From being a down-to-earth girl from Kashmir to becoming one of India’s most glamorous celebrities, Sunanda Pushkar’s life was everything but mundane. And to sum up her extravagant life and death would have been a task in itself, but author and journalist Sunanda Mehta has aced it and how. Besides, who better to do the deed than someone who grew up with Pushkar as her namesake. Mehta went to the same school as Pushkar, while she was still a student there. She opens up about her motivation to write The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sunanda Pushkar, the challenges in the journey and moments she shared with Pushkar in a freewheeling chat with  SheThePeople.TV.

Important Not To Make It Sensational

While it is true that the entire mystery around how Pushkar died and even the life she lived, on itself gathers a lot of speculations and yet to strive to not make it into a sensational story must have been a tough mission. Mehta says, “This topic was so easy for it to succumb to just be a sensational book but I was very sure since the beginning that I do not want to make it that way. So even the brief which I wrote at the start of the book, it was worded in a very factual manner. I have been a journalist for three decades now and writing something just to create sensation isn’t something I have ever done in my life so writing this book was a challenge. I just wanted to write a biography which is objective, honest and it talks about a human being.”

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She continues, “We tend to forget the human being behind all the glitz and glamour. Everybody has been so enamoured by what she wore and what she spoke but no one deserves to die in the manner she did.”

Sunanda Mehta’s Memory of Sunanda Pushkar

About her own relationship with Pushkar, Mehta says that she was nothing like what she became later on in life but the one thing that remained constant in her was her ability to stay grounded. “There was no degree of glamour or outrageousness which she was synonymous with in terms of the comments she used to make. She enjoyed shocking people. I just wanted to trace the life of a simple girl from Kashmir and how she became this celebrity who would make heads turn and I wanted to do it in a manner that had no Page 3 element to it,” Mehta contends.

This topic was so easy for it to succumb to just be a sensational book but I was very sure since the beginning that I do not want to make it that way.

She remembers Pushkar as a simple, thin and tall girl with two plaits who was very straight-forward, nothing like the woman she would become. “In Jhansi, she had just started recognizing her attractiveness, her charm and confidence but what I always remember of her is that she was always down-to-earth. Even in those days, the whole of Jhansi couldn’t get over someone like Sunanda as she was so glamourous but she would just come home and never shied away from praising others and appreciating people around her. She never had any airs around her and that remained right till the end. She was never unapproachable.”

sunanda pushkar biography
Sunanda Mehta With Her Book

From her life extraordinaire to the mysterious way in which she passed away, Pushkar’s story is no less dramatic than a film. Mehta assets that she got into a roller coaster ride that she couldn’t get off. “Maybe somewhere, her middle-class moorings, her upbringing which was very grounded, did not prepare her for the life she opted for,” she opines.

The challenges of writing about Sunanda Pushkar

However, writing this book did not come easy to Mehta. As the investigation in her death is still going on, several people refused to talk to her. When they agreed, Mehta had to pursue them strenuously and when they spoke, Mehta had to verify every detail of every word spoken to her. “Every event had different versions so I did not include any event that did not have at least two people verify it,” she says. Even the most mundane details of Pushkar’s life like her birth date had Mehta researching documents from her passport to her post mortem report to her children, “And from the fact that she was a year senior from my own age in school” as everywhere else, her age was mistaken, Mehta claims.

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We tend to forget the human being behind all the glitz and glamour. Everybody has been so enamoured by what she wore and what she spoke but no one deserves to die in the manner she did.

While Pushkar’s husband, who is also the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Dr Shashi Tharoor did not speak to Mehta because the case is still on, she says that he was ‘gracious’ enough to allow people who asked his permission to talk. “He let me use a lot of pictures which had come to me from the family but he himself did not speak and I wish he had.”

Through her book, Mehta wants people to learn to know when someone needs them. “I am sure her son, her husband feel that they should have been there with her on the last day of her life. So what people take away from this book is that when you get that instinct that someone needs you, you just be there for that person.

Picture credit- Sunanda Mehta/ Pan Macmillan India

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