Sundanda Mehta on Sunanda Puushkar Part I – Day 1736

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Just finished 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.

Sunanda had 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.

That morning, 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.

The Rahul 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.

Prema Sridevi 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 either.

Another call 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.

Meanwhile, at 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.

Later that 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.


Speaking Tiger – Day 1728

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For over three decades, Upamanyu Chatterjee has been an utterly distinctive and daring literary voice, with few equals among contemporary writers of fiction. In the twelve long stories that comprise this volume, he investigates, as only he can, the absurd comedy and the grand horrors of the human condition. The book opens with his most recent story, written in 2018, which follows Thomas Roe, the much-feted English Ambassador to the court of Jahangir, as he bumbles through a subcontinent far larger than his imagination can accommodate; and it concludes with the title story, written in 1985, in which a young Sikh sequestered in his parents’ home in Mussoorie, and debilitated by jaundice and ennui, listens disinterestedly to news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi.

A magisterial collection of stories—each as rich as a novel—The Assassination of Indira Gandhi is destined to become a classic of Indian literature has been shortlisted for The Hindu Prize 2019 – Fiction category.

The acclaimed author of the novels English, August: An Indian Story (1988), The Last Burden (1993), The Mammaries of the Welfare State (2000), which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for writing in English, Weight Loss (2006), Way to Go (2011), which was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award, and Fairy Tales at Fifty (2014); and the novella The Revenge of the Non-vegetarian (2018), which was shortlisted for the Crossword Jury Award.

In 2008, he was awarded the Order of Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government for his contribution to literature.


Ancient wisdom of Garbh Sanskar- Day 1692

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Some of us believe that we will receive what we are destined to and do not make much effort beyond that to attract the same in our direction. Nothing comes without effort and devotion. To desire an ideal partner, we must first visualize one, and to desire a superior baby as well, we must visualize it.

Parents are responsible for the shaping of their children’s character and if they are disappointed with the outcome, they need to reflect on what went wrong when they conceived their baby. If your child is always bitter and angry, there is a possibility that you were disappointed and hostile during pregnancy and unwittingly transmitted the same sentiment to your child.

If we are responsible for the quality of children we bring into this world, it is to our advantage that we are enlightened to the secrets of the foetus because the fact is that good crops blossom in fertile land and great children blossom out of aware parents.


#ShapingOfSeed published by #AslanReads can be pre-ordered on


Countdown begins- Day 1690

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All the mothers who bring a new life into the universe and all the fathers who make this possible…

The book is a result of innumerable conversations with doctors, surgeons, psychologists, parents, and children in India and abroad. The names have been changed to preserve the It is believed that the journey of an individual begins inside his/her mother’s womb. The child is a result of its genes and its environment and parents, if they are evolved, have the power to affect, alter and influence the moral, emotional and intellectual fiber of the child right from the time of conception.

Creation of human life is a magical experience. While our ancestors described it as a blessing from the Almighty, our Vedas and Upanishads dictate that everything that happens in the universe is predetermined from the moment the foetus takes root in the uterus.

Revealing the title and the cover of my new book tomorrow, so watch this space….


Krishna & Bachchanalia- Day 1688

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Krishna – The God who lived as Man is a trans-creation of Kajal Vaidya Oza’s Krishnaayan in Gujarati. It is my first at outside of cinema and there are too many miracles associated with it to be passed off as co-incidences. Lord Krishna is the eighth child of his parents; I am the eighth of my parents. It is my eighth book and it was published in 2008 and these are sufficient reasons to justify why the book occupies a special place in my heart and will continue to do so for ever.

A decade ago I was heading a film portal focused on Amitabh Bachchan and was compiling credits and trivia of all his films. A chance meeting with Neville Tulli of Osians was the beginning of a magnificent book Bachchanalia (2009) published a decade after my first The Legend on the actor in 1999. Bachchanalia is a celebration of an actor’s extra-ordinary body of work spanning 4 decades and 100 plus films.

My tenth book and third book on Bachchan Amitabh Lexicon (2011) is a compilation of selective words from the alphabets of the English language associated with different scenes from the actor’s body of work – scenes where he made you cry, laugh and all shook up.  Like he says in his film Namak HalaalLo karlo baat…aaree English to aisi aave hain ke I can leave angrez behind…I can talk English, I can walk English, and I can laugh English…”

To be continued…


Stories & Biographies- Day 1687

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Story So Far was an initiative by India Express Group to document Hindi cinema from its origin to the year of publication 2003. Books like these are made special by rare pictures available to me from the Screen library, a tame. My fifth book Cinema Images & Issues (2004) are a collection of film essays – some explored as academic study, while some retained as stubborn memories that refuse to fade.  The concerns for the issues, I admit, came in much later after I had sufficient exposure to the world of movies and the confidence to disagree/ debate on what I watched on screen.

