ILF 2014: De deconstructs inequalities in the subcontinent

From gender discrimination to religious bigotry, nothing escapes Shobha’s net.

Aimen Bajwa April 27, 2014
From gender discrimination to religious bigotry, nothing escapes Shobha’s net.


“Thank God no one has yet invented a condom for the pen.” Quoting Khushwant Singh in response to a question, Shobhaa De laid down the first rule for good writing — a writer writes whatever he wishes to.

A renowned writer, novelist and columnist from across the border, the multi-faceted De’s weapon of choice is her biting wit, coupled with a relentless commitment to unearth the truth beneath the surface of social dynamics.

Speaking at “The De factor: In conversation with Shobhaa De,” she touched upon a rainbow of topics ranging from the politics of hate, to satire and semantics, and gender politics in the face of changing gender roles, but her forte was her honesty about our collective social reality.

Social media is a double-edged sword, where satire may be entirely lost on an audience unfamiliar with the semantics of language, which gives rise to most controversy, she shared.

To see why her writings centre on social commentary, specifically, issues stemming from changing gender roles and sexual politics, she hinted about a struggle for power in the private realm. Instances such as the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi which riled up anti-state sentiment is a good example of private politics transcending into the public realm, she cited.

In the South Asian context, society should identify women as an “unutilised resource.” Wider acceptance for unorthodox career choices in the public sphere, such as adult-actress-gone-mainstream Sunny Leone or item girl-turned-politician Rakhi Sawant, indicates shifting norms in our context. “There is still a need to co-opt women in the wider public discourse, considering that they form the largest “minority” in the world. No development scheme can be effective until women are accounted for.”

“The average Indian voter is surprisingly discerning,” she stated, adding that the electorate was diversified in their response to Modi’s “politics of vindictiveness,” in response to a question about the Indian elections.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2014.


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