Sunday, August 30, 2015

Indrani: The Murderer of Nouns

Disclaimer: I do not personally know any of these people. Except for the reported facts, most of this content is speculation and hyperbole. Peter and Indrani and the rest of them are probably nice, gentle people who wouldn't hurt a fly. May Sheena RIP, although it would appear that she isn't remembered all that much.

A reputed daily recently carried a confusing heading on the front page about an ongoing murder case. A lady called Indrani Mukerjea figured prominently amongst the participants, like that one kid on the team who understands why the science fair project is doing what it's doing. One is inclined, as was I, to think that the modus operandi might have involved giving people cancer by spelling her second name the way it is. Accepting that Narendra Modi had successfully distracted me from the Patels rioting in Gujarat, I decided to delve further into the matter.

The Simple Bit

A few advertisements and a couple of paragraphs later I gathered that Indrani is presently married to the erstwhile CEO of Star India and current master of that surname, Peter. The couple appeared to be old enough for their lawyers to cite the statute of limitations in defense against any case which listed the second name as the murder weapon so there was hope still. However later lines revealed Indrani, once again displaying her proclivity to making poor decisions given she married a man with a name like that, to have gone down the well beaten path of strangulation instead.

For over three years after crossing that fateful junction, Indrani filled in for the victim, Sheena, over SMSes, e-mails, Facebook, etc. with, I suspect, clever little LOLs and OMGs in the right places. As to why nobody saw her anymore, Indrani told everyone that Sheena had moved to the USA even though she was, obviously, in a better place. Sheena's family, friends and acquaintances were quick to move on, finding the new US-settled Sheena to be boring and lacking in original thought .

The Complicated Bit

Indrani's motive, and the relationship between Sheena and Indrani is what makes this case complex to the casual newspaper reader. It isn't often that a few paragraphs of a reputed daily have me struggling to keep track of the characters like it were the Lord of the Rings. It was for you, precious reader, that I struggled through it all to reach a level of understanding which allows me to capture the important bits and present them to you. Armed with this post, you can walk into any discussion and appear quite the expert on who killed who and genealogy.

The reality seems to be that Sheena was Indrani's daughter despite Indrani telling everybody who cared that Sheena was her sister. Indrani had even gone to the extent of listing Sheena's grandparents' name on Sheena's birth certificate. Giving Indrani the benefit of doubt, she probably confused the mother / माता, father / पिता boxes to be requesting for her mother / माता, father / पिता and not Sheena's. Noob new mother mistake. It could have easily been corrected but whether it was a lack of whitener at the hospital that day, a new mother's devil-may-care attitude after multiple consecutive hours of labour, or a deliberate ploy to allow for later success on dating apps, it wasn't rectified and was prodded on into the future. Unbeknownst to our actors, it was the start to the longest ever premeditation period preceding a murder after movie-protagonist-orphaned-early-in-life-grows-up-and-kills-murderer-of-parents movies.

The Timeline

Many years later something snapped. Two of Indrani's marriages had run their courses, Sheena was well into the age when girls don't get friendship bands from boys anymore, and the deliberate ploy to allow for later success on dating apps theory was gaining weight, more so considering Indrani was not.

Sheena had been blackmailing Indrani about telling everyone how Indrani was too thick to fill a birth certificate form correctly and was actually her mother. Indrani couldn't bear the thought of looking into the mirror in the restroom and getting those she's-the-mother-of-a-20-year-old-how-sad looks from her one time kitty friends who wouldn't hang out with aunties unless they were important or rich. Her husband wasn't even a CEO anymore and would probably give her those she-doesn't-have-any-young-women-friends-so-what's-the-point looks from the other end of the dinner table.

Indrani, on the other hand disapproved of Sheena's romantic interest in her step-brother. In Sheena's defense, she was probably attending another marriage function, thinking to herself that at the rate at which Indrani was going through husbands, there wouldn't be too many men who weren't directly or indirectly related to her. Why fight a losing battle, she pondered, as she tried hard to avoid the dessert section when her crushed ice fell upon Rahul Mukherjea. Yum, she thought to herself as she apologised, how nice it had felt on this hot, sultry night. As she helped him wipe if off, she had only one thought on her mind - getting another. She would have to overcome the temptation of the silky, chunky, smooth on the tongue and down the throat ras malai since that stall was right next to the one peddling the crushed ice. One thing led to another, and Rahul and Sheena were an item.

Over the next few years Indrani's unease continued to boil, like the rabri that Sheena eventually succumbed to that night. On the fateful day, a minor hurdle presented itself to Indrani's mobility - too posh to take public transport, and because nothing, not even murderous intent, is critical enough for one to drive oneself in Bombay traffic, she had a bit of a quandary at hand. Like any well-functioning socialite, she took a leaf out of the books of those more famous and called her driver along. What must be a confusing mix of relief and disappointment or envy for Peter, she also got on of her ex husbands to tag along, and possibly some sandwiches and lemonade too, hoping to make the most of the subsequent visit to the forest.

What Just Happened And What Happens Now

Three years later, an anonymous tip blew some air into the investigation which soon returned to life. The details of the relationships gave newspaper editors and headline composers headaches with their nouns. But as one member of the writing industry to all the others - your time will come. Note that the Mumbai police boss leading the affair, Rakesh Maria, is going to be famous at the end of this case until somebody in Bollywood calls someone else a name and everyone forgets about him again. For that brief moment in time, headlines will center around him. If I were sitting behind the desk, my headline of choice would be 'Solving a Problem Like Maria'. There's no way I could make it up to the nouns and the pronouns but I would damn well get a preposition some glory.

All The Other Family Charts That Could Have Been

As an academic exercise, I tried to come up with what the family chart of this story could look like. There is no shame in it. I was standing in a bus and it distracted me from all the body odour around me. Only the minimum number of step parents needed in each scheme are used. For instance, Indrani has had three husbands so depending on how many husbands of hers are presented in the scheme, one could potentially have 3 (3 choose 1 or 3 choose 2) variants of each.

  • Red circle died
  • Black circle killed
  • Pink circle can be confused for having died as per the headline
  • Gray circle can be confused for killing as per the headline
  • Dashed line is marriage
  • Solid line is blood relation
  • Pink line is 'affair' 
  • I - Indrani
  • S - Sister
  • D - Daughter
  • SB - Step brother

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