What do you do when your world is turned upside down on the eve of your 18th birthday? How do you cope when your mother is arrested in front of your eyes, followed by a media storm bent on sensationalising every aspect of your life?
For more than six years, Vidhie Mukerjea had to wrestle with these questions on a daily basis since her parents were arrested in the Sheena Bora murder case, one of the most incredible and complicated sagas in recent memory.
Having lived through the nightmare for more than half a decade, Mukerjea, 24, has authored her side of the story in a gripping memoir titled Devil’s Daughter. At an in-person session of An Author’s Afternoon, organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Shree Cement Ltd, Taj Bengal and digital partner The Telegraph Online-My Kolkata, Mukerjea discussed her book, her life, and the lessons she has drawn from her harrowing experience.
Bickram Ghosh hands over a token of appreciation to Vidhie MukerjeaAmit Datta
In conversation with Mukerjea was Esha Dutta, Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata, who described Devil’s Daughter as “raw, honest, unapologetic, and a revelation.” With the twists and turns of the murder case and the subsequent trial known to most, Dutta began the discussion by asking Mukerjea how she dealt with the initial shock of her mother’s arrest in 2015.
“I shut myself off from everything. A lot of family members who saw me thought I wasn’t feeling anything, but I simply went numb. I didn’t cry for the first two months. My way of coping with the whole thing was to go off to London and start my university education,” revealed Mukerjea, who soon found the “walls closing in on me in London”.
No matter where Mukerjea went, her name and identity preceded her. After her father Peter was arrested, she began to, in her own words, “spiral out of control”.
“My father is the one person in this world who I can share anything with. Once he went to prison, I truly felt alone. My friends had disappeared and I felt like I had to parent myself,” said Mukerjea.
Apart from professional therapy and self-coping techniques like shadow walking, Mukerjea found some solace in travelling. “I went backpacking to South America with a friend of mine and I think that changed my life… I understood myself in ways I didn’t think was possible before,” shared Mukerjea.
After not keeping in touch with her mother for two years, Mukerjea has recently started speaking with Indrani again. Asked if she has forgiven her mother, Mukerjea said, “I have forgiven my mother because it has allowed me to unburden myself. Right now, both she and I are trying to understand each other, and even though people may judge me for accepting what she did, she is still my mother and the only person who loves me unconditionally.”
Vidhie Mukerjea reads from her book 'Devil's Daughter'Amit Datta
Mukerjea also addressed the issue of mental health and stressed that Indians must stop stigmatising psychological issues. “It is absolutely normal to go to a therapist and talk. I myself had panic attacks for one whole year and I realised that an objective, unbiased perspective on my life can only help me deal better with everything around me,” she said.
Vidhie Mukerjea signs copies of her bookAmit Datta
The conversation was followed by a round of audience questions, on everything from dealing with the media glare to writing a second book on travel to getting to know her mother better. The afternoon ended with Mukerjea reading the foreword of her book, penned by her paternal aunt Shangon Das Gupta.