Happy families, Unhappy families
Following the broadcasting of the new Mukerjea taped conversations this week, Malavika Sangghvi pens a letter to Rahul Mukerjea
Dear Rahul, Forgive me if I'm often at a loss for words through the course of this letter.
The thing is, I, like perhaps the rest of the nation, want to know ( and know it through prime time TV channels), have been reeling ever since I heard the alleged conversations that transpired between you and your father Peter and stepmother Indrani Mukerjea, which you are said to have taped shortly after the disappearance of your 24- year- old fiancé Sheena Bora in April 2012.
What came through the conversations is the abject lack of empathy, basic human kindness and decency on the part of your parents, in particular your father, while talking to his own flesh and blood: a son who not only has to deal with the worrying disappearance of his loved one, but also of the fact that he’d been perhaps rejected for someone else.
I am not going to go into the actual murder of Sheena, that unfortunate child, who’d been promised a long overdue ‘ fun evening of shopping and dinner with her mother', only to be killed by her own hands. The strangling, the keeping in the garage all night, the burning of and subsequent stuffing into a suitcase. Those acts are beyond the ken of most and unfathomable for their barbarity.
I am referring to the simple act of how a parent, any parent, deals with a son whose heart is aching and broken. In the tapes, time and again, we hear Peter admonish you about searching for your lost fiancé ( who also happened to be his alleged sisterin- law). No empathy, no comforting, no concern in the least, not for the lost girl, nor the worried son. “Eat something, go for a work out, get hold of your life, move on,” are the oft- repeated words he says to you.
What’s worse is the way he mocks your attempts to trace Sheena: “Well, if you want to go parading all over the Taj...” we hear him say at one point, with Indrani cackling in the background. Acts of omission and commission that stagger the imagination and run contrary to every tenet of how parents should conduct themselves.
Through your deep sighs, your dogged perseverance, your abject concern about Sheena’s disappearance, what comes strikingly through is the fact that through this unimaginably dysfunctional family and its tangled lines, your love for Sheena and presumably hers for you, was the one pure thing in your star- crossed and unfortunate lives: the shining lotus that somehow blossomed in the dank and troubled water of the Mukerjea- Bora household, and thank God for that.
Through your increasingly more worried and despairing conversations, we hear your pride in Sheena’s work ethic and professional success, how she’d conducted herself with dignity and efficiency at her place of work and had won excellent ratings from her colleagues. How your concern for her safety went far beyond the “selfish” motive of getting her back. How, even when your parents tried to imply that she’d flown off with another man, you refused to buy that line or play the jealous boyfriend, affording her the benefit of doubt even as they attempted to plant diabolical thoughts in your poor, broken heart so that you would forget her.
Hearing these conversations Rahul, has given a whole new spin to Tolstoy’s famous axiom: ‘ Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way'.
It will be a long time before we can wade through the tangled web of the MukerjeaBora clan and how it ran contrary to every tenet of what a family ought to be.
But my point runs deeper. My point here is that physical violence is one thing, but often the emotional violence we wrest on others, especially those closest to us, is often as heinous and stomach- churning and criminal.
Forget the murder and the cover up and all the mind- numbing acts surrounding the Sheena Bora murder. Even on the simple grounds of child abuse, your parents ought to be indicted in any court of law. Because this is not how parents behave; this is not what they bring children into this world for. This is not how families are meant to be.
So for whatever it’s worth, for your true and shining love and dogged perseverance and taking on your famous and powerful family, I send you a deep, warm hug to try and make up for all the comforting and concern that you so obviously are in need of, and that you so palpably deserve.
May you find the strength to weather the heinous atrocities that have been wrested on you by your own family and someday have faith in the goodness and kindness of humanity again.
And yes, for Sheena’s sake, may you find true love once again.
With every good wish, etc,
The columnist believes in the art of letter writing
( Views expressed are the columnist’s own)