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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


There's always that sense of trepidation when you are about to come face to face with an author you read in college.

And this isn't any author. She's gone from the catwalk to journalism to bestselling author to a screenplay writer and a whole lot more. If I were to roll out the long list - it'll go anything from - Novelist, Screenplay Writer, Columnist, Editor, Socialite, Fashion Designer, Consultant Editor, Wife, Mother - stuff most of us can only dream of achieving in a lifetime.

If someone didn't tell you, there's no way of even telling her age.

When she walks the walk at the upscale designer store Mumbai Se in Singapore, I hear a guarded whisper:

"Is she really 50?"
I whisper back.

There's no time to catch the expression.

Shobhaa De is on stage. Her collection of cocktail sarees modelled by some real women has already taken the breath of the 200 strong crowd away. This is on a Monday at 4pm. Speak of star power!

She has presented her re-invention of the whole six yards, now the crusader is ready to spell out her mission....

".... I say it often and its worth repeating that I'm a great saree crusader or a great saree champion. When I see the younger generation of Indians, I love them for wearing their little black cocktail dresses but I want them to see that there is an alternative and a cocktail saree fits the bill perfectly. It's versatile enough. You can wear it to a polo event in London to an art opening in New York to a sit-down dinner in Singapore.

I want the saree to be accessible to young Indians, to people all over the world. It was a bit of a panic attack that got me into this. I hope the saree never ever goes the way of the kimono. I hope it's never ever seen as a costume. I hope people accept it as very much part of our identity. As something that's over 5,000 years old and hopefully will continue for another 5,000 years.

It's a classic and a classic is really forever.

I have sarees going back over 30 years and I wear them even today.

A saree necessarily demands a pro-active attitude. Because you can wear the way you choose to wear it. You can accessorise it differently. You can give it a very personal, individual twist. It's so versatile that each time you wear it, it can look like a new ensemble.

I know the big statement out of India is the kurti. It's taken the fashion world by storm, everybody from Liz Hurley to Posh Beckham is wearing it today.

I am almost sure, I am saying it here and now, the big other statement out of India has got to be the saree. As someone who believes in it so strongly, I'd like to see more people around the world wearing it.

It's the kind of garment anyone can wear. If I may use a teenage expression, it's hip, hot and happening. It's not just for Auntyji's, I hope this cocktail collection proved that."

Phew! That's enough to get me seriously studying my mum-in-law's saree collection the next time.

The thought has to be shelved for the moment at least. Just when I'm getting ready to pack my camera, Shobhaa is back at the counter. Her book 'Spouse' is selling as fast as her sarees. Her fans are lining up with their copies. And this is the moment I always like to study carefully. Beyond the book, it's often the connection an author makes with the reader that counts. I love to watch these moments carefully.

Shobhaa is patient. No scribbled signatures for her. She takes her time to chat up with everyone, take pictures and even exchange cards. One lady in question wants something signed for her Mum and she obliges.

It's a packed house. I've got the shots I want. And when things settle down, I finally get to talk to her.

I tell her about the show, about the sarees we'd like to put on set, I feel terrible about getting her out of bed early. If there was ever a thought of her behaving like the Page Three type, I've perished it in its entirety.

The next morning, Shobhaa is on the show. She puts the 'Jackie Collins' label to rest - splendid. She talks about her sarees, her books, the state of women today. You know a superb interview when you see one and this is it!

She's stolen the day, she's shown what makes the ordinary extra-ordinary and she's done it with that amazingly charming smile.

I almost feel like I've bumped into someone I've sort of known forever. You know that feeling....

So here's looking at you, Shobhaa......

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