Melbourne Writers Festival has teamed up with its Jaipur equivalent to stage a weekend festival next month featuring writers, thinkers, activists and a musician or two from India and Australia.
Indian guests include novelist, historian and politician Shashi Tharoor, transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, rapper Sofia Ashraf, travel writer Mishi Saran and novelist and publisher Namita Gokhale. Australian guests include George Megalogenis, Tony Birch, Michelle Cahill, Omar Musa and Benjamin Law.
MWF director Lisa Dempster said Asia TOPA, the triennial performing arts festival that links Australia and contemporary Asia, had suggested a literature element this year.
"We hit on the idea of teaming up with the Jaipur Literary Festival because we wanted to create something different, something that was vibrant with plenty of colour and movement. Jaipur is our sister festival through the Word Alliance (of writers festivals).
"We have some fascinating writers and are trying to represent the diversity of writers operating in India today. There will be lots of perspectives – it's a very diverse and eclectic country."
Shashi Tharoor, who was guest at MWF in 1994, will give the opening address on the state of India today. He has served as an MP in the Indian lower house since 2009 and was a government minister in the administration of then prime minister Manmohan Singh. Tharoor had a 29-year career at the UN, eventually becoming an under-secretary general.
Among his novels are The Great Indian Novel, and Show Business. His most recent book, however, is An Era of Darkness, a highly critical account of the motives and behaviour of the British in India. He has also written books about cricket, the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, writers and foreign policy.
"He is a great thinker," Dempster, said "and never shy about expressing his opinions."
JLF Melbourne, February 11-12. mwf.com.au