A born rebel she broke the age-old tradition of Kashmiri Pandits when she attained the first name of her father as her surname albeit with some modification. Poshkar became Pushkar and Sunanda Dass became Sunanda Pushkar.
Friends remember her as a bold girl with no inhibitions who could speak her heart out on critical issues.
“She was always giving bold statements what we could not do as girls… She had no inhibitions.
When we did our first workshop of Kashmir Vahini she sent her statement over phone,” Dr Khema Koul, Sunanda’s childhood friend and spokesperson of Kashmira Vahini, an apex body of Kashmiri migrant Pandit women, told dna.
Hailing from Bomai village of the apple-rich town of Sopore, Sunanda’s family migrated to Jammu after the onset of militancy leaving behind all the land, orchards and a grand house. Her father Poshkar Nath Dass retired as Lieutenant Colonel from the army and one of her brothers is currently serving the forces.
Dass clan was known for their riches, benevolence and generosity in Bomai which housed around 100 Pandit families before migration. Such was their influence that their moholla was named `Dass Pora’ in the apple bowl of north Kashmir.
Before marrying Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda had married twice. Her first marriage to Sanjay Raina of Srinagar ended in a divorce. Raina’s website describes him as “one of India’s leading stage performers and pop” and who spearheads an entertainment management company
Later she married a Kerala businessman Sujeet Menon who was dealing with firefighting equipment. He later went to Dubai where he organised some events of south Indian film stars which however flopped. He returned and later died in an accident in Delhi. She has a son from her second marriage.
“It is a big loss for Kashmir and particularly the migrant community. She has always related to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. She recently identified with the cause when she spoke about Article 370 (which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir in Indian union),” said Dr Koul.