Madhuri Gupta was hoping for a London or Washington posting

Madhuri Gupta was hoping for a London or Washington posting

"I should get London or Washington," a confident Gupta said few months back. Gupta had earlier served in the Indian mission in Baghdad and said she was looking forward to another good posting sometime later this year.

Gupta made friends easily and was great with small talk. She could talk about clothes, hair styles or Pakistan's Urdu press – "where the real news was" – with equal ease.

"English newspapers are boring. They always pick up news a day late. If you want to read real news, real gossip, read Urdu newspapers," she told this correspondent once.
Gupta learnt Urdu in New Delhi shortly before she was posted to Pakistan in late 2007. She hired a Muslim woman as a private tutor to teach her.

"She taught me from scratch. I didn't even know my 'alif-bays'," said Gupta, who had earlier learnt another foreign language at Jawaharlal Nehru University's school of languages.

Gupta spoke perfect Urdu and could have easily passed off as a Pakistani because of her accent. Like locals, she was always well dressed, make-up in place, her hair coloured and looked younger than her age.

"I bought this in Lajpat Nagar on my last trip to India," she said when friends recently praised her stylish new coat.

Gupta sometimes came across as brash and fearless, especially when she regaled friends with tales of driving to India via the Islamabad-Lahore motorway, often at breakneck speed. "I did the Lahore motorway in three-and-a-half hours," she would tell friends, most of whom admired her guts for driving to and fro alone.

Most Indian diplomats travel in groups or with their families on such drives to the Indian border.

The small Indian community of diplomats and staff of the High Commission in Islamabad would also bank on Gupta for getting them firecrackers or Holi colours on her trips to India.

"I will get natural colours, they won’t harm your skin," she announced before a planned Holi celebration to those who didn't want to play with colours.

On a picnic to the picturesque Pir Sohawa viewpoint overlooking Islamabad sometime ago, she decided to be spokeswoman for a group of Indian women when a Pakistani woman entered their bus in the parking lot and asked if they had a cassette of 'bhajans'.

While most of the women were wondering how the Pakistani lady had figured out that they were Indians, Gupta dealt with her politely but firmly, ensuring that she got off the vehicle. "You give us your address and we will send you a cassette," Gupta said, taking the woman's address.

When she returned from her last trip to India, she told friends: "I am so tired. There is so much to do when you are in India. There is no time to relax. I feel I am back home now."
Gupta was quick to notice the expression on her friends' faces following her remark. "Home is where you live. Good or bad, this is home," she laughed out loud.