reading Sunanda Pushkar and
reproducing excerpt of the book with author Sunanda Mehta’s permission.
AT AROUND 2:30
a.m., on the morning of 17 January 2014, an exhausted Sunanda seemed to calm
down a little. She had chain-smoked through the night until that point.
At around 4:10
a.m. she sent a message to journalist Prema Sridevi, who was with Times Now at
the time, asking her to come and meet Sunanda immediately. She had called Prema
the previous day as well, saying she wanted to talk to the press and blow the
lid off IPL. Prema, in fact, had spent the better part of the day at The Leela
trying to get an interview with Sunanda, but could not get past Narayan.
At 4:15 a.m.,
Sunanda sent another message, this time to Barkha Dutt, saying she wanted to
give her an interview that very day. She seemed to have her plan for the day chalked
out. The next person she called was Shiv. When Shiv answered, Sunanda
immediately picked up from where they had left off. Their arguments over his
lifestyle and ‘lack of seriousness in life’ continued. Shiv, who had put aside
his resentment by now, asked his mother to control her anger and stop the
public show of her personal crisis with Tharoor. The argument went on till
about 4:30 a.m.
relaxed for a bit after the call with her son, as no matter the subject of
their conversation, his voice always brought her some emotional respite.
It was around
6:30 a.m. when Sunanda finally fell asleep, after asking Narayan to give her a
foot massage. Tharoor left for the AICC meeting at around the same time. Just
before falling asleep, though, she instructed Narayan to make sure he got one
of her favourite dresses from the dry cleaners ready for her to wear. She told
him it was for a meeting in the evening. Narayan then left the suite, and
Bajrangi, the driver, took over the watch. Narayan returned only at around 4
p.m., with R. K. Sharma, Tharoor’s other personal secretary.
Rahul Kanwal, who was supposed to anchor from the Congress convention at the
Talkatora stadium, where Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to make a big speech, woke
up early to find a series of missed calls from Sunanda. The calls were made
past 1 a.m., when his phone was on silent mode and he was fast asleep. Sunanda
texted to say that she had watched the show at midnight and that she was very
upset with what Mehr had said. She said Mehr had ruined her life and that
Sunanda wouldn’t allow her to get away with it. And she wanted to do the
interview they had spoken about.
Gandhi speech was slated to be a decisive one for Congress, which was pressing
for Gandhi to don the mantle of the party’s prime-ministerial candidate. Much
was riding on the success of the meet and the speech. The Sunanda interview
would have to wait, Kanwal thought.
too saw the message Sunanda had sent her only when she woke up at 7 a.m. on 17
January. She called Sunanda at around 9 a.m., but there was no reply, so she
called Narayan and asked to be connected to Sunanda. He told her she was
sleeping and that she had been awake all night without having eaten much
that went unanswered on Sunanda’s phone, amongst many that morning was from
Zarine Khan. She had been closely following the messy drama of the past two
days, and had first called up Shashi around mid-morning on the 17th. Zarine
could not be a silent bystander anymore. She had great regard for Shashi and
was pained to think about what he must have been going through. Zarine was very
friendly with Sunanda, but was not blind to her belligerent behaviour of the
past few days. Sunanda was amongst the warmest and most loving persons she
knew, but Zarine had perceived that there was another distinct side to her too.
Sunanda could imagine the most bizzare of situations and say outrageous things
that one knew could never be true, just to give the impression that she was
very important. She would often talk about how one day she would be the prime
minister of India. And while she was insanely possessive of Shashi, the last
few days she had been bad-mouthing him in front of all her friends, about how
he was a miser and she had to spend all her money to run the household. It was
even more disturbing to Zarine because Shashi, through all this, remained the
gentleman he was and never retaliated with any remarks that would show Sunanda
down. She decided it was time she reached out to Shashi and offered some support.
She decided to invite them both over to her place so that they could for a few
hours escape the controversies brewing in the capital.
When Zarine put
forward her invitation to Tharoor, he told her that he was with Rahul Gandhi at
the moment at the AICC meet and it would be better if she called up Sunanda
instead. So Zarine called Sunanda next, at around 11.30 a.m., only to have the
call go unanswered. She hung up, thinking she would try another time.
the Talkatora stadium, Rahul Kanwal bumped into Tharoor, who was clearly upset
and told him he should not have done his interview with Mehr. Tharoor revealed
to Rahul how Sunanda had fought with him over it. Rahul in turn invited Tharoor
to join him on Centre Stage that evening. They agreed to meet at 9.30
p.m before Tharoor went his way.
On the way back
from Talkatora, Rahul thought he would stop over at The Leela where Sunanda was
staying and record his interview with her. He called her a couple of times but
got no answer. So he drove back to his studio in Noida.
evening, Sunanda’s friend Sanjay Dewan reached the hotel. It was around 5 p.m.
Sanjay was to leave for Mumbai later that day. A day earlier he had texted
Tharoor – whom he had known well since 2006 – to ask how things were.
Tharoor had responded late in the
night. The next day, when he again texted Tharoor on his way to the airport to
enquire about Sunanda, Tharoor requested him to stay on in Delhi as he said
their scraps were getting worse. He told Sanjay that he was at the very
important AICC general session and asked him intervene with Sunanda on his
behalf, to try and calm her down as she was not well and not eating properly.
Sanjay cancelled his Mumbai trip and texted the Tharoors’ domestic help Narayan
to ask about Sunanda’s health. Each time he called, Narayan told him that
Sunanda was sleeping. Around 4:30 p.m., Narayan called back to say that Sunanda
should be up soon and that he could come to the hotel if he wanted to.