Till about two weeks ago Sunanda Pushkar was merely a speculation. Today she’s news. As soon as the claim that she holds 18 per cent in the new Kochi IPL team (a stake worth about Rs 69 crore) was blared, out came more malicious tattle — that she is “close” to junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor, that her rise on the social ladders is nothing short of a sensation, that she has a rather colourful past.
Eyebrows were raised by the chatterati when Pushkar was spotted with Tharoor at Congressman Jitin Prasada’s wedding two months ago. A few questions were asked. And it turned out that Tharoor’s “romantic interest” had a Canadian passport. Those who claimed to know her “very well” had two extreme reactions — some described her as an extremely intelligent and capable businesswoman; others said she “would stop at nothing to get what she wanted”.
So who is this 40-something lady? Sunanda Pushkar is a hotel management graduate who was born to a family of Kashmiri pandits. Her father, Retd. Lieutenant Colonel Poshkar Nath Dass, lived in Bomai in Jammu’s Sopore district. A young Sunanda — ‘Sue’ to her friends — took her father’s first name as her last, and Poshkar eventually evolved into Pushkar.
One person who claims to have known the family at the time says on the condition of anonymity: “Her decision to invent her own surname was talked about a lot. But if he (her father) was okay with it, who could object?”
This much we know. But what has been alleged or denied adds up to more.
Her lawyer Ashish Mehta told the media on Friday that she’s neither a beautician nor a spa owner. Nor is she a ‘socialite’ in Dubai. He insisted, instead, that “she has 20 years of hardcore work experience”.
Tharoor himself told a battery of television cameras: “Why can’t people accept that an attractive woman can be a capable professional? She’s had a career in business, she’s done a lot of brand management.”
Lieutenant Colonel Dass, now based in Jammu, told the press to “leave her alone” and that “she has suffered a lot in the past”, and wants her life to be a “happy one devoid of troubles”.
But trouble doesn’t seem to leave Sunanda alone. While working as a receptionist at the ITDC-run Centaur Lakeview in Srinagar, she met her first husband Sanjay Raina, a hotel management professional, in the early 1990s. The couple parted ways not long later.
She then married Dubai-based businessman Sujit Menon and had a son. Menon died in an accident a couple of years later and Sunanda stayed on in Dubai. That’s where she met Tharoor.
The rest, as it turned out, was 15 minutes of fame.