Seeking answers to the real Sunanda Pushkar
Just who was Sunanda Pushkar? A businesswoman par excellence, a socialite or a high-profile politician's wife. Just like her death in a hotel room in the national capital on January 17, 2014 has raised more questions than have been answered, there is no easy way to define the Sunanda that lived.
"There are undoubtedly many who will still remember and sorely miss her, but with time, the memories have been packed and stored away in the deep recesses of their minds," author Sunanda Mehta writes in "The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sunanda Pushkar" (Pan Macmillan) that released earlier this month.
Mehta, who studied with Pushkar at a convent in Ambala, remembered her childhood friend at a discussion here on Tuesday, describing her as "at once warm, cheerful, outrageous and a wee bit manipulative, just like all of us".
Pushkar's close friend Nalini Singh, a senior journalist and perhaps the last person to speak to her before she died, added a sombre note: "Sunanda Mehta's book is the chronicle of a death foretold for twenty-first century India."
"Sunanda had told me that we needed to retrieve/decode Shashi's (husband Shashi Tharoor) phone messages," Nalini Singh said of her conversation with Sunanda Pushkar the night before her death.
The reference was to Mehr Tarar, the Lahore-based Pakistani journalist, who, according to the biography, "was the real trouble" in the Pushkar-Tharoor household and was a major factor in the collapse of her marriage to the diplomat-turned-politician.
"Everything else that was exploding around them was a mere spin-off from the core issue that had turned Sunanda from a feisty, vivacious and confident woman into a suspicious, cantankerous, antagonistic wife scrambling for proof of her husband's infidelity," Mehta writes in Pushkar's biography.
"Too much publicity had an adverse effect on the case," Meeran Chadha Borwankar, an IPS officer who retired as the head of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) and who was closely associated with Pushkar, said.
The moderator, senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, summed up the general feeling, saying: "Delhi didn't deserve her", bringing to mind what she had written in January 2015, a year after Pushkar's death: "Delhi can forgive anything...But it cannot forget a politician's wife with a personality."