How are you meant to cope when your mother is the prime accused in your half-sister’s gruesome murder and your dad too is a suspect? You deal with the collateral damage by penning your memoirs and telling your side of the story.
Vidhie Mukerjea, Indrani and Peter Mukerjea’s 23-year-old daughter, opens up about the sensational Sheena Bora murder case, and the trauma she went through, in the book aptly titled Devil’s Daughter.
While she doesn’t want to talk about her half-brother Mikhail Bora, who accused their mother of trying to kill him too, or of Peter’s son Rahul, (to respect his wishes), she is open about a lot of other uncomfortable experiences, like coping with mental health, washing a bunch of pills down her throat in her pain and confusion, and lashing out at her mother outside court in public view.
The memoir is about Vidhie’s struggle with the trauma and how life changed after she came home from school one day to see a dozen cops there, who had come to take her mother into judicial custody; dropping out of college; new beginnings in Barcelona and life right now.
Through the book, we also get a glimpse of Indrani’s character — a tough lady with a temper, who was the undisputed boss at home. She so vehemently denied Sheena’s accusation that she was her mother and not sister that nobody wanted to broach the subject again. A stepmother not affectionate to her husband’s sons from a previous marriage, yet an amazing mother to Vidhie.
Former Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, according to Vidhie, is the best step-father a girl can have. He’s her favourite person, and his sister Shagun and other son Rabin are Vidhie’s staunchest supporters through everything.
Curious to find out more, especially about what she has to say about her infamous mother? Vidhie is open to awkward questions:
Excerpts from an interview:
Was penning this memoir a cathartic experience?
Penning this memoir was not only cathartic but a closure of sorts — it was a release and relief together, but it was also finishing that chapter of my life, ironically! Writing this was incredible for me, it gave me peace finally, reaffirmed my strength and empowered me.
You dedicate the book to your mother, someone who is seen as the reason for all the pain and anguish in your life, Why?
Because it all starts with her, and it was only fitting it closed with her too. She is an integral part of my life and I’ve had many moments when I resented her and didn’t understand her, but I soon began to empathise with her. I slowly started to comprehend the horrible and tough childhood she’d had and essentially decode her, which interestingly enough allowed me to decode myself. I dedicated this book to her as I really do wish for her to understand me at an integral level. This book is only the start of that.
Do you ever see yourself getting all the answers you seek from your mother?
One can hope for the best and I believe in chances. I know what it’s like to be given them and I believe everyone deserves them. It will probably take years until I get certain answers, process them and understand them, but I have faith.
What have the reactions been to your memoir from your parents, friends and critics who may have misjudged you in the past?
Incredibly touching. Before the book’s release, everyone kept reassuring me the reactions would be great, but there was so much doubt about how people would receive it. But once the reactions started flowing in, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Friends, family strangers… it’s been beautiful and endearing.
How do you handle awkward questions from people in everyday life?
I don’t really look at them as awkward anymore, I welcome them. Four years ago, these questions would have been awkward for me, but now I believe as humans we are so closed up all the time and fear the real and tough things in life, so we end up questioning them in our minds instead. Every time I answer an “awkward” question I release something. And it’s a great feeling.
You say you have made peace with your mum, seeing all the hardships she has faced in her life. Have you been judged for this?
I have been reconnecting with my mother more the past two years. I don’t sugar-coat things anymore, I’m quite direct in my approach with her and anyone really. And regarding judgment, of course I have been judged, not directly to my face, but I’m sure, a certain point in my life I judged everything and everyone around me too, but I had to face everyone’s criticism for me to understand I ought not to judge. And hey, everyone is entitled to their own conjectures. I tend not to give it much thought if someone else has an opinion — good or bad — about my life choices.
You have had your share of struggles with mental health issues, how did you manage to overcome them?
I probably still haven’t overcome my mental health issues; it’s gotten a heck of a lot better but it’s a never-ending process. No one just gets rid of these issues; they always linger. I’ve learnt how to live with them though, and work with them. I mention in my book that my anxiety and I are friends now. Years and years worth of getting to know myself is why I am at peace with my mind and myself. The best asset a human can possess is the ability to constantly try and understand themselves.
Your relationship with your mum today?
Our relationship is strong, yet complicated. It’s a process, one we’re still going through.
What next for you?
Working on my next book, which will be about sustainable travel. All the things I didn’t write about in my first book, I hope to add in the next. I love to cook and paint, as well. Honestly, I’m just seeing where life takes me. The one big change I’d love to dive into is using this opportunity and platform to normalise and talk about mental health. I love to say this now — it’s okay not to be okay.
Your father's side of the family has really stepped up and been there for you. Does this make you believe that step-parents or step-siblings are more like a bonus than a negative in one's life?
I don’t even have the word “step” anything in my dictionary. It’s family, they are family to me. My friends are family to me. I don’t know whether the word “bonus” is apt, but it’s definitely a blessing for me.