By Chaitanya Padukone
It was with disbelief, and shock that I reacted to the sudden, sad news that this kind-hearted gem-of-a-lady Dr. Snehlata Pandey (85 years) is ‘no more’. Most of the current young generation may possibly relate to her as celeb actress-model Ananya Panday’s daadi (grandma) and as popular actor Chunky Pandey’s mother. But, in the early ‘80s, much before Chunky Pandey made his acting debut, it was ‘author’ Dr. Snehlata who used to be frequently in the media-limelight. As an eminent weight-loss consultant-gynaec (of ‘Slimelle’ fame) for actress Rekha and several other top Bollywood stars and elite socialites.
Interestingly, the very first time when I wrote about Chunky (real name-Suyash) in the print-media, I referred to him as Dr. Snehlata Pandey’s handsome son. Simply because, then, I didn’t even know his name. Later, when I got to personally know Dr. Sneh and her courteous, modest husband, ace cardiac-surgeon Dr. Sharad Pandey, I used to be invited to their homely star-studded private parties (at Monisha Apartments) which always had over a dozen top film stars in attendance. And Chunky, those days was a popular smart-dude busy ‘model’ but looking forward to get an acting big-break—with no inclination towards a medical career.
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Even before he made his filmy debut, Chunky and I had become very good friends and his mother Dr. Snehlata would always treat me like a family member with so much apnapan, care and concern. “My mother has always been my pillar of solid support whenever I face any dilemma or crisis in life.” Chunky would share with me. Whenever I needed guidance she would always be there to counsel me like a ‘guardian angel’. When during 1987 I was admitted to a hospital in Central Mumbai for severe food poisoning, it was Dr. Snehlata who personally came to see me after the visiting hours, to check on my condition and even spoke to the medical team attending on me.
When my daughter (Apeksha) was born, many years ago, she personally dropped in at the maternity hospital and blessed the new-born baby. More recently, in December 2017, when my daughter got married, Dr. Snehlata called me up, twice, just to ‘bless’ the bridal couple, while son Chunky Panday made it a point to attend the wedding reception. Reason I am sharing this, is because, other than your own Parents, you rarely come across such ‘genuinely-caring’ persons–without expecting anything in return.
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As the Pandey family members walked in for a ‘final darshan’ of their departed Grandma, it was heart-rending to see (grand-daughters) sisters Rysa and Ananya Panday so inconsolable and sobbing, even as mother Bhavana Pandey was consoling them. With great difficulty, Chunky was holding back his grief as he proceeded to perform the final rites of his beloved mother.
When I spoke to a bereaved, yet calm Chunky last evening (11th July) he reacted, “My Mom lived a dignified, full life and passed away peacefully. It all happened in our presence at our bungalow, even before we could rush her to the hospital. Somehow I feel we should celebrate her life—she was our inspiring icon. Since she was a Doctor, I wish to perpetuate her memory, by making the necessary donations maybe to a known hospital ,” disclosed Chunky. Maa, Tujhe Salaam—RIP Dr.