JLF HoustonVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Presented in partnership with Teamwork Arts and Inprint
Friday, September 9, 2022
Saturday, September 10, 2022
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Health and Safety
The "greatest literary show on Earth" returns to Houston — live and in-person! At JLF Houston, internationally acclaimed authors and thinkers will take part in a range of provocative panels and debates alongside Houston's best local writers on the thoughts and issues that resonate with our times.
The iconic Jaipur Literature Festival, held annually at the Pink City of Jaipur in India's Rajasthan state, has always believed in the spirit of community and the hope, strength, and vitality that literature gives. Join us for the fifth annual JLF Houston, where the Bayou City's unique culture, diversity, and energy fuse with the festival's camaraderie, caravan of ideas, and magical flow of conversations.
Friday, September 9, 2022
Masala: Recipes From India, Presented by Pondicheri Restaurant
- 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Offsite at Pondicheri Bake Lab
- Anita Jaisinghani in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy
Award-winning chef Anita Jaisinghani's cookbook Masala: Recipes From India, the Land of Spices is an ode to India's rich culinary history. In a session that evokes food, memory, and a platter of cuisines, Jaisinghani — chef and founder of the famed Pondicheri restaurant in Houston — pays homage to the wisdom and techniques of Indian cooking.
Welcome and Inaugural Address
- 6:30 p.m.
- Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple, Sanjoy K. Roy, Rich Levy (Executive Director, Inprint), Michael Buening (Director of Performing Arts and Culture, Asia Society Texas), Ambassador Michael Pelletier (retired)
Opening Session: Swami Vivekananada: The Modern Monk
- 6:45–7:15 p.m.
- A session of music and remembrance with Dr. Reba Som
- In a session of music and spirituality, author, classical singer, and historian Dr. Reba Som takes us on a melodic journey through Swami Vivekananda's life and also speaks of one of his most cherished disciples, Margaret Noble, known to the world as Sister Nivedita. A chief disciple of the 19th century Indian mystic Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda's pathbreaking speech at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893 introduced Hinduism to America.
Keynote Address: Geopolitics: The Tipping Edge
- 7:30–8:30 p.m.
- Featuring Michael Pelletier, Zachary Zwald, and Seema Sirohi in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy
As the world teeters on the edge of economic and environmental collapse, geopolitical compulsions and political hubris script further disasters. A thoughtful session that searches for direction and hope amidst the pervading chaos of a tense present.
Reception Dinner and Music
- 8:15–10 p.m.
- Music performed by Riyaaz Qawwali
Performing as a trio, Riyaaz Qawwali presents traditional qawwali music exploring themes of love and intoxication, including works by Bulleh Shah and Amir Khusrow.
Saturday, September 10, 2022
Morning Music and Book Release
- 10–10:45 a.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Shāstra: A Journey Through Indian Music History with Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-de Haas
The Writer's Life, Presented by Durga and Sushila Agrawal
- 11–11:45 a.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in conversation with Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan
Explore the intangibles of memory and the texture of lived life through the writing of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, award-winning author writer, activist, and teacher, and author of books such as Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Before We Visit the Goddess, Palace of Illusions, The Forest of Enchantments, and most recently, The Last Queen. In conversation with academic and writer Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, Divakaruni gives us a peek into the many words, legacies, and memories that have formed her writing practice.
Water Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink
- 12–12:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Varsha Bajaj in conversation with Andrea White
A session spanning continents, this conversation looks at the repercussions of climate change and the misuse of water. Varsha Bajaj's recent book Thirst is a poignant take on class, wealth, and equity around the disparity of water in the suburbs of Mumbai, India. In conversation with writer and civil leader Andrea White, Bajaj discusses the asymmetrical patterns of resource access in a parched world.
Inner Aesthetics: The Spirit and Culture of Creativity, Presented by Shazma and Arshad Matin
- 1–1:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Roberto Tejada and Arundhathi Subramaniam in conversation with Rich Levy
Two celebrated poets take us on a journey through their work in a session of reading, poetry, and prose. Award-winning poet, translator, and art historian Roberto Tejada's powerful poetry collection, Why the Assembly Disbanded, pushes the boundaries of Latinx literature and masterfully relates the ravages of white supremacy with immigrant precarity and the question of home. Celebrated Indian poet and author Arundhathi Subramaniam's peotry collection, Love Without a Story, celebrates an expanding kinship of passion and friendship, mythic quest, and modern-day longing in a world animated by dialogue and dissent, delirium, and silence.
The Big Bang of Numbers, Presented by Bela Jain
- 2–2:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Manil Suri in conversation with Maya Kanwal
Mathematician and novelist Manil Suri's latest book, The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math, embarks on a mathematical origin story spanning the universe. An inspired and insightful journey through the fundamental mathematical concepts that form the cornerstones of our existence, Suri's visionary work takes us on a riveting journey to infinity in beyond. In conversation with Maya Kanwal.
