The author and popular social commentator Shobhaa De says, “Insatiable reflects an unexpected ‘newness’. I wrote it spontaneously in a playful, irreverent mood to chronicle and mark a significant birthday. It’s an authentic, honest, and intimate representation of my far-from-conventional life, my deeply invested relationship with food, crazy, emotional family celebrations involving khaana-peena, besides the affectionate recollections of the tumultuous friendships that have enriched and challenged every moment over 75 years!”
For a while, the thought had been brewing inside her head. “I’ve done major books in the past to commemorate significant birthdays. I certainly didn’t want this one to go without a book! The title Insatiable — My Hunger for Life aptly sums up so many different threads that are entwined, entangled, knotted, and embroidered in my memory,” says the eminent novelist, who is often known as India’s Jackie Collins.
Insatiable — My Hunger for Life
In Insatiable, she weaves a story around these themes in her signature style. “The enjoyment of food has been a strong bond with family and friends. I have linked our shared passion for tastes and experiences involving food adventures over the years and across the world, into a structure that is built on a year (2021-2022) of mixed emotions. The palate never lies!,” says Shobha, a well-known novelist whose work focuses on contemporary urban issues such as glitz and glamour, complicated relationships, marriage, and so on.
The book is an intimate recreation of family meals and outings with close friends. It goes back and forth, with time frames shifting to accommodate a relevant anecdote from the past that connects to the now. “Even though food is at the centre of the narrative, I use food as a metaphor as well. Food is an emotional experience. The same food eaten with strangers acquires a different taste... that is the nature of food. Our mood dictates our reactions to cuisine or a particular dish, depending on what triggers a specific memory. Insatiable is a memoir — but not a conventional one! It is written in a playful spirit that camouflages several home truths,” says Shobha, whose novels include Starry Nights, Socialite Evenings, Second Thoughts, Surviving Men, Spouse— The Truth About Marriage, Sisters, Snapshots, and Speed Post, to name a few.
The idea was to make a memoir as appetising as a superbly and painstakingly cooked biryani, with its multiple aromas and aftertastes. Jaipur’s most delectable lassi, conversations with a Nobel Laureate, the juicy secrets of Mumbai’s legendary Willingdon Club, M.F. Husain’s last food khwaaish, numerous ways to ruin a Bengali fish curry. These stories and others transport us to festivals across the country and to exotic locales, into the dining rooms of politicians, artists, and celebrities, to parties and social gatherings, and, more privately, into her home, where food is always the main topic of conversation.
“My life has not been bland — neither is the memoir! It has the right amount of masala not to overpower the textures and layers underneath. It comes with candid observations and countless insights that can be seen as ‘life lessons’ by readers seeking answers. The flavour of the writing remains spicy!,” says the author.
It’s a memoir that’s written in real-time, as it were. “Since I am chronicling the year, the writing is very immediate and accessible. The chapters reflect the changing seasons... and not just in a culinary sense! It is intensely personal on many fronts... and it is spontaneous as well. Very “in the moment” —a stream-of-consciousness style that captures the best and worst moments of the year in a very upfront, honest way. I like to think of the memoir as a multi-course banquet , with a curated menu!,” she says.
She totally loved the parts when I am writing about the unpredictabilities of life. Why stay hungry when life is offering you a full plate? She says, “I hadn’t heard my own voice for the longest time! My last two books — Srilaaji and Lockdown Liaisons — were works of fiction, which I greatly enjoyed writing. This is different and difficult since it’s a first-person account of a significant year. So many, long suppressed memories surfaced and got seamlessly woven into the present. Blending it together was like making a rich strawberry smoothie out of my life.”
“Insatiable is not a recipe book or a cookbook! It is about the power of food. I see life as a feast to be savoured— sometimes solo, but more often with family and friends. I don’t like the word ‘foodie’ — it is far too casual. And I don’t like the word ‘gourmet’— it is far too pretentious. Insatiable celebrates the joy of food... from biting into steamed ukdi modaks during Ganpati to nibbling on kebabs at a friends’ home, while tearing into a few pompous reputations! Even if I say so myself — Insatiable is a lip-smacking read!”...