An excerpt from the book, The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sunanda Pushkar by Sunanda Mehta.

An endoscopy had been scheduled for the next day. While Regina was with Sunanda, Tharoor couldn’t quite arrive on time. Sunanda had said to Regina that day that as a husband Tharoor was required to be with his wife in this hour of need. Perhaps this was still on her mind when she was foggy from the influence of anaesthesia and started talking to Regina about all the ups and downs in her life and that the only man she had ever truly loved was Sujith.

‘She was talking to me while still partially under the effect of anaesthesia. You are unguarded at that time and speak the truth.’ says Regina.

‘With Sujith I would get angry, but with Shashi I get hurt,’ Sunanda had told her.

As Regina sat with Sunanda she noticed how every time a vein had to be found for taking a blood sample, it would leave her arm blue and bruised. She had become so delicate that if one held her hand tightly, it would leave blue marks on her skin. Regina had taken pictures of these marks to send to Shiv. Shiv and Sunanda had been fighting and he had not called her since she had arrived in Kerala, another matter that was tormenting Sunanda, making her hyper-sensitive and overly emotional.

It was only while Sunanda was undergoing her endoscopy that Tharoor arrived at the hospital. Since the procedure was going to take about an hour, Tharoor suggested to Regina that she take the car and go out to buy something for her sons Karan and Rohit. Regina did borrow the car, but instead of going shopping, she went to a church. Her mind was not at peace and her thoughts kept going back to Sunanda in the hospital. She came straight back to the hospital from the church.

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That day, yet another story had appeared in the papers about Sunanda’s spat with the journalist in Dubai. This time the issue snowballed into a major fight between Sunanda and Tharoor. She wanted him to respond to the stories and defend her, something he was clearly not up to doing at the time. She threatened to call up the press herself and issue a rebuttal if he didn’t. The hospital suite turned into a battleground, with both in attack mode. Tharoor was trying hard to maintain his composure, but it was proving difficult. Regina desperately attempted damage control as she tried to keep prying eyes and eavesdropping ears away from the rooms, sending off the attendants and nurses on chores just so there wouldn’t be too many witnesses to the brawl. Regina could see that Tharoor was very conscious of people around him so he usually kept quiet during a fight, but Sunanda would just blow up and say whatever she wanted to.

That day, yet another story had appeared in the papers about Sunanda’s spat with the journalist in Dubai. This time the issue snowballed into a major fight between Sunanda and Tharoor.

As was usual, things settled down in due time. Regina started packing for her trip back to Dubai, despite Sunanda’s pleas for her to stay on. But her son Rohit was returning to Germany and she needed to leave. From Thiruvananthapuram, Sunanda had planned to go to Delhi and stay at The Leela, and she asked Regina to join her. Their Delhi house was undergoing renovations. She and Regina could go to the hotel’s spa and relax. Even Tharoor told her they wanted to do something for her in return for all the support she had provided at this challenging time. But she could not be persuaded to stay back as she was keen to see her son off to Germany.

On the night of 14 January there was a big puja in Thiruvananthapuram, which Sunanda was keen to attend. She wanted Regina to go with her. But Regina was leaving early the next morning, so Tharoor offered to accompany Sunanda for the aarti if she wanted. At this Sunanda had exploded: ‘What do you mean if I want? Don’t you want to come with me?’

Tharoor could only look on helplessly. Later he told Regina that he didn’t know what to say, as whatever he said was being misconstrued by Sunanda and even a casual conversation would invariably metamorphose into a major argument.

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Sunanda was, of course, going through her own emotional battles and fighting her demons. From KIMS she tweeted, ‘Got so many issues diagnosed in KIMS that now who knows when I got 2 to go with joy hastay hue jayengay.’

The previous day, on Monday the 13th, Sunanda had ordered dosas for breakfast and they had turned out to be unpalatable. ‘Today is Monday and Shivji wants me to fast,’ she had said to Regina. ‘Hence all the food I am ordering is not good. He is making sure I don’t eat. He’s like that with my marriages too. I am so happy with my life otherwise, but every time I marry, he makes my life miserable.’

Sunanda had made another confession to Regina while still under the effect of anaesthesia. It was that she didn’t have the money people thought she did. Sunanda was referring to the IPL controversy. ‘Wherever it [the money] may be, I certainly don’t have it,’ she had said.

Regina left for Dubai on the morning of 14 January, making a mental note to call Shiv on landing and ask him to phone his mother and speak to her.

Sunanda and Tharoor had their change of clothes brought to the hospital as they were to go for the puja directly from there. The aarti was a celebration by the royal family of Kerala where they traditionally light up one lakh diyas. As the couple walked into the midst of the celebrations, they found that amongst the VIPs present were the state chief minister and the Director General of Police. There was also BJP politician Subramanian Swamy, who said he had been especially invited on account of his work for the cause of Hindutva.

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It was the first time Swamy was meeting Sunanda in person. Sunanda had immediately greeted him warmly, ‘Hello Mr Swamy, your daughter must have told you that I admire you a lot.’ Swamy’s daughter, Suhasini Haidar, is a well-known television news anchor. Swamy replied that he was very glad to note that Sunanda was a Kashmiri Pandit and that she should be fighting for the community and their rights. This subject was a bit disconcerting for Tharoor, as Sunanda had been very vocal about her stance on and support for Kashmiri Pandits, which he did not think was always politically correct. Nevertheless, Tharoor went through the perfunctory greetings with Swamy before the couple proceeded to meet the other invitees. Sunanda was her usual glowing self at the celebrations, and no one could have ever imagined the events that were to unfold over the next seventy-two hours.

The next day, on 15 January, the couple left for Delhi after Sunanda’s medical examination at KIMS was complete. On the flight, which also carried Congress leader Manish Tiwari, once again matters came to a head.

Sunanda, who by now was adept at accessing Tharoor’s phones, discovered that he had saved Mehr Tarar’s number under the name ‘Harish’. She also found some messages exchanged between them that enraged her. Already emotionally vulnerable and high-strung, this was the tipping point for Sunanda and she flew into a feral rage. An argument ensued and, as always, escalated into a major fight. A livid Sunanda slapped Tharoor in full view of the people in the aircraft, including their domestic help Narayan. After that she spent the better part of the flight in the bathroom.

Picture Credit: Sunanda Mehta/ Pan Macmillan India

Excerpted with permission from The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sunanda Pushkar by Sunanda Mehta, Pan Macmillan India.

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