She needs no introduction. She is not only the face of the Indian popular literary scene but through her newspaper columns, a reputed voice on civic affairs and politics.
Shobhaa De has always been visible in the eyes of the Indian media and whether you have read her works or not, you know the name and face. She has seen it all: life as a model, a copywriter, a journalist, a socialite, a scriptwriter, and novelist. She continues to make or
Married to successful
businessman, Dilip De, together they are a refreshing example of a strong and enduring relationship, a rarity in the current times. With six kids she has also a busy mother and although all the children are out on their own and grown she continues to place importance on their happiness and well being. We caught up with the couple during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Shobha and Dilip enjoy this time of year and each year welcome a traditional Lord Ganesha into their home in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai.
The secret to a happy marriage can be summed in one word for Shobhaa…commitment…“ You have to believe in marriage – like it!! And have mature – not unrealistic – expectations from one another. I think we understand each other and our respective expectations match. We are willing to go the extra mile and accommodate one another. The important thing to ask is – can I count on my partner to stand by me at all times?? If the answer is ‘yes’, you are on to a good thing!”
Dilip also believes in the power of commitment. He adds, “good marriages and strong families are what strengthen the fabric of our society and provide stability. Family provides the joy that makes the ‘success journey’ worthwhile. It’s important to make the environment in your home a stimulating, one that is conducive, supportive and positive. Maintaining traditions gives the added value of creating continuity within the family.”
The De family kids have had excellent examples from their parents of how hard work and a balanced life can lead to a productive and happy life. Shobhaa is proud of each of them. “Nothing else gives me the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment as when I watch my kids. It’s not related at all to their achievements but to the fact that they are good human beings with the right values, are happy, and in such a dysfunctional world we have managed to be there for one another and enrich each other’s lives in our own way. Nothing can compete with that or give me more pleasure,” she proudly says.
Except the youngest, Anandita, who is 20, all the De kids are adults. Anandita is presently an intern at the Taj Group of Hotels. Ranadip is based in Singapore and has been in advertising for ten years in the creative space. Radhika, who holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Baroda, is married to an award winning sculptor and has a studio in Baroda. Aditya is an entrepreneur with business interests in restaurants and clubs. Avantikka is the Fashion Editor of Hello! She is married to an investment banker and lives in Mumbai. Arundhati lives and works in Paris with LVMH, after getting her MBA degree from Essec, Paris.
Setting priorities and realizing that compromises are a necessary part of life have been the secrets of the De’s successes, both personally and professionally.
“Very often, couples who spend their youth chasing career goals, suddenly wake up to find themselves in an isolated spot, dealing with loneliness and bad health. Success has to be seen in an overall context – how much are you willing to let go, to sacrifice, to compromise – whether in career or family terms. It’s key to recognize your priorities at the start of the career curve. Once you know those, the rest is easy. You learn to prioritize; you become a self-styled expert at time management! A sense of balance is all you need,” says Shobhaa.
Dilip feels that unfortunately that typically men are judged exclusively on the basis of their career success without considering the other equally important life factors, such as the personal and spiritual. “That is a fallacy. The measure of a man’s success has to be seen in the context of his overall growth as an individual – a family man who contributes to the well being of society at large,” stresses Dilip.
“To become truly successful, it is crucial to remain focused on your goals, personal and professional, both short and long term. Remain a seeker, a student….and shun complacency. The day you believe you know everything, is the day you stop growing,” he adds.
Dilip refers to a quote from novelist H.G. Wells who contended that wealth, notoriety, place and power are no measures of success whatsoever. “The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have been and what we have become,” Wells said. Optimism also appears to be an essential quality for a balanced life. For example true Mumbaikars, both Shobhaa and Dilip love their city. Mumbai has bounced back from bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, floods and reckless town planning, however they remain positive.
“The picture remains grim. Mainly because of a corrupt administration and the unwillingness of the aam aadmi to get more pro-active and demand reform. Despite that, I remain optimistic, Why? Because the Mumbaikar is a unique creature – adaptable and hugely accommodating. The Mumbaikar has his heart in the right place. God is great!”
Many of Shobhaa’s works exhibit a modern and changing India. Her feelings on change in society are mixed; she feels that change is not just inevitable, it is also essential. “Change is a reflection of a dynamic society that is constantly reinventing itself. Some changes are attractive and needed ( more and more educated, empowered women in the work place), others are somewhat negative ( drugs and instability within family). One has to embrace all change – not be selective about it.”
The word retirement is not in the De vocabulary. An achievement that has been quite satisfying for him, Dilip’s farms in Alibag have recently matched the flower production of Thailand, the world leaders. But his ultimate dream is to grow a blue dendrobium orchid flower in his farm at Alibag.
There are many more books to come from Shobhaa; she will be launching a new book soon and this time getting into the teen segment, an area where there are no Indian authors exploring youth living in urban India. “I want to continue writing till my last breath. It is what I find most exhilarating and challenging,” she declares.
Published in ICICI Elite Life