She’s elegant, bold and feisty. She attracts admiration and hate and takes it all in her stride. Columnist and author Shobhaa De is unstoppable, and won’t let death threats or controversy take control of her views, ideas and freedom. Ahead of her visit to Goa to address young minds about moral dilemmas, NT BUZZ caught up with her.
Columnist and author, Shobhaa De is both – all that you think of, and all that you don’t. As much as De ‘the celebrity’ has been portrayed by the media as being blunt, sarcastic and a no nonsense woman, she is also grounded, realistic and extremely genuine. She can charm you with her beauty and talk as much as her writing. If she doesn’t create uproar and make citizens of the country think differently, she is surrounded by controversy. Her views on politics, economics, society and relationships matter to wide sections of people. A symbol of woman empowerment, freedom and progress in India, she minces no words and is unapologetic. She can surprise you as she did with us, answering all the questions posed to her with great depth and thought, beating down the larger than life image she is often portrayed with. Her quick responses were a delight to read, something that comes with being a journalist herself in the past. When asked if she was overwhelmed by the questions, she replied: “Never restrict your questions. Bombard. Only then will you get what you want.”
Q: How does it feel be known as an eternal beauty in her seventies? What have you scrapped from your routine and what’s on the list now?
Of course, it feels utterly wonderful – at any age – to receive compliments. But I must add I do not take any labels seriously! Beauty is God given. It is a gift. Nobody can claim special credit for it. It is not a personal achievement. My routine at 70 remains what it was at 17 – basic skin and body care. I am neither obsessive about nor am I preoccupied with the way I look.
Q: What is the formula of balancing your life, work and children?
There is no formula. Nor do I possess a magic wand. I take life one day at a time. And strive to give my best – to family first, then my profession. It’s not all that tough. It’s about having your priorities in place from the word go.
Q: In your recent column you stated that our former President Pranab Mukherjee – a Congress man accepting an invitation from the RSS wasn’t wrong at all?
I stick by that. He is Citizen Pranab now. He is free to make his choices. As we all are. Who he chooses to meet is his business.
Q: Also, again very recently the Union Minister for Sports Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore posted a video on the ‘Fit India Challenge’. You suggested that a ‘Corruption Challenge’ should also be initiated as PM Narendra Modi after assuming power had said, ‘‘Na khaaunga, na khaane doonga’’. Can you elaborate on this please?
It’s fine to throw gimmicky challenges to sports stars and Bollywood actors. It generates a great amount of publicity. But in a country that is battling corruption on an epic scale, this does appear frivolous. It is an attempt to distract citizens from the mega scams that are corroding our credibility as a nation. Which scam has been successfully tackled under Narendra Modi’s watch? Name just one! Making tall claims is easier than solving problems.
Q: How do you view the women’s empowerment hullabaloo, especially taken up by the political parties?
Are Indian women, even highly educated ones, really empowered? What’s your take on #metoo campaign that did not swell up in Bollywood like it did in the West? #metoo in the West has been a seminal movement that will swiftly lead to much needed change. It is not as effective in India because of our social environment that discourages women from speaking up, even in the face of brutality and injustice. The odds are too many. They are loaded against women. Change is much slower in India. But it is happening.
Q: You have written a number of novels and continue to do so. However, looking at the importance of limited usage or words in social media like facebook, twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, are books becoming irrelevant in today’s times?
As a publisher/editor/author I am very gung-ho about the future of books in India. The numbers tell their own story.
Q: Your column writings have always been open and fearless, often resonating political anger. Have you felt threatened anytime after having written something against a particular political party?
I have dealt with threats. And trolling. And worse. I have lived for two years under police protection. And faced the same accusations of being anti national, etc, as some of my contemporaries… These are the times we live in. You always have the choice as a writer – to keep mum or speak up. I choose to speak up.
Q: So, how much do you enjoy your space in social media when it comes to connecting with people, your followers, etc?
Also, do you believe, as much as it has the power to bring together, it can destroy unity, affect people due to trolls and be very divisive and polarised? I enjoy my engagement with social media platforms. No complaints. It is a savage world out there. If you are uncomfortable with any of it, you are free to quit. I am here to stay.
Q: Irrespective of the credibility and fame you have achieved for being yourself, the tag, ‘Jackie Collins of India’ won’t leave you. Comment.
That’s history! Most young readers don’t know who Jackie Collins is. I like to believe they know who Shobhaa De is!
Q: From writing scripts for soap operas when television was introduced to India, to being the editor of ‘Stardust’ and ‘Society’, do you see signs of regression in the content, freedom of expression and intellect in Indian films today? Where is Bollywood headed?
Bollywood is a vibrant and hugely dynamic industry that tells us who we are – warts and all. Regression or progression – that’s us in that gigantic mirror. Take it or leave it!