Fall from grace

Mirror mirror: Indrani Mukerjea found it difficult to adjust to her altered appearance | PTI Mirror mirror: Indrani Mukerjea found it difficult to adjust to her altered appearance | PTI

In August 2015, Indrani Mukerjea, a former media executive, was arrested by the Mumbai Police for murdering her daughter, Sheena Bora. In a chapter of his book, The Sheena Bora Case, author Manish Pachouly gives details of Indrani’s stay at the Byculla Prison in Mumbai.

There were three groups that were fighting for supremacy in Byculla jail, and a new inmate had no choice but to join one of them. Inmates who were poor or with no connections were not pursued by any of these groups. But somebody like Indrani was like a hot cake. The moment she was sent to judicial custody and then transferred to the jail, she garnered attention from all three groups...

...The jail was already abuzz with the sensational Sheena Bora murder case and the implication of a business tycoon in that. The leaders of these groups, who either had read about the case or found out her social status, jumped to make Indrani a part of their gang. While all this time jail politics was raging high around her, she, on the other hand, paid little attention to them. Besides, she was depressed, unable to accept the prison environment that had forced her into a different world. But she had to confront the hard and darker reality of jail life when she was hounded to prove her allegiance to any of these groups. She realised that her posh attitude, which had worked so well earlier, wouldn’t work anymore within the four walls of the jail.

She was nobody in front of the powerful undertrials ruling the jail dynamics. She was like a deer caught in the headlights, not knowing which group to be associated with, and was scared, not knowing what to do next. As Mrs Mukerjea she had many powerful friends whom she could call even late at night to ask for a favour, however tiny that might be, and she was always obliged. Now, even the closest of friends had dissociated themselves from her, some even refusing to acknowledge their friendship publicly. A few believed that the allegations levelled by the probe agency were true.

In this situation, Indrani changed track soon. She started interacting gradually and somehow managed to win the trust of all the groups. After all, she was still a rich woman with access to enormous amounts of money.

But there was another area of concern—the way Indrani actually looks, in the absence of make-up, was now being exposed. Indrani loved her branded clothes and the luxury labels. Besides her charming personality, imported make-up accessories and hair dye—said to be imported from France—played key roles in enhancing her looks that made her so ravishing and irresistible to quite a few men. All these were inaccessible now, which revealed her actual age. Added to this was the stress of a long legal battle and jail life which made her pale and robbed her of her famed looks. It was not only the outside world that was shocked with her changed look. Indrani too was severely disturbed when she first saw herself in a mirror. Sources in Byculla jail said that she was inconsolable after she saw how she looked and was distressed at the idea of going out like that. The hair was grey; the face had lines; the softer look with its charm had now all disappeared. “At times, she pleaded for her expensive imported make-up kit and hair dye, but [the] rules did not allow the same,” said a policewoman who had seen Indrani in the new avatar.

Left with no other option, Indrani decided to hide her hair with a dupatta on her head. But the truth couldn’t be hidden for too long, and photos were soon splashed in the media. “That was a highly depressing moment for her,” said another cop who accompanied Indrani to her court on her dates. She had claimed that she was born in 1972 but shorn of her adornments with the age showing through, she could now never convince people that Sheena was her sister. The make-up and hair colour always helped her pass off as the dead youngster’s sister.

Excerpted with permission

The Sheena Bora Case

Author: Manish Pachouly
Publisher: Roli Books
Pages: 230
Price: Rs 395