Super Indian and SuperStar I Am

I do not know Shobha De’s writing too well. I haven’t ever read any of her books neither do I pay any attention to her weekly editorials in The Sunday Times but I impulsively brought the book from a store as I was casually flipping through the shelves and I am not disappointed.

Superstar Indiais in no way phenomenal neither is it a ‘classic to be’, but it is a book for the aam junta written in the language of the aam junta. Yet it has a hint of intellect which is extremely pleasant. Her shrewd observation of every facet of India is extremely rewarding to our emotional senses.

Her analysis of India takes out the glittering gold after much digging but at the same time, it is not indifferent to the pile of mud around the success of the gold. Her language is edible and her book is a quick page turner. In fact, I finished the four hundred and fifty odd pages in three days because her writing kept me up till the wee hours of the morning.

She has touched on every topic imaginable. From the pulse of the youth, to sex (apparently critics view this as her favourite and most accomplished subject), to the various superstitions and values which we, the people hold close to our hearts along with sprinkles of her views on business, politics and Bollywood. What struck me particularly was her insightful knowledge of the Indian Diaspora.

Her analysis of the India-China relations was very light yet informative. Over the years, this topic has been discussed everywhere and everybody seems to have an opinion on it. I have read countless documents where the writers have very sharply scrutinised the relationship but what I found refreshingly different in her take was the soft and subtle humour involved in the analysis. She talks about everyday Chinese people and their perceptions without actually straining our brain cells. That is where her strength lies.

Her extremely positive representation of today’s India to the Indian Diaspora and the accounts of so many such people who want to come back to India is truly heartwarming She talks of the change of culture among them, the hypocrisy involved in their behavior and the unwanted longing to the country once they leave the Indian shores stirs up emotions as well as pity.

The changing culture of values and money has been wonderfully converted into words in her book. Her examination of such changes is wonderfully true and I was astonished to see that it has practically happened to me as a person. On the very onset, she declares that that book is a personal journey for her but by the end she manages to make the book a personal journey for the reader too.

What can I criticize in the book? Though she claims the book to be national in observation but her view has been very local i.e. Mumbai and Pune, at best stretching to Bangalore. This is where the book loses steam as she has repeatedly gone for examples to these places while her interpretation has been national. The approach is flawed. She has time and again been a bit suggestive of her own experiences . The reader does not need to know of her six figure suits in hotels where she stayed or the cars or branded personal jewellery she owns.

Apart from that, the book is a wonderful escapade on what India is and what our country can truly become. She successfully makes us feel special and very Indian even if we are in the midst of a western revolution. She makes us feel like a superstar and acknowledges the fact that the nation has been built not merely by the Nehru’s or the Gandhi’s but by the people. Her book is a true representation of the nameless and faceless Indians for whom the world has opened the gates disregarding our colour, status, stature and nationality.

The book is a dedication from a super Indian to a billion super Indians!

Sayan Das

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