A week after Indrani Mukerjea was first arrested, the case around the disappearance and gruesome murder of her daughter, allegedly by her and her second husband has metamorphosed into a national judgment on her morality and choices.
On Tuesday, Times Now “tracked down Siddhartha Das even before the cops did”. What resulted was yet another “spectacularly ridiculous” series of questions being asked to the man, who for the most part, maintained that he hadn’t been in touch with his former partner after they split up.
This is how one of the interviews went.
“You were Indrani’s … first husband. Were you ever married to her?”
After the word “Indrani’s”, there was a slightest pause, before the editor said “first husband”, to Siddhartha Das, in an exclusive interview.
It is quite funny actually, to watch reporters and anchors alike struggle to find the right words to describe Indrani’s possible situation – a woman who had two children with the same partner without being married to him. The struggle to find the right words mirrors the Indrani debate that the media has triggered off even across drawing rooms. She has automatically been branded as woman capable of anything.
Siddhartha Das was even asked to speculate on whether he thought his former partner was capable of murdering his daughter. A reflective Das says, 'It is likely'.
Das' interview on Tuesday to all news channels who wanted his verdict on the Sheena Bora murder was yet another offering by a keen media to investigators, who incidentally are yet to interrogate him. That he appeared adamant to hide his face (hours after he was seen in bare-chested glory surveying the media tamasha outside his Kolkata home) just adds to the overall irony of the situation. While his ex-partner's life and alleged intentions are discussed threadbare, here was a man keen to hide his identity. Das dutifully issued a character certificate for the Indian public: Indrani wanted nice things such as a nice house etc. Money-minded was the word he used.
And copywriters on TV news desks must have rejoiced. Here was a new one endorsing the profiles they had written over the week quoting phone-psychoanalysis, conversations with family friends and relatives who barely knew the woman, descriptions of the “diabolical look” in her eyes (sounds more like someone’s high on drugs and mistook the basilisk in Harry Potter for Mukerjea) and quite a lot of other colourful stuff.
Watching the television news feels like watching a reality TV version of Albert Camus’ novel The Outsider. Camus’ protagonist kills a man, but he was tried by the court not for murder, but for not crying at his mother’s funeral.
Indrani Mukerjea is accused of murdering Sheena Bora, but she is being tried by the media for so many things – having been married twice (or thrice?), for being a “bad mother” and supposedly abandoning Sheena and Mikhail for years, for supposedly being a “ruthless social climber”, and for supposedly being money-minded.
IF, Indrani was indeed a money-minded social climber as media reports have insinuated, so what?
Being a murderous mother seems to be the lesser of the evils, if the media versions were to be your moral guide, than being a money-minded social climber. That we are deeply uncomfortable with the idea that a woman could use her sexuality to her advantage instead of being bogged down by it, is evident in the way Indrani’s personal life has been made public.
Through the coverage, we see a reflection of our own pre-conditioned bias to believe in stereotypes - a go-getter attitude is admired in men, and considered all manner of unkind things in women. Among the grouses that many people have against women is this notion that they “sleep around” to get ahead. Using sex as a currency to further ambition is after all the ultimate sin - the anti-thesis of anything desirable in an Indian woman.
And that is why; Indrani Mukerjea’s personal life fascinates the media. It's a potboiler - there is sex (and multiple men who have been ensnared by her charms and co-opted into her evil plans), lies and we are just waiting for videotapes to be unearthed!