THE BLOG

Why I Am No Longer A Fan Of Shobhaa De

16/04/2015 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
AFP via Getty Images
Indian writer and columnist Shobhaa De poses with newly-launched 'Cocktail Sarees' she designed during a press conference at Mebaz show room in Hyderabad, 21 November 2007. Shobhaa De unveiled her latest range of cocktail sarees. AFP PHOTO / NOAH SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone knows the results of Shobhaa De's controversial tweets about Marathi culture.

The angry and outraged Shiv Sena came at her with all guns blazing. They attacked her in print, filed a privilege motion against her in the Maharashtra Assembly and protested outside her house. The police set up barricades.

Unquestionably, as an Indian columnist, author, opinion shaper and social commentator, De has always gotten attention.

She can be funny or outrageous or sarcastic or just brutally honest. Or very scathing.

Most of the time though, I think of De chugging down her chhota pegs as she takes down the politicians a peg or two.

Some of her comments may be malicious but she's witty as she attacks the "dramabaazi" and other shenanigans. She gets a little incoherent and she's abusive towards public figures but newspapers need that kind of shock value to sell. I get that.

But I have to admit that sometimes De can be shockingly negative, vicious and strident. Her attacks on women, whether it be Leslie Udwin's film or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan 's fashion choices or Deepika Padukone's cleavage controversy unnerve me.

Her recent blog on Udwin is a vicious vitriol on the film maker and her motives for making the controversial film. It was chilling to read through the whole angry, poisonous diatribe.

As a seasoned columnist, De knew that talking about a "gori" woman was safe. No one is going to mount a defence -- and that kind of mentality, to me is just sickening.

From that day, onwards I stopped being a fan.

"Ms De, what motivated you to tweet all this? Is this because newer, fresher, younger voices are grabbing attention with their work and you are worried that you are losing relevance? "

As a freelance journalist in the United States, I watch those who comment on President Barack Obama. I observe journalists and politicians disagree with what he says routinely.

But they say "President Obama" or "Mr. President," respectively. The high-profile journalists and responsible politicians make attempts to behave professionally, for the most part.

You do not attack the person but you voice your opinions on his or her policies. That's the ethical and correct thing to do.

I do not disagree with De questioning Marathi culture or expressing her resentment at screenings for Marathi films.

But accusing the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of dadagiri and adding "Diktatwala" to his name is just plain juvenile.

It may be amusing but it's not dignified for a senior journalist to express herself in this manner.

I am not Marathi. I am not a Mumbai resident. I do not belong to any political party and I have never voted in an Indian election.

And as a journalist, I have a healthy distrust of politicians and I especially intensely dislike the crass, crude way Indian politicians conduct themselves.

I understand the frustration Indians feel but we cannot match vitriol with vitriol. We, the media, cannot stoop to their level.

I agree with De when she tweeted, "In a democracy I am entitled to have an opinion."

She doesn't deserve the harassment or the abuse. I do not, under any circumstances, condone the protests outside her house. It should not come to this.

But consider this, maybe it isn't just this one incident that got the Shiv Sena riled up. And their obsession with their Marathi culture, at one level is understandable.

Today, India is a great country precisely because of its diversity. Conservatives believe that the growth of English and the popularity of Bollywood will be contributing factors in the downfall of regional languages.

Maybe the fear is justified or maybe it's not but either way, if it makes them feel better, let them preserve their culture.

shobhaa de

Irony here? I believe that De is being intolerant of their stance while she is screaming about them being intolerant about hers.

Please note, De is not talking about human rights or corruption. She just wants the right to put down her own culture. It's not important to the conversation but I agree she should have the right to be completely ridiculous, if she wishes.

In my opinion, De has a whole history of enraging people and she, herself, has publicly documented, "Yes, we Indians are thin skinned."

She knows that so why did she make those comments? She has always been calculating in her assessment on what is going to make the news. Why would she pick a position like this?

On her Udwin blog, she says her documentary was all about advancing her career. And she refuses to see any other option.

I play the devil's advocate and ask you the same question now Ms De, what motivated you to tweet all this?

Is this because newer, fresher, younger voices are grabbing attention with their work and you are worried that you are losing relevance? Was it just for the cheap thrill?

Is this a desperate attempt to stay in the arena? Is this how a respected columnist conducts herself? Tweeting trash about politicians?

Just asking. As an Indian, I grew up in India reading Pritish Nandy, Khushwant Singh and you.

And as you grudgingly conceded about Udwin, "Sometimes an outsider's viewpoint can be the required trigger leading to reform and change," I hope to be that voice for you.

To ask you, exactly who are you expressing yourself for? India? For democracy? Or for yourself?

It's not being appreciated so something is very wrong here.

Let me point this out, no matter what you said Udwin's failings are, in her country she is celebrated and honoured. Her work was endorsed worldwide and promoted by famous women like Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto. She took a stand for rape victims everywhere.

You took a stand against your own Marathi culture and your own people. Insulted their food? Promoted western culture? Wow, you must be so proud. While you look outside your window at the police barricades, I imagine Udwin is somewhere laughing her head off.

Bottoms up! Cheers!

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact HuffPost India

More On This Topic