'My day is frenzied, frantic, lunatic and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d. I am not a lark and refuse to get up at dawn. My mornings start slowly and only after my first cuppa (preferably Darjeeling). I have no beauty regime or state secret to defy age, other than cleanliness. I've never been to the gym. I don't jog (although in my college days I was sporty). I have a 15-minute stretch routine that I've been doing since my school days and that's all. I have a fortunate life with help - drivers, cooks and so on. My staff have been with me for years so they know just how hot I like my morning tea. I don't cook but I am a great cook - even if I say so myself. I don't follow recipes but go by instinct, flavours and aromas. I haven't made anything for years and my life would be at a standstill if we didn't have the helpers. I have 20 professional balls up in the air at any given moment. Whenever I am asked how I manage to do it all - the secret of my success - I always say: 'Behind every successful man is a woman and behind every successful woman, there's another woman.' In this case, it's my helper. I read about eight newspapers in an obsessive-compulsive way, soak up everything, every morning, religiously. Two of the youngest kids are still in the house (the other four are adults and managing their lives and careers in Dubai, Malaysia and around India) but they're old enough to take care of themselves. My youngest is finishing school and preparing for university. I don't kiss them goodbye every morning because I don't subscribe to cliches. For the love of having my children around safe and sound, I don't drop them off at school - because I've no aptitude for driving and have crashed too many expensive cars. My children go in school buses, like others. There's a large, antique circular dining table in the middle of the house where I sit and work like a demon. It's a huge mess of papers, magazines, articles I've cut out, ideas penned, notepads, stationery. You can't find the table under all the papers and [my family] threaten to bin it all. My mess and I bond. I know exactly where everything is and it frustrates my family no end. Fortunately, they all leave the house in the morning and I can sit uninterrupted. I hardly break for lunch, it's my peak productive zone. I get a lot of work done in a non-stop, focused way from about 10.30am to 2.30pm. I don't believe in writer's block. It's a lazy excuse and people just have to get up and get on with it. I wrote each of my novels by hand but my articles were typed up - until about six months ago [when], in a state of panic, I caught up with technology out of necessity. I used to hand-write my columns too and fax them at noon. One of my daughters would type it up and send it off to the editors. With all the girls getting out of the house, I have taken a quantum leap into e-mail and computers - which I hate. I miss my penmanship. I hope to die with a cheap ballpoint pen at hand - cheap because I've lost too many pens, including a beautiful Dupont in Hong Kong recently. I have never approached a paper or magazine for work. I say it not with arrogance but with pride that people have been interested in my opinion. Apart from the four regular gigs [for Indian newspapers and magazines], I also write guest columns for various publications. I treat my day like chewing gum - stretch it and stretch it till it's 36 hours long. I have meetings and brainstorming sessions all afternoon: there are the two TV shows scripted by me on air, the fashion line, another book in the works, a new TV project, film ideas. I never leave the house. Mumbai traffic is hideous. I always ask people to come to my home in Cuff Parade. If someone really wants to meet me then they can sit in traffic for two hours, otherwise it's not worth their trouble or mine. Fortunately, as a freelance writer, I can travel the world. I have a stock of features banked up in advance. I've been a journalist for nearly 40 years and I've never missed a deadline. And filing from my travels is just not done. It's too hectic. Like the time I was last in Hong Kong four, five years ago for the literary festival: there was this mad dash, trying to find a fax and send a feature across to The Times of India - I hated that chaos. This weekend, I'm off to Italy to promote the third book being released there. My writings are translated and published around the world and my columns are syndicated in various languages around India. My late afternoons are even more frazzled. The children are back, we take a lassi or coffee break over hot, buttered toast and even hotter gossip. That's my big indulgence for the day. We enjoy those light-hearted moments. I love being with my children. I'm so happy they are such complex, interesting, amusing people. I'd rather hang with them - don't ask me if the reverse is true - than any socialite or celebrity. And they are my harshest critics. When Elle magazine listed me as one of the most fashionable women in India, my daughter laughed and reeled in horror, 'This gypsy look is in?' she asked. They don't understand it and roll their eyes. I await the arrival of Mr De about 6.30pm. I put my pen down, shut down - or try to - and watch him at his elaborate tea ritual. Early evenings at home are also spent chatting with the children, discussing their work, emotional tangles and other anxieties. Contrary to the [Indian society column] Page 3 myth, I don't attend every event - but I get photographed at the ones I do. We stay at home six nights of the week and accept just one invitation, if that, preferably on a Saturday night. We are making an exception to this rule as there's a dinner with Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. He's an amazing mind, a very engaging conversationalist and for exceptional people, we make exceptions. My big treat, normally on Friday or Saturday evenings, is watching a Hindi film at the nearest multiplex. I recommend a Hindi movie to anyone looking for an instant stress buster. We eat a late-ish dinner, about 10pm. I read till 2am and keep the light on, much to my husband's grievance. We've been married for so long but even now, when he reads with me, he chats and it drives me up the wall. My work is not about reporting. It's about observation and I'm acutely alive to change. I'm excited by newness. There is always far more material than columns and books and that's a good place to be in. The source of inspiration has not turned dry. I've never run out of ideas. My work speaks for itself. Every book is a best-seller and no critic or other author has been able to stop it from being a success.'