JLF at New York


Season of India


Reception to follow

Celebrating books, ideas, and dialogue, the Jaipur Literature Festival — described as “the greatest literary show on Earth” — returns to New York, presenting a series of conversations and performances examining the human experience through the imaginations of some of the world’s leading authors, thinkers, and performers.

1:00-1:30 p.m.: Music by Zila Khan.

1:30-2:00 p.m.: Inaugural Address: Imagining Our Worlds

Address by Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple, Ambassador Navtej Sarna, and Sanjoy K. Roy.

2:00-2:40 p.m.: Kohinoor: The Light of the World

Ambassador Navtej Sarna and William Dalrymple introduced by Navina Haidar.

The Kohinoor is the world’s most famous diamond — but its history is shrouded in mystery. William Dalrymple and Anita Anand’s recent book blows away the legends to reveal a true story that is stranger, and more violent, than any work of fiction. Ambassador Sarna’s passionate biography, The Exile: A Novel Based on Life of Maharaja Duleep Singh, is a poignant novel about the younger son of the great Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab, who signed away the Kohinoor to Queen Victoria when he was only 11. Together, they present the riveting story of the Kohinoor, the light of the world.

2:50-3:30 p.m.: The Written World

Martin Puchner introduced by William Dalrymple. 

The story of how literature shaped world history, from Alexander the Great and the Iliad to Don Quixote and Harry Potter and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. In this groundbreaking talk, Harvard Literature professor Martin Puchner leads us on a remarkable journey through time and space to reveal the powerful role that stories and literature have played in creating the world of today. Puchner introduces us to numerous visionaries as he explores 16 foundational texts selected from more than 4,000 years of world literature, and reveals how writing has inspired the rise and fall of empires and nations, the spark of philosophical and political ideas, and the birth of religious beliefs. We learn of Benjamin Franklin's pioneering work as a media entrepreneur, watch Goethe discover world literature in Sicily, and follow the rise in influence of the Communist Manifesto. We visit Troy, Pergamum, and China and we speak with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott in the Caribbean and Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul as well as the wordsmiths of the oral epic Sunjata in West Africa. Throughout his book, Puchner chronicles the inventions -- writing technologies, the printing press, and the book itself -- that have shaped religion, politics, commerce, people, and history, showing how literature turned our planet into a written world.

3:40-4:20 p.m.: Medical Narratives: The Pulse of the Story

Sandeep Jauhar and Sharad Paul in conversation.

Medical narratives reassert the primacy of the body in our understanding of the world. Practicing cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar’s book, Heart: A History, combines his family’s own moving history of heart disease with gripping scenes from the operating theater. Sharad Paul is a famed medical doctor and storyteller who has written several books on the shifting landscape of genetics, health, and evolution. His latest book is The Genetics of Health: Understand Your Genes for Better Health. Together, the two authors speak of the narratives of the body and the choices we make in our search for health and balance.

4:30-5:10 p.m.: Shakespeare: The Year of Lear

James Shapiro and Preti Taneja in conversation, introduced by Gauri Viswanathan.

In his book The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, eminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events of 1606 influenced three of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young transports Shakespeare’s King Lear to the contradictions of New Delhi, presenting a devastating commentary on contemporary India. Together, they speak of the Bard of Avon, and his greatest and most evocative work.

5:20-6:00 p.m.: The Intelligence of Tradition

Molly Emma Aitken and Navina Haidar in conversation with William Dalrymple.

Molly Emma Aitken and Navina Haidar’s work on the miniature paintings of Rajasthan has revolutionized our understanding of the courtly world and family ateliers that produced them. These leading art historians discuss their different approaches and artistic enthusiasms in conversation with William Dalrymple.

6:10-6:50 p.m.: The City of Many Tongues

Alia Malek, Kayhan Irani, Ruchira Gupta and Ross Perlin in conversation with Kanishk Tharoor.

New York is a multi-sensory and multilingual metropolis and has been described as the capital of language density. Fifty-one percent of New Yorkers speak only English at home while the other 49 percent also speak languages from across the globe. This session speaks to writers and journalists about bilingualism, mother languages, lost lullabies, and the joys of communicating in what has been described as "the Babylonian bedlam" of this uniquely stimulating city.

7:00-7:40 p.m.: India Sutra

Shashi Tharoor in conversation with Tunku Varadarajan.

A fascinating conversation with Shashi Tharoor, charismatic politician, and bestselling author of 16 works of fiction and non-fiction centered on India and its history, culture, religion, foreign policy, and cricket. He speaks of the consequences of colonialism and the impact of inglorious empire, on his interpretation of the Hindu faith, and of his fascination with South Asian cricket and the turbulent passions attached to it. In conversation with writer and journalist Tunku Varadarajan.


Molly Aitken

Molly Emma Aitken is associate professor in the Art History Department at The Graduate Center, CUNY and Chair of the Art Department at The City College of New York. Her publications include When Gold Blossoms: Indian Jewelry From the Susan L. Beningson Collection, and The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting.

William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is a bestselling author of In Xanadu: A Quest, City of Djinns, From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East, White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, and most recently, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42. He has won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the French Prix d’Astrolabe, the Wolfson Prize for History, the Scottish Book of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, and has, prior to the shortlisting of Return of a King, been longlisted three times for the Samuel Johnson Prize. His latest book is Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond, co-written with Anita Anand. Dalrymple is one of the founders and a co-director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival.

Namita Gokhale

Namita Gokhale is a writer, publisher and festival director. She is the author of 16 works of fiction and non-fiction. Her acclaimed debut novel, Paro: Dreams of Passion, was published in 1984. The recent Things to Leave Behind, the third in her Himalayan trilogy, has been described as her most ambitious novel yet. Other books include, A Himalayan Love Story, The Book of Shadows, Shakuntala: the Play of Memory, The Book of Shiva, In Search of Sita and the edited anthology Himalaya. Her latest work of fiction, Lost in Time: Ghatotkacha and the Game of Illusions, is a novel for young readers. The Himalayan Arc: Journeys East of South-east, an anthology of writings on the eastern Himalayas, will be released in January 2018. Gokhale is a founder and co-director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival and Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival and director of Yatra Books, a publishing house specializing in translation.

Ruchira Gupta

Ruchira Gupta is a feminist campaigner, writer, visiting professor at New York University, and founder of the Indian anti-sex trafficking organization, Apne Aap Women Worldwide and Apne Aap International. She has won an Emmy, the Clinton Global Citizen Award, the United Nations NGO CSW Woman of Distinction of Award, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, the highest French civilian distinction. She has edited two anthologies, River of Flesh and Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction and As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader, and is the editor of a SAGE-published bi-annual journal, Antyajaa: Indian Journal of Women and Social Change.

Navina Haidar

Navina Najat Haidar holds the position of Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has been involved in researching, exhibiting, and interpreting the arts of South Asia and the Islamic Middle East. Haidar has organized the exhibitions "Opulence and Fantasy: Sultans of Deccan India, c.1500-1700", "Divine Pleasures, Rajput and Pahari Painting from the Kronos Collection", and "Treasures from India, Jeweled arts from the Al-Thani collection", among others. Her most recent paper, delivered at the Getty Museum, was on Rembrandt and the Mughals. Her future projects include a book on the jali screen in Indian architecture, an exhibition on the age of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and a study of the exchanges between Mughal and Safavid painting in the second half of the 17th century. 

Kayhan Irani

Kayhan Irani is an Emmy-award winning writer, a performer, a cultural activist, and a Theater of the Oppressed trainer. She creates art to build community and connect audiences into social justice issues. Her new one-woman show, There is a Portal, asks: can the story of an Iranian-Indian immigrant offer a space of healing in today’s America?

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar is the Director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Dr. Jauhar is the author of Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician and Intern: A Doctor's Initiation, and writes regularly for The New York Times. His newest book is Heart: A History.

Zila Khan

Zila Khan is a singer, music entrepreneur, actor, and cultural ambassador for the government of India. The daughter of Sitar Maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan, she is one of the finest Sufi singers in the world and known for her wide repertoire and command over various music styles. She regularly performs at major Indian and international music festivals, as well as venues such as the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. She is a partner and curator at Ranthambore Festival, which aims to conserve traditional music. She also runs the UstadGah Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that mentors underprivileged children who are musically talented.

Alia Malek

Alia Malek is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer. She is the author of The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria and A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives. In addition, she is editor of EUROPA أوروپا : An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees and Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices. She is a recipient of the Marie Colvin Award and of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Puffin Foundation. In November 2016, she was honored with the 12th annual Hiett Prize in the Humanities. 