Points of Departure, Presented by Shazma and Arshad Matin
- 3–3:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Naheed Phiroze Patel and Sonal Kohli in conversation with Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan
Two writers examine literary journeys, involving both their motherland, India, and other worlds. Naheed Phiroze Patel's latest book, Mirror Made of Rain, is a devastating coming-of-age novel about the wounds of inherited trauma. Sonal Kohli's book, The House Next to the Factory, charts three decades of a "rising" India. In conversation with Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, they take us on a journey through the stories, memories, and histories through which their work navigates.
Points of View: An Archival Gaze of Photography in India
- 4–4:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Gayatri Sinha and Steven Evans in conversation
Celebrated art critic and curator Gayatri Sinha's latest edited books Points of Vie: Defining Moment of Photography in India 1840s–2020 take a deep dive into the technological changes and aesthetic movements in photography across the Indian subcontinent. Focusing on archival and visual elements, the collections provide a much-needed kaleidoscopic lens on photography in colonial and post-colonial India. Artist, writer, and curator Steven Evans is the Executive Director of FotoFest International.
Intersections: Searching Equity, Presented by Hari Agrawal
- 5–5:45 p.m., Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater
- Guru Prakash Paswan in conversation with Sunanda Vashisht
In this important conversation, Dalit activist Guru Prakash Paswan discusses the wounds of history and the processes of restorative justice. His coauthored book, Makers of Modern Dalit History, features the inspiring accounts of individuals who battled the divisive, discriminatory force of caste — their forms of protest, activism, social reform, and legacy — in contemporary India. Paswan is in conversation with political commentator and writer Sunanda Vashisht.
About the Speakers
Jump to: Anita Jaisinghani | Arundhathi Subramaniam | Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni | Gayatri Sinha | Guru Prakash Paswan | Manil Suri | Maya Kanwal | Naheed Phiroze Patel | Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan | Dr. Reba Som | Rich Levy | Roberto Tejada | Sanjoy K. Roy | Seema Sirohi | Sonal Kohli | Sunanda Vashisht | Steven Evans | Michael Pelletier | Varsha Bajaj | Zachary Zwald
Anita Jaisinghani is the chef & co-owner of the restaurant Pondicheri. She developed a love for food early on in her life, even though she trained and practiced as a microbiologist. Transitioning as a stay-at-home mother for her two children in Canada first and then in Houston, she developed her love of food into a career, beginning with an out-of-home catering business through Whole Foods. Anita portrays Indian food in a new light and combines its complexities with her leanings towards the wisdom of Ayurveda and the goodness of fresh, local ingredients. She has five James Beard award nominations.
Described as "one of the finest poets writing in India today" (The Hindu, 2010) and "a unique poet of our times... in a league all by herself" (Indian Literature, 2020), Arundhathi Subramaniam is a leading Indian poet and writer on spirituality. Her 13 books of poetry and prose include the recent poetry volume, Love Without a Story, and a book of conversations with female sacred travelers, Women Who Wear Only Themselves. Subramaniam's other works include the well-loved anthology of sacred poetry, Eating God, and the bestselling biography of a contemporary mystic, Sadhguru: More Than a Life. She is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Khushwant Singh Poetry Prize, Raza Award, the Il Ceppo Prize in Italy, the Homi Bhabha and Charles Wallace fellowships, among others. Her book When God is a Traveller, was the Season Choice of the Poetry Book Society, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning writer, activist, teacher, and the author of 20 books including Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Before We Visit the Goddess, Palace of Illusions, The Forest of Enchantments, and most recently, The Last Queen, which won the Times of India AutHer Awards for Best Fiction and the Best Book of 2022 Award from The International Association of Working Women. Her work has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies and translated into 30 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Hungarian, Turkish, Hindi and Japanese. She is the recipient of the American Book Award, PEN Josephine Miles Award, a Premio Scanno, and a Light of India award. In 2015 The Economic Times included her in their list of 20 Most Influential Global Indian Women. Divakaruni is the McDavid professor of Creative Writing in the internationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.
Gayatri Sinha is a writer, art critic and curator who works in New Delhi on the arts resource criticalcollective.in. Her principal interests are in art and photography, gender and contemporary Indian social history.
Guru Prakash Paswan is the National Spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janta Party and an Assistant Professor at Patna University. He has been instrumental with the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry since 2015 and has worked as National Youth coordinator and is presently working as an adviser. His columns keep appearing on Dalit issues in the Indian Express and The Print, among others. He has co-authored the book, Makers of Modern Dalit History, with Sudarshan Ramabadran.
Manil Suri is the author of The Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and The City of Devi. He is a distinguished mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and has written frequently for the New York Times. His latest book is The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math.
