My delightful meeting with Shobhaa De at LLF 2018

Shobhaa De is definitely someone who doesn’t need any introduction.But still I would love to talk a bit about her countless accomplishments and also about numerous ventures she has undertaken in her life yet. There are different facets of this multi-dimensional superwoman’s personality.She has literally seen it all “life as a model, a copywriter, a journalist, a socialite, a scriptwriter, a best-selling novelist and a busy mother of six children” (as mentioned in author bio of her famous“Politically Incorrect” blog at The Times of India which I regularly follow). She is also someone who continues to leave tongues wagging, not just with her sarcasm-dripping newspaper columns but also with her witty and indeed jocular tweets be it on the glamorous world of B-town celebs or on some issue of national importance (like on a scam by some popular neta(s)or mantri(s).

Recently I had the privilege of meeting Shobhaa at LLF 2018 – which was still able to attract massive crowds of people of all ages despite a controversy surrounding it due to a scandalous tweet by one of its board members almost a month ago – and I still can’t get out of that euphoric experience despite the fact that so many days have passed since Sunday 25th Feb, 2018 (Day 2 of LLF when I met Shobhaa).  It may sound nonsensical or idiotic to some people out there who aren’t huge admirers of Shobhaa like me but really that euphoria hasn’t gone with LLF 2018 or with Shobhaa’s esteemed presence there. I’m still experiencing it in different bouts, and owing to one of them, I have decided to write an account of my delightful meeting with this amazing lady from sarhad kay uss paar.

Even though I usually wake up late on Sunday mornings (around 12:00 or 12:30 pm sometimes) but as Shobhaa’s first session was scheduled to start at 12:30 pm so I woke up a bit earlier to not get late and to reach the venue beforetime. Out of excitement, and out of sheer curiosity to meet or at least see Shobhaa speaking in front of me the next morning, I wasn’t able to even sleep splendidly on Saturday night. I must have slept only for four hours that night even though I was done with my work  at around 11:00 pm and after watching TV for a while I went to bed at around 00:15 am – but still nothing lulled me to a good sleep till 7:00 am as I was high on adrenaline throughout the whole night out of anxiousness. What if I may not be able to meet and converse with Shobhaa personally as one of her ardent admirers or even not being able to ask the questions I have prepared for her since the time I started relishing her work – which comprises of not just her salacious novels but also her non-fiction books like Speedpost and Superstar India, which are my personal favorites. Finally, my room’s clock struck 10:00 am and my cell phone’s alarm in an impeccable harmony with the clock started ringing out with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from Beyonce named Love on Top and I woke up at sudden with bleary eyes and I felt queasy for a while.But fortunately that queasiness didn’t last longer and after taking a bath and after having an energizing cup of chai (the one no one can make better than my dad) I was able to commence indeed a very important day for me on a good note.


Luckily I was able to reach the venue way before the first session of this ravishing lady from Wagha kay uss paar (who is indeed made of “stardust”) was supposed to kick off.  Shobhaa’s session was actually supposed to start at around 1 pm in Hall no 4 (which is also known as Baithak)of the venue as within the same time slot of 12:30 till 1:30 pm there was another book launch of a British writer named Emma Glass which I also delightfully attended. But throughout that British writer’s session I was impatiently, and also somewhat anxiously, waiting for Shobhaa De’s session to start as she was sitting now at not a much greater distance from me and she was also waiting there for her session donned in a gorgeous pink saaree and with a dark red bindibeautifully placed at the center of her forehead. Such attire was obviously complementing her elegance, and to me she seemed like a diva who still despite reaching 70th year of her life can give goals on acing Indian ethnic wear to all the current Bollywood divas from Deepika to Priyanka. It seemed to me at that moment as if I was having a live darshan of “Indian goddess of elegance and poise”. Shobhaa’s first session in Hall no 4 at Alhamra Arts Center wasn’t her book launch, but it was the book launch of a Pakistani writer named Nadiya A.R which was moderated by her. Nadiya’s book named Invisible Ties also seemed a goodread to me as being someone who has been infatuated with South Asian Literature since a long time.

Eventually Shobhaa’s role as moderator in someone else’s book launch finished and shortly afterwards the Q and A session started, for which I was actually impatiently waiting since days. Finally, I was the first one to ask any question when that book launch ended and my question definitely was for Shobhaa. After greeting everyone in the hall with a neutral “good afternoon” and unveiling a few details about me (a blogger and an undergraduate student), I went on to addressing the person who was sitting right in front of me and because of whom I was star struck at that moment. I clearly capitalized there on my multi-dimensional linguistic capabilities as a polyglot (who has also started studying Marathi language from Indian state of Maharashtra on his own, since few months apart from being already proficient in foreign languages like English, Turkish and Spanish and apart from already possessing a working knowledge on Arabic, Hebrew and Armenian).

