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EXCLUSIVE | Shobhaa De: ‘Food as a powerful metaphor for all that is precious and pleasurable in life’

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EXCLUSIVE | Shobhaa De: ‘Food as a powerful metaphor for all that is precious and pleasurable in life’

In conversation with writer Shobhaa De on her memoir Insatiable, her relation with food, living life to the fullest at 75, dealing with an ageist society and more.

Lachmi Deb Roy Last Updated:February 13, 2023 00:13:33 IST EXCLUSIVE | Shobhaa De: ‘Food as a powerful metaphor for all that is precious and pleasurable in life’

Shobhaa De’s interview on her book Ínsatiable: My Hunger For Life

In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Shobhaa De in her memoir Ínsatiable: My Hunger For Life says her memoir is about food and friendship and much more. She believes that food is a valuable bond between people. One can connect with a complete stranger over gol-guppas at Bengali Market or bhelpuri on Chowpatty beach. Her hunger for life is infectious. And she wants this hunger to become an epidemic. Published by HarperCollins India, Ínsatiable: My Hunger For Life is her unique take on life and celebrating it. The memoir is narrated through stories and anecdotes around some of India’s most loved culinary dishes, festivals, traditions and her travels.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

 Your advice on tackling aging and the importance to bring about this topic?

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We live in an incorrigibly ageist world – ageist society. Deal with it, but don’t let that get to you. Remember, there are countless highly insecure thirty-year-olds out there worried about being considered ‘too old’! Age can neither be reversed nor glorified. It is what it is, a biological fact of life. So, accept it. I have not romanticised age, nor diminished it. India is kinder to women of my age than western societies which are age-obsessed. I am perfectly comfortable being 75. I have several years of serious fun to look forward to provided my health co-operates. I want to strongly say to my contemporaries to not give up.

Your idea of celebrating life?

My idea of celebrating life didn’t just ‘happen’. It is an active choice. All of us can choose to make the most of each opportunity, each moment. I love possibilities and I love taking risks. My advice to all is to learn to take a chance. Don’t self-censor, don’t overthink. Grab a good thing when you spot it and go for it. I find delight in small and absurd things as much as in big, amazing discoveries. Celebrating life is a recognition of life’s infinite potential.

Why did you feel it was important to write on ageism and food?

The book Ínsatiable: My Hunger For Life isn’t a book on ageing. It is a book about food and friendship and much more. Food as a powerful metaphor for all that is precious and pleasurable in life – love and sharing.  Food is such a valuable bond between people. One can connect with a complete stranger over gol-guppas at Bengali Market or bhelpuri on Chowpatty beach.

Do you think that your hunger for life is infectious because I am totally inspired by you?

I would love this hunger to become an epidemic! It’s awful to meet cynical, jaded, bored young people who believe there are no surprises left in life. I take each new day as a surprise package, a gift!

What is the one thing in life that you are hungry for the most?

This one is tough! I hunger for the unexpected. I want to be taken off guard by an unknown delight. It could be something as simple as a new flavour!  A glittering bauble in a street bazaar. A fragrance – the smell of wet earth just before the monsoon. A startling sunset in the Maldives. A supremely well written passage in a book. Crazy music! Lots of stuff, really! But my ravenous hunger is reserved for beauty in all its myriad avatars.

On finding Anuradha and when are we going to get to read the next book?

Anuradha is elusive and mysterious. She flits in and out of my consciousness. Anuradha is a tease.

Your relationship with food and what is your comfort food and why?

My relationship with food is very basic – I love it! I am obsessed. Food is primal. The enjoyment of food is essential – one shouldn’t just eat for survival. Food is imagination. Food is erotic and sensual. Food engages all our senses simultaneously in the most marvellous of ways. Never undermine the power of food. My comfort food changes with my mood. But after eating at some of the most talked about restaurants globally, what I long for is the Gujju khichdi and kadhi combo, with roasted pappad and çhundo on the side. The consistency and temperature of the khichdi has to be just right. I prefer mine with a generous pinch of asafoetida, cumin and diced ginger and I like my khichdi served piping hot. I literally have to see the steam!

On being a very honest writer… Is it a very conscious effort?

There is no other way – none. And of course it is a conscious decision. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself as a dishonest writer.

How do you manage the trolling bit that happens with your honest writing?

I ignore trolling. And I do not engage with trolls. In fact, I never read comments or reply to anyone. I tweet what I feel and leave it there.

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