The much-awaited Shobhaa De session on Shobhaa De and Khushwant Singh: Where Mars and Venus meet, went off-track as the moderator, noted publisher Ashok Chopra, pointed out that since Khushwant Singh was not physically present, he should not be discussed. The rest of the session focused on Shobhaa De’s yet to be released novel, Sethji.
Describing the lead female character of the novel, Shobhaa said, “Amrita symbolises female sexuality. Why should sex be a taboo for women?”
Refusing to satisfy the aroused curiosity of the audience regarding the novel, she said, “You will have to wait till its launch. All I can say at the moment is that the foreword ends with the words, ‘Thanking Sita Ram Kesari’.” She announced that she would be going for an unconventional digital launch of the novel.
Stressing that marketing a book was as important as writing it, Shobhaa said Dominique Lappierre, the celebrated author of the book Freedom at Midnight, had told her this when she was about to release her first book — “It’s your first book, and you spent three years working on it. You owe it to your book. Why don’t you promote it?”
Speaking about publishing trends, Shobhaa said, “Young voices are emerging beautifully. They will find their own platform through self-publishing in this age of internet. But a physical book cannot be replaced, though it can coexist with the digital version. Paperback is still expensive in India. The prices must be brought down. Besides, we need to check piracy.”
Shobhaa also had a word of advice for budding writers — “Writing is a craft. Write everyday. Do it like a vocalist does ‘riyaaz’ till he gets better and better. It is perseverance that carried me through.”
Maintaining that there was no substitute to reading classics, she said her first choice was Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Asked why all her novels and characters were stereotyped, she laughed, “I hope to write an epic that will impress you one day.”
When an invitee asked Shobhaa how she managed to keep herself in such fine shape even at the age of 64, she was unabashed in her response, “Conspire to be born in the right gene pool. It is also personality!”