The woman whose presence you couldn’t ignore was a girl her classmates scarcely remember now. Sunanda Mehta pieces together the shy, introverted Sunanda Pushkar they knew from school and small cantonment towns who, once she came into her own, couldn’t be held back.
Simple. Quiet. Unassuming. Not quite the adjectives one would readily employ to describe Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, the late wife of Union minister Shashi Tharoor, who was found dead on Friday evening in a Delhi hotel. Yet these were precisely the words making the rounds on at least two Whatsapp groups as the news of her death filtered in, along with shock and grief at the tragedy.
One message said, “She was in my school but don’t remember talking to her much at all.” Another said, “I just have a very vague recollection of her”, while one was a little more precise: “Wasn’t she that very quiet and studious Red House captain with long plaits?”
Sunanda Pushkar, of the wavy blond tresses, lilting loud laugh and a presence you certainly could not ignore, clearly travelled a long way from her growing-up years in small cantonment towns such as Ambala and Jhansi, given that most of her former schoolmates from the Convent of Jesus of Mary (CJM), Ambala, and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jhansi, two of the many schools she studied in as children from the defence forces typically do, had a tough time Friday placing her from their school years. To the few who did seem to know her better, she was this thin, Kashmiri girl, with the traditional red threads dangling from her pierced ears, very polite, but one who kept mostly to herself.
Michelle Pinto, a former British Airways air hostess and now a soft skills trainer in Pune, was a classmate of Sunanda at CJM, Ambala. “Our respective fathers, who were from the defence services, were posted there at the same time. Not only were we classmates, we were also on the student council together, she being captain of the Red House. Sunanda was a shy and unassuming girl at school and kept a low profile. As we were captains of different houses, we were in almost constant competition at inter-house events,” recalls Pinto.
Devinder Sharma, a senior marketing manager with a diagnostic firm in Chandigarh, was also a classmate at CJM, Ambala, and remembers Sunanda as an introvert. “She joined CJM in Std VII or VIII. She was in my section. I remember she was always neatly dressed, carried a smile on her face and was very disciplined. She didn’t mix much with boys in the class, so I had very limited interaction with her.”
Even Neelam Pratap Rudy, wife of MP and BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who studied with Sunanda both in the Ambala and Jhansi schools, admits to continued…