Thursday, June 26, 2008

Super Star India: From Incredible to Unstoppable

By Mubeen Khan
Shobha De who recently turned 60 celebrated it by coming out with a book called Super Star India: From Incredible to Unstoppable.
De's new book draws a co-relation between the author and the country's age that is 60 years of independence and how India is evolving into a superpower. Characteristically in her latest book, De tries her hand at social commentary and serves up what is supposed to be a congratulatory and formal expression of praise to a confident and resurgent India. Whatever De’s intent might have been, what the reader gets, however, is a catalogue of all that is shameful in India. Poverty, hunger, social inequities and the less than commendable attitude of Indian men towards women in general; all of these find a place in this hall of shame. Why the writer would choose this particular title for a book that chronicles India’s negatives in such detail is hard to fathom. At the end of each section, where she details the ills of our country, there are a few lines about how and why India is unstoppable. For this book, De has turned an observer of the Indian society at large and gives a vivid picture of our problems but takes care to simultaneously inform the reader of the privileged perch from which she does her observation.
The funny part is that De takes great pains to emphasize her own credentials as one from the upper crust by writing that 'The Ambanis live in their palatial residence-not far from where I stay' or talking about her globe-trotting with specific attention on the place of stay (either a five star or expensive clubs).
There is a mention of reference to various high-end brands everything from Cartier watches to Fendi bags to Gucci to Prada stuff that is clearly out of reach for 99 per cent of India's population. To use this as a barometer for any kind of India’s progress is in itself very skewed.
De’s writing style has been well-honed over decades of writing and editing society magazines for years now. Popularly known as the queen bee of Penguin India Like all other De writings, it's an easy read, though it's a bit of an irritant to see her pepper sentences with Hindi words like, 'Goli Maro, ajeeb, halaath to the skeptics. She also in her writing employs phrases like "pretty confused", "pretty sinister" which will give you an idea of her literary style too.
In the end, it's a book that if read should be done a section at a time with time gaps in between. Although it is a book that does not add up to much, the tone is too elitist and too narrow in its assumptions. It is very much like a drawing room discussion where nothing is verifiable and anything goes.
Happy Reading if you choose to read!

No comments: