Art & Culture

JLFInsider on being a fly on the wall at Jaipur Literature Festival

JLFInsiderJan 24, 2017 | 12:15

JLFInsider on being a fly on the wall at Jaipur Literature Festival

The @JLFInsider handle has, in a way, captured the scorn, and the humour, and, in some sense, the joy that one might attach to the festival.

Although initially meant to be a silly experiment, it has turned into a somewhat underground festival star that it never set out to be.

I attended JLF throughout my college years and contrary to the tone of the handle, I absolutely enjoyed it.

In 2014, only a day before the festival started, it just hit me that a Twitter handle of this sort would be a good idea. I loved the festival, and realised that there was a huge scope for humour attached to it.

Especially for those who were not attending it, but were curious to know what exactly was happening.

And this is how and why JLFInsider was started. It was a spontaneous decision, and because the handle has been popular among regular festival goers and others alike, I think it was a good one.

After the first year, the handle remained dormant because I could not attend the festival. I felt that the handle shouldn’t die out so I handed it to a journalist who carried out the work last year.

This year, however, we decided to crowd-source it. We felt that this way we could cover more ground and get more perspectives in. So we had several people curating the handle this year and the effect was pretty visible since everyone did a splendid job.

But being an insider has its challenges as well. The biggest one is being able to get a proper mobile network.

You have to be inconspicuous with your mobile screen. You have to keep checking if you're indeed tweeting from the correct handle.

And finally there’s the conundrum of deciding which session to attend out of the six happening simultaneously.

There isn’t a rule or even an outline about which session someone is going to attend. Every curator just attends whichever session they want to and tweet from there.

But speaking strictly from the handles perspective, I guess it’s nicer if the intent is to focus on a session which has panelists who are already well-known, or to look for a session about a general topic. This is because we are catering to an online audience - most of whom aren't attending the festival – and they need to be able to relate to what we send out.

If you’re attending the festival you have all these ways to develop context, knowledge, and opinion about the sessions and the panelists. You have pamphlets, author descriptions, books at the bookstore, and most importantly an hour of them speaking from the stage. But it’s difficult for someone not attending the festival to get similar context.

That’s why, for instance, a session about Brexit or the East India Company could be covered over a vaguely-worded one like "Things To Leave Behind".

And it’s also worth noticing that the handle has always been and will be about the festival, the sessions and the panels. Some people expect juicy gossip or secret scandals, but all we are really interested in is harmless jokes and the occasional snide remark.

Anyway, being a fly on the wall comes with its moments. We've seen Stephen Fry warding off enthusiastic fans from taking selfies, Marlon James being unusually anxious about what was happening around him, and Jhumpa Lahiri being uncharacteristically scared of fans asking her for a simple autograph.

And then there’s Shashi Tharoor who flicks his hair every time someone clicks a picture of him.

And in case anyone out there is still wondering, we did sell six plates of Salade de Patti this year.

Last updated: January 25, 2018 | 11:43
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