nursing homes (because children take care of their parents).
Clearly no one has broken the bad news about ‘new India’ to O.
11:10 am: As Oprah makes an appearance, she looks rather lovely in her kurta/pant ensemble. Sanjoy Roy threatens to smack the over excited photographers much like kindergarten teacher.
Barkha calls O the most loved, influential person on TV. Lots of adoring, inflated rhetoric. Barkha needs to master Oprah’s knack of praising a guest without sounding forced or ingratiating.
Oprah shows Barkha how it’s done: praises Barkha for doing her opening bit without teleprompter. Sounds sincere and spontaneous.