Maya Kanwal is a Pakistani-American writer from Houston and Fiction Editor at Gulf Coast Journal. Her work appears in Witness Magazine, Meridian, Quarterly West and other journals. She holds an MS in Mathematics and is an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor Fellow at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.
Ambassador (ret’d) Michael Pelletier is Executive Director of the Institute for Global Engagement, an Aspire Initiative at the University of Houston. He served as a U.S. diplomat from 1987-2021. A graduate of Georgetown and Columbia, he is a Board member of Amideast, and a member of the CFR, the Texas Advisory Committee of the USGLC, and the Public Diplomacy Council of America.
Naheed Phiroze Patel is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Her writing has appeared in the New England Review, The Guardian, LitHub, Poets & Writers, HuffPost, Scroll.in, BOMB Magazine, Public Books, PEN America, The Rumpus, EuropeNow Journal, Asymptote Journal, among others.
Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is an assistant professor of English and Transnational Asian Studies at Rice University, where she works on ethnic, postcolonial, and Anglophone literature and theory. She is also an award-winning former magazine editor, freelance essayist, and a co-editor of Thinking with an Accent (UC Press, 2023).
A university topper and gold medalist, Dr. Reba Som obtained Ph.D. from Calcutta University. She was the founder-director of the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, Kolkata, (2008 -2013). Her books include Gandhi, Bose, Nehru and the Making of the Modern Indian Mind; Rabindranath Tagore: The Singer and His Song; and Margot: Sister Nivedita of Vivekananda. A trained singer of Rabindrasangeet and Nazrul Geeti, her albums include Selected Songs of Rabindranath Tagore (Saregama, 2005) and Love Songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam (Times Music, 2016), which are on Gaana.com, YouTube and timesmusic.com.
Roberto Tejada is the author of poetry collections Why the Assembly Disbanded (2022), Full Foreground (2012), Exposition Park (2010), and Mirrors for Gold (2006), as well as Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness (essays, 2019), and art and media histories that include the books National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (2009) and Celia Alvarez Muñoz (2009). He is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston.
Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 33 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals in 40 cities across the world, including the iconic annual Jaipur Literature Festival, international editions of JLF and the launched-during-lockdown digital JLF Brave New World series. He is a Founder Trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust, providing support services for street and working children in Delhi. Roy works closely with various industry bodies and the government on policy issues in the cultural sector in India and has lectured and collaborated with leading international universities.
Seema Sirohi is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist for The Economic Times, India’s largest business daily, and also an analyst for the Observer Research Foundation, India’s premier think tank. She is the author of Sita’s Curse: Stories of Dowry Victims. She writes on U.S. policy toward South Asia and on major American political developments, and has covered U.S.-India relations for nearly three decades. She has also reported from Rome, Vienna, Jerusalem, Bratislava, Islamabad, and New Delhi. She has appeared on the BBC, CNN, and NPR as a commentator.
Sonal Kohli grew up in Delhi and now lives in Washington, D.C. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK and her stories have been shortlisted for the Bristol Story Prize and Fish Short Story Prize. Kohli is the author of The House Next to the Factory, out in India and forthcoming in the UK.
Steven Evans is executive director of FotoFest, Houston, and a curator, writer, and artist. Responsible for the artistic direction of FotoFest, Evans co-curated the FotoFest Biennial 2018 "India: Contemporary Photographic and New Media Art" and the FotoFest Biennial 2022 "If I Had a Hammer" and co-edited their related books. He represents FotoFest at photography events worldwide.
Sunanda Vashisht is a writer, political commentator, and a columnist. She writes for several news portals and has been a columnist for the Mumbai-based Daily News and Analysis (DNA) newspaper. Her bylines have appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Denver Post, Indian Express, Economic Times and many others. Her area of focus has been the conflict-ridden region of Jammu and Kashmir in India. In 2019, she testified at the US Congress' Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Varsha Bajaj is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade novel, Thirst, Count Me In, and Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood, which was shortlisted for the Cybils Award and included in the Spirit of Texas Reading program. She also wrote the picture books, The Home Builders (a Dolly Parton Imagination library selection) and This is Our Baby, born Today (a Bank Street Best Book). She grew up in Mumbai, India, and when she came to the United States to obtain her Master’s degree, her adjustment to the country was aided by her awareness of the culture through books.
Performing Arts and Culture programs at Asia Society Texas are presented by Syamal and Susmita Poddar. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment, and The Brown Foundation Inc. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Anchorage Foundation of Texas, The Clayton Fund, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, and the Wortham Foundation. Additional support provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, United Airlines, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional programming and exhibitions to Asia Society Texas.
Performing Arts and Culture Presenting Sponsors
Syamal and Susmita Poddar
Official Airline Sponsor
About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.
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