This appeared in The Week
As expected, the story is as good as dead in the media.... how swiftly we move on...
Sunanda’s sad saga….
As I write this, my thoughts are focused on Shiv Menon – orphaned at the tender age of twenty-one. Shiv is Sunanda Pushkar’s son from one of her earlier marriages. His father died in a car accident years ago. And last week, Shiv lost his mother, Sunanda, who was found dead in her lavish suite at the opulent Lee la Palace Hotel in Delhi. Her death was described by the Delhi police as “sudden and unnatural’’. Television coverage of his mother’s funeral, showed a tiny young person bravely fighting back tears as he dutifully performed the prescribed last rites, along with Sunanda’s husband. I am sure a lot of hearts went out to the frail lad while he struggled to retain his composure as flashbulbs popped incessantly, capturing every grimace and tear. Sure, he is not the first young man to be orphaned. But given the harsh glare of publicity that surrounded his 52-year-old mother’s tragic death, it was inevitable that Shiv’s every reaction and move would be relentlessly tracked, even before the poor fellow had had the chance to absorb the enormity of the tragedy.
What happens to Shiv next? I am looking at it in purely practical terms. Where will he live from now on? How? With whom? What’s ‘home’ for him? Did he ever really have one he belonged to ? How will society treat him? Is moving in with his grand- father – Sunanda’s dad – the only answer? Or will his step-father assume charge? Take responsibility? What about his two step-brothers? And the extended political family / community in Delhi? The same people who once fawned over his glamourous mother and kootchi-kooed him – will they have time for him now that Sunanda is no more? Does he have friends – good friends – who can see him through these difficult times? What happens to his plans of making it in Bollywood? Will film makers still open doors for him without his well-connected mother to steer his career and utilize her countless contacts? That’s the downside. Let’s look at the upside. This may prove to be Shiv’s biggest test to grow up. And grow up fast. Sunanda was known to be a loving mother who doted on her only child. Through all her tumultuous times, Shiv had been her one constant. The steadying, sobering factor. Watching his spirited mother’s descent into physical and emotional hell must have taken a gigantic toll on the boy. It is never easy on a child whose single parent happens to be a high profile celebrity, living in a glass house, with enough detractors ready to throw stones at her. As it had happened to Sunanda during her final, agonizing days. I keep wondering what Shiv must have gone through as Sunanda engaged in ugly spats with the ‘other woman’ who was hitting back viciously, often aiming way below the belt.
I feel for Shiv. His mother was a fragile and vulnerable woman behind the tough, brazen façade. He had seen her swing from euphoria to depression, panic to exultation. God knows what sort of storms he had witnessed as her latest marriage was falling apart. And God knows how he will find the strength to battle all those demons that may haunt him for the rest of his life. I can’t help thinking of Prateik, Smita Patil’s young son, who lost his mother just after she gave birth to him. Raised by Smita’s aged parents, Prateik’s growing up years were defined by confusion and rebellion. Today, he may be a recognized name in Bollywood. But Prateik is also fighting several ghosts as he struggles to make something of his life in a highly competitive industry. Both these boys represent the complex emotional dilemmas young people have to confront in these troubling times. If Shiv can successfully negotiate the next phase of his life without cracking up, he’ll emerge that much stronger. At this point, nobody knows the exact status of Sunanda’s legacy – did she leave behind a valid will? Will her son be financially secure? Does he have any contact with his late father’s family? Cousins and other relatives he can count on ? Where are his dependable support systems when he needs them the most?
Sunanda’s dramatic life and sudden death attracted a huge amount of negative attention… and there was Shiv, a lost child at the centre of this terrible vortex, desperately trying to make some sense of the ghastly turn of events. His mother was incredibly proud of him…she had big dreams for her boy. She had even bigger dreams for herself. Shiv will be flying solo from now on. Even the people who may be consoling him currently,will eventually move on… as it inevitably happens. He needs all the courage in the world to cope on his own as he navigates life’s shark infested waters. The loss of the most important person in his tender life is impossible to fill. But I hope he knows there are people out there who genuinely care.