My first reaction to the fact that I had a Shobhaa De book on my hands to review was, “Erm, no. Not happening.”
To me, for the longest time, Shobhaa De was an irrelevant writer. Being a good five decades younger than her, I also somewhere thought of her as the older lady who commented on a lot of things – because let’s be honest – that’s what she really does. I also do admit that I had never read her books. However, being the millennial I am, I had read her tweets and how social media covers her, and I further believed in my assumption about her irrelevance.
De’s “Seventy…And To Hell With It!” is a novel that completely changed my view of her. Released in December 2017, the book feels like you sat down with a really cool aunt (who you probably run to when you’re in trouble) on a cold evening, wrapped in a comfy shawl in front of the fireplace – ready to listen to some kickass life advice.
It is surprisingly poignant, with little tidbits of life advice jumping at you after every few paragraphs. My favourite bit of the book is that it feels like a conversation. It’s relatable. You see yourself in these pages. You see your family and friends in these pages – and that, is surprisingly hard to achieve.
De is at her wittiest best in the novel spanning 320 pages, recounting her life, her struggles and most importantly – how she handled them. She speaks to the young Indian – talking about workplace relationships and why you should not have them. She talks about the trials and tribulations a 60 something faces when everyone in the family suddenly gets tech-savvy and to the middle-aged reader about life, children and family battles.
You have a smile on your face as she recounts how she throws on a shawl over her daughter’s dress as she’s going out, despite having proudly worn the same clothes in her younger days. Throughout the book, you think “I agree” ,“I relate to this” and “Omg, I just thought of this the other day!”.
I especially loved the bits where she talked about the importance of ‘talking’, of ‘space’ in any relationship, of being selfish and the importance of ensuring you put in work for any relationship to succeed. De has managed to put forward 70 years of experience, wisdom and sass to the readers in a form that is truly enjoyable.
To her, it might have just been penning down the riot in her mind. But for a reader, it is a delightful journey where you truly discover the woman she is, and the writer she has been. From discussing how she never was afraid to speak her mind, to how she learnt what battles to fight – the book is a raw and open account.
Speaking at the second day of the Penguin Spring Fever, De had commented on her book by saying “It is a reflective book and not one where I am giving gyan.” To this statement, I completely disagree. The book has tremendous amounts of gyaan for anyone who is reading it. I would love to gift a copy to all the men in my life – for an insight into the female mind and to all the women I know – to show them that they aren’t the only ones.
If I had to pick out one major issue with the book – it’s the pull quotes. A common feature in magazines, where they probably work, I found them extremely chaotic and distracting.
The book may not be something that you’d read in one go – it is definitely put-down-able. But the book is also soul food. You won’t go through it in one go – but you’ll keep wanting to go back to it. And the reason behind this is – the book is incredibly honest.
De, in the end, is a young person at heart, with tremendous amounts of gyaan to give – and as a reader, I’m ready and willing to lap it up!