I enjoy how unshackled I feel at 70, says Shobhaa De

By Neeru Saluja

She’s bold, she’s beautiful and is unafraid to be controversial! Known as India’s Jackie Collins, Shobhaa De has seen it all being a model, a columnist, a journalist, a socialite and India’s most popular writer.

Like a good wine, she just gets better with age. At 70, she has written a new book ”˜’Seventy – and to hell with it’ touching on sex, motherhood, mortality and taking a strong stand on ageing.

And now she is arriving in Australia for the Jaipur Literary Festival taking place in Adelaide from 9-11 November. Before her arrival, we interacted with her in a candid and witty conversation where she talks to us about turning 70, what inspires her and her secret of looking so glamorous!

Shobhaa, Australia is looking forward to welcoming you once again after the Melbourne writer’s festival. This time it’s for the Jaipur Literature Festival in Adelaide. As a speaker, what topics will you be talking about?  

I love interactive sessions the most! Audience participation is KEY. We need open-ended dialogues and independent platforms to share our concerns. I will be speaking about my work, my latest book ‘Seventy – and to hell with it’, social media and the # MeToo campaign. I will also talk about my career as a social and political commentator over 45 years.

You are known as India’s Jackie Collins and Sunny Leone for Indian literature. What are your thoughts on these titles?  

I love both the titles. But neither of them applies!! Time to reboot. I’m happy being Shobhaa De.

Has anything changed in the decade between your earlier book ”˜Shobhaa At Sixty’ and ”˜Seventy…And To Hell With It!’?    

One hell of a lot! Ten years is a long time. We live in a rapidly changing world of ideas and change. I like the dynamics of today. I enjoy how unshackled I feel at 70.

You are a forthright columnist and have often sparked controversies. Do you think with social media writers now have more freedom to express themselves?

Absolutely. Social media provides the most democratic platform for self-expression. I enjoy my various freedoms hugely and take complete advantage of our constitutional rights. There is nothing as precious for a writer than the freedom of expression. We must fight for it fiercely at all times.

Since your Stardust days, you have been a glamorous  icon of Mumbai. What’s your style quotient?  

I do not follow the herd. I am not a slave to anybody else’s design sensibility. I am my own person – be it in the world of fashion or literature. I dress instinctively, and like to mix and match to create a look that only I own! I prefer street fashion to high-end labels. I am committed to craft skills of the world and have the deepest respect for craftspeople.

Being 70, what do you enjoy the most and look forward to?  

Oh… there is so much to look forward to! Many adventures and journeys into the unknown. At 70 I am aware of how little I know about life’s infinite mysteries. I want to remain hungry and curious. Travel to distant lands – eat, pray and love. Drink great wine, too!    

As a writer, what inspires you and who is your favourite author?  

Every tiny aspect of life carries a unique story … if you look for it. I am never bored. Every breath is precious and new. I stay inspired and alive to the smallest stimuli. No favourite author – several writers whose work I deeply admire. Young people the world over are saying fresh and gorgeous things in new and unique ways.

If as a writer you had to write a biography on Shobha De, what would it reveal?  

There is very little about my life that is a deep dark secret, alas. I am an open and transparent person. I can’t honestly think of a single tantalising ‘revelation’.   Sorry!


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