Updated: April 24, 2021 7:37:14 am
It was late Thursday evening when Sumitra Mahajan came to know of her “death”. By Friday evening, she was her old, lively self again. “False news of a person’s demise gives them a longer life,” she joked.
Two days ago, the 78-year-old former Lok Sabha Speaker was admitted in Indore’s Bombay Hospital with mild fever. Since her grandson, granddaughter and daughter-in-law had tested positive for Covid, she also underwent a test.
The result was negative — but by then, the rumours had started. They soon became news as MP Shashi Tharoor, who himself is recovering from Covid, posted a condolence tweet. Several leaders, cutting across party lines, followed.
Spoke to Sumitra Mahajan ji’s son to convey my sincere apologies at last night’s misinformation. He was most gracious & understanding. Delighted to hear she is very much better. Expressed my best wishes to her & her family.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) April 23, 2021
But before those tweets could take over the national news cycle, the air was cleared. “I am relieved if that is so. I received this from what I thought was a reliable source… Happy to retract and appalled that anyone would make up such news,” Tharoor posted, along with an image of a message he had received about the “death”.
By then, the Mahajan household was rattled. “My younger son, Mandar Mahajan, called me up in the evening after getting the news. He had come to meet me to check on my health and then suddenly called an hour later to ask if I was doing alright.
It was then that I learnt about this news doing the rounds,” said Mahajan.
And then, the calls started flooding in. “I answered all of them and reassured them. But my biggest concern was my elder brother and sister as all the TV channels in Maharashtra began flashing this news. I also asked my daughter-in-law to inform my elder son, who has gone to America, that I am healthy,” she said.
It was from one such call that Mahajan came to know about Tharoor’s tweet. “I told them in all humility that if Parliamentarians are tweeting without information then (Lok Sabha Speaker) Om Birla should look into it and ask why he did this. What will I do? People have even made this viral,” she said, referring to an audio clip of her conversation with an aide.
Mahajan’s aide, Ram Mundra, confirmed that as soon as the “false news” started circulating, she called and asked him to set the record straight. “We contacted the office of Speaker Om Birla, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and BJP state chief V D Sharma… the news was later denied by the offices of both Tomar and Sharma,” Mundra said.
Mahajan said she did call Birla herself, too, but to inform that Tharoor had called her younger son to apologise and stress that he was “very attached” to her.
Looking back now at the bizarre episode, she said: “I just have a hearty laugh about such incidents.” Laughing once more, she added: “If you want, you can make this viral too.”
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