Sharad Paul

Sharad P. Paul is a skin cancer specialist, family physician, academic, evolutionary biologist, storyteller, social entrepreneur, and an adjunct professor at the Auckland University of Technology. In 2008, Dr. Paul was featured in international editions of TIME (“Open Heart Surgeon”). A noted polymath, he was named “Renaissance Man” by New Zealand Herald’s Canvas magazine. In 2012, he was awarded the NZ Medical Association's highest award and was a finalist for New Zealander of the Year. In 2015, he received the Ko Awatea International Excellence Award for "Leading Health Improvement on a Global Scale and Patient-Centred Medicine Across Several Countries." He has authored several works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and medical textbooks. His latest book is The Genetics of Health: Understand Your Genes for Better Health.  

Ross Perlin

Ross Perlin is a writer and linguist. He is the author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. He lived and worked in China from 2009 to 2011. He is Co-Director of the Endangered Language Alliance. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, TIME, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, among other places. He has addressed audiences of students, employers, career counselors, scholars, union members, Occupy Wall Street activists, journalists, and politicians. He has spoken at the Googleplex, the British Parliament, the Economic Policy Institute, and a wide range of universities and colleges. He has been a television and radio guest on networks across the world, including MSNBC, CBS, Fox, the BBC, NPR, and many others.

Martin Puchner

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English at Harvard University. His books and anthologies, including the bestselling Norton Anthology of World Literature, range from philosophy to the arts. His new book, The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization, tells the story of literature from the invention of writing to the Internet.  

Sanjoy K. Roy

Sanjoy K. Roy is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 25 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals across 40 global cities, including the world’s largest free literary gathering — the annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. He is a founder trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust working to provide support services for street and working children in the inner city of Delhi where over 55,000 children have benefited from education, training and residential services. He is co-chair of the Art and Culture Committee of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and President of Event and Entertainment Management Association. 

Navtej Sarna

Ambassador Navtej Sarna is the author of the novels The Exile: A Novel Based on Life of Maharaja Duleep Singh and We Weren’t Lovers Like That, the short story collection Winter Evenings: Stories, non-fiction works The Book of Nanak, Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life and Indians at Herod’s Gate, as well as two translations, Zafarnama and Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition. A professional diplomat since 1980, he has served as High Commissioner of India to the UK and Ambassador to Israel. He is currently India’s Ambassador to the United States.

James Shapiro

James Shapiro is the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Shakespeare and the Jews, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, which was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, and most recently, The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. He is writing a book on Shakespeare in a divided America.  

Preti Taneja

Preti Taneja is a journalist whose work has been published in the Guardian and New Statesman. She also broadcasts for the BBC on human rights and world culture. Her debut novel, We That Are Young, was called "one of the most exquisite and original novels of the year" by The Sunday Times, and it is a fierce, poetic, political exposé of life in India today.

Kanishk Tharoor

Kanishk Tharoor is the author of a collection of short stories, Swimmer Among the Stars, which won the Tata First Book Award for Fiction and was the Guardian's and NPR's Best Book of the Year. He is the presenter and writer of the BBC radio series "Museum of Lost Objects." His essays and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, the Nation, the New Yorker, and elsewhere.

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is an award-winning author of 17 books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Great Indian Novel, Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India, and the recently published, Why I Am A Hindu. A second-term member of Parliament representing Thiruvananthapuram, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, Dr. Tharoor has served as Minister of State for Human Resource Development and for External Affairs in the Government of India. 

Tunku Varadarajan

Tunku Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. A contributing editor at POLITICO, he is a former editor of Newsweek International. Previously, he was op-ed editor of the Wall Street Journal, and the New York bureau chief for The Times.

Gauri Viswanathan

Gauri Viswanathan is Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University. She is the author of Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India and Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief, which won several prestigious academic prizes. Viswanathan is co-editor of the award-winning book series South Asia Across the Disciplines. She has received Guggenheim, NEH, and Mellon fellowships, and was honored with the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching in 2017-2018.

This program is presented in collaboration with the Consulate General of India in New York and Teamwork Arts.

Consulate General of India in New York
Teamwork Arts


This program is part of the Season of India, a series of programs held in conjunction with the exhibition, The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, on view at Asia Society Museum from September 14, 2018 to January 20, 2019.

Presented in part by State Bank of India, proud Supporter of the Season of India.

Event Details

Thu 20 Sep 2018
1 - 8 p.m.

Asia Society
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

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Members $30; Students/Seniors $40; Nonmembers $50
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