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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I moaned as another birthday rang in yet another year. So many years gone by and I still have that book to do. Each year I put it down to another year. It didn't hit earlier, but when one thinks of all the years that have simply flown, the sense of under-accomplished rapidly sinks in. Which is why, this year I wasn't my boisterous self. I was getting older, time was passing me by and there was officially nothing much to show for a life gone by. That is till I got this lovely piece from my good pal Janet de Neefe. She describes our friendship better than I ever could.

We met, as she tells you at a press conference. It was what Malcolm Gladwell would call a 'Blink' moment. The minute we started out looong chat, I knew this friendship would be forever. Though I had no idea that the strings that bind us would strengthen so much over the next few months.

I owe a lot to Janet. She put me on one of the biggest platforms - a session with Michael Ondaatje. That one session opened so many more doors for me. In many ways, all the connections I made at the various other writers festivals that were to follow, added to the content of the book segment. Helping put so many sessions together with all the wonderful Literary Festival Directors I have met so far, has taught me so much more about the love for the written word. It has taught me to stretch myself just that little bit more to get the best bits for the show.

There have been lessons in life, in living, in appreciating, though Janet says it much better than I do. Here's her piece... She calls it shabby, I hate to disagree....

29th NOVEMBER 2006:

Hey I wrote this about you. Had to write it quickly so its a bit shabby. I'll send you a copy when its published.

DEEPIKA SHETTY: There's something about Deepika!

There is something to be said for serendipitous meetings. Deepika Shetty beamed into my life at the Singapore Writers Festival press conference two years ago. Amidst a room of unfamiliar faces, hers was one that caught my attention. And when the questions started rolling in from the audience, hers were the ones that made sense. After the conference was over, we started chatting, and chatting and chatting. When the crowd dispersed, we were still talking! We became instant friends, drawn like gentle magnets into a sweet sisterly bond that is destined to be a life-long friendship.

Deepika Shetty is the News Producer of Prime Time Morning for Channel NewsAsia. Dubbed a current affairs 'breakfast show', it can be seen from Monday to Friday from 6.30am - 9.30am throughout Asia. In addition to that, Deepika also produces the book segment 'Off the Shelf', a program that she claims takes a 'lot of sweat, blood and tears but labours of love were never meant to be easy. It isn't quite the Oprah Book Club or the Richard or Judy show, though I do believe it has made some inroads in getting people reading in this part of the world.' And let me show you some of the authors that have appeared on her show: Shashi Tharoor, Paul Theroux, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunesekera, Jeffrey Sachs, Thomas Friedman, Alexander McCall Smith, Nury Vittachi, Chitra Banerji Divakaruni, Neil Gaiman and Suhayl Saadi to name a few.

'Personally, the journey has been immensely fulfilling. Being the bookie myself, the sheer sparring with minds who have appeared on the show has made this show more than just another job. It has also taken me to places I'd only imagined. I've moderated at key writers festivals in South-East Asia, Australia and will start next year with Sri Lanka's first literary festival - the Galle Literary Fest.' Hailing from India, Deepika moved to Singapore eight years ago to pursue her TV career. In India she was a journalist with the daily 'The Times of India' and the newsmagazine 'India Today'.

Of course, her other interests are plenty and one of her favourite pastimes is watching Bollywood movies, and her favourite star is Amitabh Bachchan! 'Like thousands of others, I am fascinated by the growth story in all fields, including Bollywood. I've produced several interviews with the stars as well. Prominent film industry names who have appeared on the show include - Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Sharmila Tagore and Shabana Azmi.'

Deepika has now become a permanent fixture of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. And for those of you who have attended over the past two years, I am sure you will remember her. Flavoured with the utmost professionalism, Deepika manages to bring out the best in all those she interviews. And it is not just her warm personality and intelligent, articulate viewpoints that guarantee a wonderful session. It is her thorough research of the subject and keen eye for interesting detail that bring her panels to life. It was after she appeared at the 2005 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, that Deepika was invited to appear at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. And she was the sweet heart of their event, running the most successful discussions of the festival.

Next year in January, she will be moderating at the inaugural Galle Writers Festival in Sri Lanka and will also be running a journalism workshop which, I, for one, hope to attend. In fact, the Galle Festival will be a bit of an Ubud Writers & Readers Festival get-together, with the likes of William Dalrymple, Suketu Mehta, Chris Kremmer, Madhur Jaffrey and yours truly appearing.

And Deepika is one of our greatest supporters who has an immense faith in our festival and in what we are trying to achieve. She said recently, 'I think it is a really special festival because it has been created with a sense of purpose - it was born out of the Bali bombings. And for the people of Bali. for people in Asia and beyond Asia, the festival resonates not just in terms of content, not just for the reason that it has been created, but for the fact that is bringing the people of the world together'.

Deepika will be appearing again at the 2007 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and, who, knows, maybe we can tempt her to run a workshop for us too. Stay Tuned! In the meantime, you can read Deepika's blog at Happy Reading!

Janet de Neefe

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