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US City Teams with Jaipur, India, to Celebrate Literature

An image of decorations and people from the Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder, Colorado.
An image of decorations and people from the Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder, Colorado.
US City Teams with Jaipur, India, to Celebrate Literature
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India’s artistic and intellectual elite gathered in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado last month to celebrate some of the literary world’s most gifted writers.

The Jaipur Literature Festival was launched in Jaipur, India in 2006. It now has nearly 300 speakers and about 500,000 people attending the events every year.

The festival also travels around the world. Its first stop in the United States was Boulder, a city known for its technology industry.

Festival co-director Namita Gokhale told VOA she loves Boulder’s highly-educated community. But her favorite part of Boulder is its natural environment.

“Something about this place reminds me of my hometown in the Himalayas,” she says.

Wherever the festival goes, Gokhale said, it seeks to create a deep feeling of happiness through life experiences.

Happiness, she added, “means extracting a deeper understanding from possibly even the most tragic situations.”

Lighthearted moments

In her book, “Good Talk,” Mira Jacob writes about race and gender struggle in her large family. Speaking at the festival, Jacob told her painful story. But she also created a sense of happiness that made her listeners laugh.

Jacob explained that her Indian-born mother tells her friends, “Mira has her stories, and I know the truth.”

Tragedy and triumph

Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian-born medical doctor. His book, “I Shall Not Hate,” tells the story of the Israeli bombing of his home 10 years ago. The attack killed his three daughters.

“But I can keep them alive in my heart… It’s with wisdom, with kind, courageous, strong words and with good (acts),” Abuelaish told listeners.

Ethiopian-born writer Maaza Mengiste was another speaker. “The Shadow King” tells of the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and a tragedy that followed.

Mengiste said her story is not just a story about Ethiopia: it’s about “every woman and every girl who’s had to survive some kind of conflict, whether it’s in war or in the home.”

“Silence in some ways protects us,” she added. “Until we hear someone else’s story, and understand that we’re not alone.”

Mengiste is a Fulbright scholar who uses non-traditional ways to discover stories from the past. She goes on the social networking service Twitter and asks users to send pictures of women during wartime.

With stories like these, the Jaipur Literature Festival asks those who love literature to seek a deeper understanding of the human experience.

I'm Susan Shand.

VOA’s Shelley Schlender reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

elite – n. the most successful or powerful group of people

remind – v. to cause to remember

extract – v. to choose and take out (parts of a written work) for a separate use

gender – n. the behavior, culture of emotions normally linked to one sex

courageousadj. brave

novel – n. a long written story usually about imaginary events

Fulbright Scholar – n. a program that brings international students to America to study, teach or do research and sends American students overseas to do the same