The Original Prom Queen

The Face of Doomed Promise
A photograph from Natasha's portfolio in her carefree days as a model, taken when she was in her early twenties

At 19, Natasha Masri was the girl every teenager dreams of being. Slanting eyes, poker-straight hair, a bohemian "knock out", chased by the boys. One of her boyfriends from college, Ravissant's Vishal Chawla, recalls the time he met Natasha at the Ghungroo nightclub in 1992. "There was this lissome girl with a gorgeous smile going crazy on the floor," says Chawla, "I just had to get to know her." His persistence paid off a few months later. Natasha dumped polo-playing fiance K.V. Singh and moved in with Chawla.

While most of Delhi's attractive 20-somethings kept themselves busy in plots to grab a rich "catch", Natasha disregarded the rules completely. Passionate and headstrong, by 22 she had been through three serious live-in relationships. Her refreshing openness about her life, charm and innocence prevented the otherwise conservative Delhiites from calling her anything but a bit eccentric. A fitness freak, Natasha was a regular at Greater Kailash aerobic centre Club Excel; once after a fight with husband Jagat, she jogged from her residence in Jorbagh to Vasant Vihar and back, a distance of over 15 km.

Though Natasha's parents hardly had an ideal marriage, life was comfortable growing up. She was close to younger brothers Sharif and Ashraf Masri, who are now based in Goa. Sharif recalls several family vacations in Singapore and a happy life growing up in Delhi. Though Natasha didn't have much in common with her dad, Jordanian Samir Masri, he indulged her. He paid for her holidays to London with close friend Sonia Verma. Ironically when Masri comes to Delhi now he lives with his daughter's estranged husband. After her mother Urmila, a Sixties' flower child, also moved to Goa in the early 1990s, family ties wore thin. When told on phone that her daughter had had a very serious accident last Sunday, Urmila reportedly asked the messenger how serious the accident was and whether she could travel to Delhi in a couple of days.

It was her friends who became her family. Throughout college Natasha played agony aunt to her pals, advising them on everything from relationships to careers.Two weeks ago, on friend Deborah Malik's birthday, six friends headed for an all-girls night at five-star pub Ricks. Classmate Yamini Kumar recalled how Natasha appeared radiant. "She told me, 'the worst is over. My life's back on track'."

-Leher Kala

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