Rita Jitendra, a well-known professor who also became famous for her many appearances on Indian television, died on Monday, shortly after she choked and lost consciousness during a live TV appearance on Indian network Doordarshan.
According to Telegraph India, the 81-year-old Jitendra appeared on the live morning show, Good Morning J&K, on Monday, and was recalling memorable moments from her life and her career when she abruptly stopped speaking; she began to hiccup and choke as the camera remained focused on her. Minutes later, she was declared dead on arrival at the SMHS Hospital in Jammu, as noted in a separate report from the Daily Mail.
[Editor’s note: both of the above links include photos of the incident that may be disturbing for some readers.]
As quoted by the Daily Mail, Dr. Saleem Tak of SMHS Hospital believes that Rita Jitendra died “due to sudden cardiac arrest,” which might have been a result of a heart arrhythmia, or an abnormal heartbeat.
Speaking to Telegraph India, Good Morning J&K anchor Zahid Mukhtar recalled what happened when Jitendra appeared on his show and that there didn’t appear to be any warning signs to hint at what eventually took place.
“She was telling us a few interesting things about her life and was looking absolutely normal,” said Mukhtar.
“But suddenly she stopped talking and began having hiccups. We had to cut the interview [and switch to] a documentary to attend to her and take her to hospital.”
Hafiza Muzaffar, who hosted Jitendra several times when she visited Srinagar, told Telegraph India that the late professor was like a mother to her, adding that both women “had a lot of fun” on the day before the Good Morning J&K interview. Muzaffar added that she served tea for Jitendra on Monday morning before she headed to the studio where the show is filmed, adding that she had no idea that would be the last time she would see her alive.
“She was to participate in several events and had interviews with Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir lined up,” said Muzaffar.
Muzaffar also related what Jitendra supposedly told her driver as she was being taken to the Doordarshan studio where Good Morning J&K is filmed — she apparently wanted her death to be similar to that of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who passed away on July 27, 2015, while holding a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, also due to cardiac arrest.
“She told him that Dr. Kalam had died while working. That is how she met her end too. She breathed her last in the studio itself.”
As recalled by Telegraph India, Rita Jitendra “wore many hats” after starting her professional career as a Sanskrit professor and authoring several books. Aside from appearing regularly on Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir, Jitendra became the first female secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, and Languages after she retired from her broadcasting career.