Editing script of my life was important: Shobhaa De

She is seventy but you can’t make it out when you see her. Author, novelist and columnist Shobhaa De was in the city for the ‘Bangalore Literature Festival’ at The Lalit Ashok to talk about her book ‘Seventy...: And to Hell With It’ — a book that reflects on the seven decades of her life. 

In a conversation with Surupasree Sarmmah, Shobhaa De talks about her inspiration behind the book, her modelling days and more. 

Most of your books have turned into life manuals for many. ‘Spouse - The Truth About Marriage’ and ‘Second Thoughts’ are two examples...

I don’t provide any handy book or manual saying this is how you should relate to it. I write from the heart and I write the truth. When people say my books are like life’s manual, it feels wonderful but it is not something that can be planned or manipulated — it just happens — and when it does, it is a great feeling. 

How is 70 treating you?

I have never felt so free; I am on a roll. I finally own my life with responsibilities of course. I feel unshackled.  

How long did you take to complete the book?

Sometimes I joke and say I have been writing for 70 years because it is a distillation of seven decades of my life and what I have lived. It is all my experiences, the mistakes I have made, my learnings, the highs and lows of many areas of my life which I look back and reflect on. I hope that people relate to my experiences and learn something from them. 

Your inspiration behind this book...

I decided to write this book because I felt that 70 is kind of a wholesome summing up of one’s life. There is a sense of completeness and it was important for me to chronicle that. 

What do you do when you have a writer’s block?

I have been writing for 45 years, so far I have not experienced writer’s block. I feel really fortunate for that. I am also exceptionally disciplined which I believe
is required so as not to fall into a self-indulgent fog — like I can’t write this morning because I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I feel a writer’s block is a crutch, an alibi or sometimes just an excuse. I am a professional writer and this is my vocation. It is a discipline and I do what I need to do with all my heart. 

What was the hardest thing about writing ‘Seventy...’ 

It wasn’t hard at all actually, but perhaps the challenge was in deciding what to leave out rather than what to include. I can’t possibly chronicle the entire 70 years of my life, so editing the script of my own life was important. 

You started your career as a model along with Zeenat Aman. How were those days?

It was actually very exciting because it was a completely new field for most of the young Indian girls. We were exploring our own opportunities and possibilities of what a modelling assignment can lead to. There was no money and there were no stylists or hair and makeup artists; we pretty much did it all on our own. Despite all this, we came up with some memorable campaigns which are iconic today. I was lucky to have worked with some amazing photographers and to be featured on covers of Vogue and other international magazines. I also got to travel and meet different people. I will always love those five years of my life as a model. Modelling for me was my personal bid for being financially independent. It taught me the value of discipline, time and money. 

Your thoughts on Bangalore Literature Fest...

This is my third edition and I have only seen it grow, that too fantastically. The line-up this time was very representative and diverse. The children’s section was particularly good. It will only get better from this point on because the festival has positioned itself as a very important event, that too in a city that celebrates community and the arts. 

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Editing script of my life was important: Shobhaa De

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