I greeted Shobhaa ma’am in her native Marathi language first with “namaskar” (Hi) and then with a phrase “tumhi ksha ahath” which literally translates to “how are you?” in English. Shobhaa De, out of astonishment to see a Pakistaniladka uttering a Marathi phrase with a pure Marathi accent (which I picked through watching several Marathi movies and TV shows as well as through listening to several Marathi songs on YouTube) asked me (while I was standing and was about to ask my question in English) that “How do you know Marathi?” and my retort to her was that “I have learned it through fervently following Marathi cinema and music”. She giggled at my retort. Then I proceeded to my question, which I asked to her from the perspective of a“young Pakistani aspiring writer and actor”. The question that I asked her was “Will it ever be possible in future for Pakistani artists be it actors or writers to gain as ginormous popularity as Indian artists and Bollywood superstars have always received in Pakistan despite all sorts of political tensions?”

Shobhaa responded to my question by talking about the popularity of Fawad Khan in India, but for me that whole Fawad Khan popularity thing in India has now become a matter of past particularly in the context of the recent Bollywood ban imposed on Pakistani artists.

Then after a few more questions from the audience (which were primarily for Nadiya) the session ended. I all of a sudden left my seat and moved with a bit faster pace towards the place in the hall from where Shobhaa was now leaving.

My encounter there with Shobhaa ma’am wasn’t a usual one which fans often have with the celebs they admire and adore but it was indeed far more exhilarating as well as idiosyncratic. Honestly, I’m not using such flamboyant words just because it was my fan moment and consequently it’s supposed to be different from the fan moments anyone ever had with their favorite celebs. My fan moment with Shobhaa ma’am wasn’t confined to the usual selfie-taking, book or autograph signing but it even comprised of instances like having a candid free-wheeling conversation with her about my love for Marathi culture as well as her retorts to my questions about Indian cinema. Despite being such a big name in the world of accomplished South Asian writers and despite being such a famous socialite hailing from Bollywood’s hub Mumbai, I didn’t find even a single iota of pretense in her and she conversedwith me as if she was conversing with her own son. The way she retorted to my questions in our “freewheeling chat” was very motherly and I felt at that moment as if I was having some usual conversation with my mom not with some famous author from across the border. And things didn’t stop there and there’s still more to come, which is indeed the most exciting part of my fan moment with Shobhaa.That part happened after her first session where she even recorded a video message of good wishes for me in Marathi language and she even during one of her media talks there with PTV News called me by my name “Sarmad” as I was standing not very far from her at that time and she asked me to join her in that media talk as being the first Pakistani who flabbergasted her by greeting her in her native Marathi language. Alas! I still haven’t got the part of PTV News video clip in which I talked along with Shobhaa ma’am and through this article I would also make an earnest request to Mr. Omer Khan (the PTV reporter who interviewed us) that:

‘Sir! Please send me my part of the video clip as soon as possible as that video clip is extremely precious for me as it is indeed an indelible manifestation of a surreal moment I experienced that day by talking to your news channel along with the woman I admire and adore most from across the border.’

After that media talk and recording of that video message, Shobhaa ma’am left the venue till 5 pm (her second session that day which was the launch of her bookSeventy and to Hell with it,for which she came to LLF’s 6th edition,was scheduled from 5 till 6 pm at Hall 2) and I meanwhile attended some other panel discussions like the one of Turkish writer Ciller Ilhan.

Finally, at sharp 5 pm Shobhaa’s second session started which was moderated by Pakistani author Sabyn Javeri. This one, as it was her book launch, was as thrilling as Shobhaa herself which was also manifested in instances like the one where Shobhaa bluntly with a dabangg attitude said “I don’t care about what people say about me. I think people should care what I say about them”. The session was utterly ebullient and at around 5:50 pm to be precise the session ended and the Q and A session started and again I somehow did get an opportunity to ask her a question despite the fact that the Hall 2 was a large auditorium packed with hundreds of Shobhaa admirers like me and almost all of them were willing to ask their favorite author from sarhad kay uss paar questions they had in their minds. I kept the riwajI had established in her last session alive (which was to greet her in her native Marathi before asking any question) by uttering the beautiful Marathi phrase of “Shubh Sandhya”(good evening) before asking my question. Then I went on to ask her that “Ma’am! When you were doing your specialization in Psychology at St. Xavier College, Mumbai, did you have any idea at that time that one day you will become one of the accomplished South Asian writers?”

Shobhaa retorted to me by telling how she picked Psychology at College just because it was an “easy subject” for her at that time and she didn’t have any idea of pursuing writing as her vocation at that time. Then after few more questions from the audience for Shobhaa, the session ended on a good note and she departed from the hall. I also left the hall feeling triumphant and was simultaneously thinking of celebrating the triumph with my loved ones.

Needless to say even at 70, Shobhaa doesn’t only look uber stylish but she also has no plans to retire from making her voice heard in her usual witty and indeed sassy manner. Kudos to her for that.

A video message of good wishes in Marathi language by Shobhaa De:

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1 Comment

  1. Aqram Ali says

    Amazing. Proud of you Sir Sarmad Iqbal.

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