Typically this time of the year, Boulder (USA) witnesses an odyssey of autumn colors with the cottonwoods, aspen and maples trees decorating the side walks with golden leaves. This time, however, it is witnessing a display of culture and literature with 70 eminent authors around the world descending for the third-edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Colorado.
India’s Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna, joined in two sessions at the Main Boulder Public Library on 15 and 16 September. Sarna, is also the author of the novels “The Exile” and “We Weren’t Lovers Like That”, the short story collection “Winter Evenings”, and non-fiction works including “Indians at Herod’s Gate”, “Second Thoughts”, and “The Book of Nanak”. Sarna has served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador to Israel, Secretary at India’s Foreign Office, and also as its longest-serving spokesperson.
Sarna spoke at the inaugural session Freedom to Dream, which was the theme of the Literature Festival. The session was underpinned by a provocative dialogue about diverse topics like migrating, poets, American dreams, globalism, nationalism, climate control, feminism and ancestral cultures.
Sarna explored the benefits of the growing interest in literature in India which is celebrating 70 years of independence. “We have come a long way. Where we once had few writers, we now have many and the journey of our literature’s outreach to the world is one of the most significant aspects of this journey as Indian writing has now been brought to the world. India is now a literary destination and a reading destination and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has led this growth.”
Sarna also participated in the session The Untrod Path: Writing Travel: Christina Lamb, John
Huston, Lori Erickson, Navtej Sarna and William Dalrymple. In a suddenly shrunken planet, the
conventions of travel writing are being challenged by more experiential insider accounts. Five
panelists speak of their very different approaches to recording and sharing their journeys with Irene Vilar.
“Descriptions of the peaceful and lavender filled gardens of the 800-year-old Indian hospice in
Jerusalem moved me to a much deeper understanding of this land and the people who call it holy.”
said Sarna in his exploration of his own father’s story, adding that “the barbed wire was rolled up many years ago but the virtual barrier between east and west Jerusalem still remains.”
During his final session – Second Thoughts: A Writer and a Diplomat, Sarna discussed his books on subjects as varied as romance, religion and history, in conversation with John Elliott.
“Sikh history is a young religion, just 500 years old. But it is replete with dramatic events in this period: a lot of the martial aspect, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of battles. All that together is a huge area waiting to be written about,” said Sarna.