I had no idea that attending a dance ballet by Hema Malini playing Draupadi and commenting on it in my editorial would result in my sixth book Hema Malini – Authorised Biography (2006). This was my second biography after Amitabh Bachchan co-incidentally both superstars of the 70s and the 80s. Initially Hema Malini wanted a book only on her as a dancer but I insisted on including the woman and the actor because I knew publishers would not be happy printing a boo dancer and Hema understood and accepted my decision. The pressures and the process of journeying her life and getting to understand her as a person is an experience I will always cherish.

It was an ordinary day and I was checking my mails when I came across Publisher Rohit Gupta of Pustak Mahal asking me for a quick/ easy read book on cinema. Fragmented Frames (2007) is a collection of essays delving on the genesis and growth of Hindi cinema, capturing the magic and the madness of show business. It travels you through varied subjects and phases of the dream world and was proudly released by Gulzar saab in Mumbai.

To be continued…


Salaam Bollywood- Day 1686

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I’m often asked how long it takes to write a book, it is never an easy question to answer because I work on my books along with my regular job so it is difficult for me to keep a track still I would roughly describe it as year-long journey from the concept to its execution.

My second book, Salaam Bollywood (2000) tells about my experiences as a film journalist. In my early days I was often asked how it felt to be a film scribe and if I believed in the people I wrote about. I did. The book is about the other side of stardom. The better side, of creativity and compassion, of warmth and wisdom – that an outsider will never know…The irony however is that for those I write about, I will always remain the outsider. The book was originally titled Salaam Showbiz but my UK Publisher felt a title with Bollywood will bring better sales! He was right.

Take 25 (2001) is a tribute to the 80s decade, a lowly phase for the mainstream movies but an important decade in film journalism where writers were encouraged to do in-depth stories with the dream merchants. This was the golden phase for feature writing where actors opened their hearts and homes and we splashed their quotes in colour double spreads of art paper illustrated with glamorous pictures. The book captures a leisurely era and a baggage free mindset when life was innocent and joy was in small things.

To be continued…


A book is born – Day 1685

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Most of the stories we read in childhood began with three famous words, long, long ago…

My story as an author began in the summer of 1999 when I penned a chronicle on Amitabh Bachchan profiling his life and times. My art director of the magazine I edited at that time illustrated my narrative with file pictures and the result was a book!

Amitabh Bachchan: The Legend was the first biography on a celebrity structured as a conversation and yet all the publishers I approached insisted that I rewrite the content as a narrative. I disagreed because I wanted to retain the voice of the actor and also the voices of those who worked with him – his leading ladies and his filmmakers and finally found somebody who agreed with me.

The 90s was an important decade in journalism because it introduced computers and the internet. The year 1999 ushered the electronic media and the first flash of the new millennium ‘paparazzi’, at that time understood as ‘euphoria’, was evident at the launch of my debut book in Mumbai’s leading book shop when the cameras could not stop clicking superstar Amitabh Bachchan!!

To be continued…


Obsessed with Keshava – Day 1671

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The first, Krishna: The God who lived as Man about the deity and the women in his life is a translation from Gujarati to English. The book focuses on Radha, Rukmini and Draupadi but I got fascinated with Krishna’s youngest wife Satyabhma and unknowingly became partial to the character. This can and does happen and it is okay as long as the writer is conscious about it.


For Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession I  conceived  the concept and all the eight wonders – peacock, flute, the Kadamba tree, lotus, Tulsi plant, Kamadhenu, conch and the Peepal tree instinctively began to  read about them till I could consume them  no longer. All of them are obsessed with Lord Krishna and believe that he loves them the most. I remained obsessed with each of them till the book was complete and even now, I can never pass by a Peepal tree on the road without wondering if Krishna resides within the branches…I cannot pluck on a Tulsi leaf without wondering about her fate and if justice was done to her by her lord….


The lotus, the conch,   the Kadamb tree stay within me even as I write this…. There is a possibility that the characters get as attached to the writer’s mind and don’t leave until the writer consciously bids them farewell to make space for newer characters….







I write because I feel cleansed, because I feel happy… – Day 1669

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I am often asked if I like what  I do,  some ask me how do I write and others why do I write…? I have no answers. I write because it comes to me naturally, I write because I feel happy, I feel cleansed or maybe simply because I am accustomed to writing. It is like breathing and when I don’t it is like something is missing in my day.


As children we wrote with pencils, as we grew up we learnt to write with fountain pen on lined notebooks. When I started working, we were given ball points and writing pads. I learnt to correct what I had written with red ball point pens. I learnt to edit my writing using a felt pen marking paragraphs and punctuations. Then after a good night’s rest I would scrutinize every line and write a final draft out of the messy multi coloured manuscript in long hand.


In the 80s we learnt to befriend the typewriter keys even though there was just one typewriter in the office. In the 90s it was time to look at the screen and think and in 2000 the lap top wire became the umbilical cord that was never disconnected.

To be continued