Tears are rolling down my cheeks, as I begin to write this as a tribute to the wonderful person Gunjan Kapur, who lost her life this evening, battling for it in the ICU for almost a week.
A degree from London...
I first interacted with Gunjan over the phone in 2009, when she was studying in London. She did her dissertation for her M.A. Degree in Public Relations at the University of Westminster, London, with me as her guide for it.
The topic she chose for her thesis was, ‘How Shilpa Shetty became an iconic brand’ during and after the Celebrity Big Brother show in UK, which catapulted the Bollywood actress to international fame. The purpose of this study was to explore how the blend of strategic PR and branding, contributed in creating Brand Shilpa Shetty... and I have to say, Gunjan covered the subject exceptionally well.
Making me proud...
Returning to India after her graduation, Gunjan worked at a PR agency in Delhi, and quit that job and joined PROP (PR Orientation Programme), a 20-day workshop, which I conducted with around 10 students at my office in Mumbai in 2010.
When I had asked her, why she quit a full-fledged PR job, to join the workshop, she'd said, she wanted to learn more about PR. After the 20-day workshop of 3 hours a day, Gunjan gave me a great compliment. She told me, "I learnt more at PROP than what I learnt working at the PR agency in Delhi." I felt so proud hearing that.
At PROP, Gunjan was always a sparkling and smiling student and would listen to the lectures and talks of all the speakers including me, with unwavering concentration. She would also ask some very intelligent and thought-provoking questions in the Q&A sessions and had good team spirit.
After the workshop, I didn't get to interact with her, except on Facebook where she would like or comment on pics and status messages at times.
Meanwhile, Gunjan changed a few jobs and cities, and one day messaged me that she was starting her own PR agency in Mumbai. She had given me another reason to feel proud. The girl who did her thesis with me as the guide and learnt more from a workshop conducted by me, was now going to have a PR agency of her own. Sometime later, I learnt that Gunjan stopped working as an independent publicist, to work for the reputed Zee group's music division.
Around two weeks ago, Facebook intimated me about her birthday and I sent her birthday wishes on WhatsApp. Next day, I spoke to her and helped with an issue regarding her past phone number. In her brief chat, she told me she was happy working with Zee Music and that she had a great time celebrating her birthday a day ago. I was happy for her. The newbie I'd guided in whatever little way in PR, was now on her own feet and growing amazingly.
And then... suddenly...
And then... suddenly... after a few days, I got a call from one of my PR friends Pritam Sharma (who was a speaker at PROP) saying, he read a newspaper report stating Gunjan had an accident. My friend Akshaye Rathi too (who was also a speaker at PROP) got to know about this and we were so shocked and pained to hear about it. I managed to speak to Gunjan Kapur's friend and namesake, Gunjan Wathodkar, who gave me more details.
Apparently, she had fallen from the 4th floor of her apartment, which did not have a protecting grill, and landed on a car parked below. It sounded horrific and disturbing to think of... kind of stuff we only see in the movies.
I googled and read the news in the Mumbai Mirror tabloid, though later, her family informed me of discrepancies in the report. Also, I found no mention of the incident in any other media. The very media she catered to on a day-to-day basis as a PR, seemed to have given her a raw deal in her time of suffering.
Surprisingly, (and as per statements to Police) none of her friends present at her residence while this happened, saw her falling.
I visited her family at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute, where they were going through a tough time. Felt great pain and helplessness to see them going through the trauma of their daughter's state.
She was in the ICU... was declared brain dead by the doctors... but was breathing on ventilator. I was also told about some delays and indifference of some hospital staff which made matters worse for the family in agony.
For her friends, Friendship Day will never be the same again...
Gunjan's mom, father, brother, her colleague Neha Titus and some friends were there. I sat with them for a while, sometimes discussing, sometimes in silence, and sometimes thinking about how smart and intelligent Gunjan always was.
Today (Friendship Day) evening, I got to know that Gunjan is no more. Life is strange to some nice people. One moment its showering blessings. Next moment, it takes them all away.
A life of learning and achievement...
As the days and years pass by, life will go on for her family and friends... but the pain of life being cruel to a wonderful 27-year-old person will stay forever.
Gunjan lived a short life, but from whatever I knew of her, I can say that she lived a life of constant learning; a life of achievement.
She took off like a bird, flew high in her profession and has now flown speedily to God. May His company give her peace now and forever.