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Mehr’s bond: books, cricket and Kerala

Islamabad, Jan. 16: Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar has laughed off allegations of being in love with a “thrice-married man”.

“I am not a teenager or a type of a person who may fall in love with a thrice-married man,” Tarar, 45, told The Telegraph over phone from Lahore.

Tarar’s profile on Twitter describes her as “a mom, former op-ed editor of the Daily Times, Pakistan, and columnist”.

The journalist said she knew Tharoor and admired him but stressed that her discussions with him on books, cricket and his home state Kerala should not be “misunderstood”.

Asked if she has ever been in touch with Tharoor on Twitter, Tarar said: “How can one write florid messages on a public domain like Twitter?”

Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar had claimed she had put on Tharoor’s Twitter account purported BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) messages from the Pakistani journalist who denied having enrolled herself for the messaging service.

Both BBM and Twitter offer users the option of sending private messages to another user. A private BBM or tweet cannot be viewed by anyone except the intended recipient. BBM messages can also be sent to a group of users and tweets can be public tweets, which are visible to anyone, even those who do not have Twitter accounts.

“I have been in touch with Mr. Tharoor by phone and emails and I have always been very outspoken about my liking for him but it should not be misunderstood,” Tarar told this newspaper.

She said she went to India in April last year and interviewed Tharoor. “I spoke to him a few times thereafter because I wanted to write a book on Indian elections. But our discussions (were) always confined to the books that he has written. In fact, I also wrote a review on one of his books,” Tarar said. “We talked about books, we talked about politics and we talked about cricket but it should not be misunderstood.”

Tarar said she wished a wonderful marriage to the couple. “I hope you have a wonderful marriage,” she said but added that Pushkar had dragged her into a mess unnecessarily. “I wish them all the best and hope they will not drag me further into this controversy.”

“How horrible it is to stand up and call me an ISI agent,” she said, referring to Pushkar’s tweets. “Sunanda has done the most dangerous thing to me by calling me an ISI agent.” Tarar did not forget to thank “all Indians who extended their support to her”. “They have really condemned everything she (Sunanda) has done and I am grateful to them for their support,” the journalist said.

She seemed to be referring to tweets such as one by Shivangini Pathak, which said: “We all support you Mehr you have been poised & dignified continue your work. We love you.”

Another from a handle called Swamy Bhakt said: “Do u really think ppl will unfollow u just coz she (Sunanda) said that? lol (laugh out loud)... Neither she’s the enlightened one nor we r her subjects.”

The journalist, considered to be an ardent advocate of India-Pakistan bonhomie through her writings, clarified her stand in a blog that she wrote after the incident came to light.

She wrote that Tharoor was one of the first persons she had followed on Twitter when she joined the social networking site. The minister began following her in March 2013, according to her blog. “I am a great admirer of his work. I wish there were more politicians like him,” she blogged.

“I met him in Delhi in his office in April 2013. We spoke for 45 minutes and then continued the interview in his car. I also met him in June at an awards event in Dubai. In some emails and calls, we spoke about Kerala elections, I was considering writing a book on Kerala and he offered me tips and advice. I am not on BlackBerry Messenger with him, so I was startled by his wife’s comments. I have never met his wife,” she added.

Rubbishing reports that she intended to sue Pushkar, Tarar wrote: “In her tweets, she has accused me both of stalking him and of having an affair with him. How can it be both? It just shows there are wild allegations. Her tweets to me are so crazy that all I can do is laugh. Where is the question of suing her?”