The tragedy of parallel sessions at JLF is that you zero in on the one you wish to brave the human sea for and attend in person, is only a fraction more of your interest than the others. Here’s what I made of and about the panels that I attended.
Of Simla Langurs and Lakkar Bazaar
Former Afghan President, Hamid Karzai in an hour long chat with William Dalrymple in the session titled, The Great Survivor, charted a poetic and poignant tale of his love for the country, his father’s assassination, initial romance and later disenchantment  with the Taliban and the political repulsion of the Soviet attack on Afghanistan. The dialogue, seasoned with a bonhomie borne out of years of familiarity was peppered with mirthful anecdotes of the President’s boyhood in Shimla hills, on being called ‘uncle’ at 40, later, being dressed to the nines (To which he countered, ‘not in a three piece suit but yes, dressed more conservatively’) and his love for Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and of being able to speak and yes sing in Hindi! A poetic President indeed, if ever there was one!
All the Rosogolla’s (on) a stage!

The moderator Sampurna Chattarji, at her self-deprecating best, announced, that the panel was going to do what what Bengalis did best- talk about themselves, and argue!’ Not before admitting that the panelists were not in the least qualified to talk about Bengalis, as they were all ‘probashis‘ -people who had moved out of Bengal. Answering my question on which other community came closest to Bengalis in so far idiosyncrasies and peculiarities that are present in all communities, Sudeep Chakravarti ‘s ‘none’ was overridden by Swapan Dasgupta and Sanjoy K. Roy’s admission of Marwaris being the ‘one’! The session as Ajay Bose mentioned was a prototype of an adda‘. The session couldn’t have been more deliciously christened- The Rosogolla Wars.
Sanjoy K. Roy and Sudeep Chakravarti deliberating upon Hojom


Negotiating between Rajasthan and Rajput Arms, Art and Armour.The Durbar Hall at Diggi Palace was an ideal setting for the stalwarts of the history of Art, Architecture and that of Rajasthan to take centerstage for a discussion on a session titled The Art, Arms and Armour of Rajasthan and not Rajputs as it was conceived. B.N. Goswamy‘s elegiac description of a painted scene of Krsihna’s flute emanating rainbow hues when played, his conjecture on the Rajasthani artist’s imagination emanating from the need to rise above the barrenness of the land and Naman P. Ahuja’s contribution from the architectural iconography space and doubling up as an impromptu translator for Robert Elgood made for an informed panel. In conversation with William Dalrymple, Elgood rallied anecdotes hitherto unknown and also debunked the idea of elaborate veneration of weapons at Duseera by the Rajstahnis as is widely believed. any guesses who was addressed as BNG at the discussion?
Hugh Thomson, Pico Iyer, Raja Shehadeh, Robert Dessaix and Redmond O’Hanlon in conversation with William Dalrymple
Look Ma, not a Manel!
The Travel Session- was conceived as a manel (A panel comprising only men)! Bee Rowlatt was quick to identify it as one, just as swiftly as she enlightened the audience of the difference between the American and the Brit usage of the word fanny, before she read her passage from the book! No, not telling, look it up! 
Wait, a #Manel at #ZEEJLF – surely not?!
— Bee Rowlatt (@BeeRowlatt) January 26, 2018
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