Now to Vidhie, I do worry about her but there is nothing I can do. She does have a daring spirit so I just pray all that energy is channeled positively. I am sure she is enjoying her freedom but will tire of it soon and will need you, as you are all she has at the moment, as both Mum and Dad. I know Laads will also look after you and will be with you whenever you need her. We have both raised her well together, with lots of love. I just pray she doesn’t buckle under the shame of all this.
– An excerpt from one of Mum’s first letters to my father from prison
It may seem unusual for a twenty-three-year-old to pen her memoir. Rather early to be telling a life story, one might say, and normally that’d be spot on—what could a kid like me possibly have to fill these pages with? How about a journey to hell and not quite back yet that began unfolding in 2015, on the eve of my eighteenth birthday. That day, I began to be seen as the child of the devil herself by so many people. I’d like to tell you a bit about them all as we go along—the society I come from, the media, and (most importantly) my own directionless self. I know that many readers would have immediately linked the title to being Indrani’s daughter, but that is not what it is, and I hope by the end of the book you will be able to see that.
I first thought about writing this book back in 2016, but never had the motivation. To be honest, I’ve probably written it three times in my head already. It would come to me in flashes, usually at night before going to bed when the darkness and anxiety grew stronger. The reason I gave myself at the time was to clear my name. Now I know there is no need to do so. I’m neither an accused nor a suspect. Rather, a misunderstood young woman, an independent person with my own identity, who refuses to be reflected in the light other’s choose to cast upon me.
My mother, Indrani Mukerjea, was arrested for murder in what grew to be one of the most notorious cases in recent memory. As an eighteen-year-old, I didn’t know what to make of Mum’s situation, and remember being overwhelmed to a point of numbness in those early stages. If losing one parent wasn’t enough, four months later, Dad was brutally taken from me and thrown into prison on aiding and abetting charges, which threw me off a cliff, one hand clinging on. Life as I knew it had turned on its head without warning. From being a sheltered, privileged and loved child, I was suddenly thrust into an unforgiving world, alone, confused and devastated. Nobody cared that a teenager, who had neither any knowledge nor any part to play in any of it, was stripped of her parents—the only love she had known till then. I’d lost them and, as a result, my way in this game called life. My life stopped being about who I was and what I could become; instead, it was defined by incidents that were completely out of my control. I lost my individuality, my character and barely clung on to my sanity. People seemed to forget that I was my own person with my own dreams, aspirations and ambitions.
‘Don’t ever let a crisis pass you by.’ A saying I will live by forever. I found that there’s always an upside to any situation, even one as dire as this. I was taught a harsh lesson on opportunism by those in the media sensationalising the case and my own plight with fabrication and fantasy, as well as by those who proclaimed to be our friends, but revealed their true selves after the arrests. That some people have still stuck with me through the years, has preserved my faith in humanity. Sure, there were some rotten apples, but, interestingly enough, the majority of friends I consider family today, who got me through the worst of times, came into my life after the news broke, and I owe them everything.
For the past five years, others have been painting me with the same brush as my mother and condemning me as a pitiful, damaged by-product of circumstance. I’ve been made to feel this too many times by ‘well-wishers’. But I refuse to believe that I have a black mark on my soul as a consequence of this dark past or that the controversy surrounding me is contagious. Of course, no one could go through something like this and not have cuts that run deep. I have understood this at a visceral level, and have accepted it. I am required to take an extra step for people to understand the real person behind the image conveyed by the media. At this stage though, having gotten back on my feet, moved on with life, and graduated from university despite all the hurdles and with a smile on my face, to share this experience with you in written word is an emotion I can’t describe; it’s a fleeting liberation that I hope will go a long way.
But don’t get me wrong; this book is not a plea for sympathy, attention or anything else. I can’t put into words what made me decide to write this book, all I can tell you is that I did. I just knew that if I didn’t I would regret it for the rest of my life. Certain things happen in one’s life that you can’t quite anticipate or prepare for. There’s no manual that can adequately equip you for what happens, or what follows from it. At the epicentre of the whole fiasco were my parents, and what got lost in the chaos was me.
This excerpt from ‘Devil’s Daughter’ by Vidhie Mukerjea has been published with permission from Westland Publications, August 2021.
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