She had always remained in the background, smiling graciously at invited guests from her wheelchair during events held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. First Lady Suvra Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukherjee’s wife of 58 years, died here on Tuesday, it was announced.
The first lady was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Army’s Research And Referral Hospital here two weeks back. President Mukherjee cut short his two-day visit to Odisha and returned to the national capital that evening itself. She was known to be suffering from a heart ailment.
“Suvra Mukherjee died after a cardiac arrest. She was on ventilator till the time of her death,” Army’s Research And Referral Hospital PRO Sanjay Kumar told IANS.
Married to Pranab Mukherjee on July 13, 1957, Suvra Mukherjee was an accomplished Rabindra Sangeet exponent. The couple have two sons and a daughter. Her son Abhijeet Mukherjee is a Congress MP from Jangipur, West Bengal, while daughter Sharmistha is an accomplished dancer and has joined the Congress party. Another son is Indrajit Mukherjee.
Suvra Mukherjee was born in Narail, Bangladesh, where her relatives still live.
During his state visit to Bangladesh in March 2013, President Mukherjee paid his first visit to his “sosur bari”, or in-laws’ house, where the couple were given the traditional welcome accorded to newly-weds, complete with conch-shells being blown and ‘uloo dhoni’ and ‘mangal deep’ aarti.
The grand family welcome at Bhadrabila village, some 9 km from Narail town, probably made up for the physical stress she had to endure, being wheel-chair bound throughout the trip.
She is not known to have accompanied her husband on a foreign tour after that.
Her ancestors had migrated to India in early 1950s after the 1947 partition.
In an interview to Times of India in July 2012, just after Pranab was named as the next president, Suvra told the daily that she and her husband had never had a fight.
“We are not like today’s couples. It’s not a lovey-dovey relationship and we don’t express our emotions overtly. It’s all in the mind and heart. We don’t really indulge in small love talk. At our age, it’s more about depending on each other wholeheartedly. His love for me is different. Every day, after his bath he comes to me, touches my forehead and recites some mantras. He does this every day of the year and yesterday was no exception. This is how he expresses his love. We’ve been married for 55 years and we haven’t fought for a single day!”
Being a music lover, her concern before shifting to the palatial 360-room Rashtrapati Bhavan was to find an appropriate place for her musical instruments, harmonium and tanpura.
In fact, her love for Rabindra Sangeet found a reflection in the melodies played by the Rashtrapati Bhavan band during the formal events, like At Home and dinner receptions for foreign dignitaries.
The band has begun interspersing usual melodies with well-known melodious Rabindra Sangeet numbers.
Bengali sweets, like sandesh, also made its entry into Rashtrapati Bhavan.