Vidhie Mukerjea, daughter of Indrani Mukerjea, is out with her memoir titled Devil’s Daughter. It is an unrelenting and intimate account of the past six years since her 18th birthday when her “life changed forever.”
Published by Westland, the book offers Vidhie’s perspective on the Sheena Bora murder case, which came to light in 2015, and how she coped thereafter. 17 at the time, she was living in Mumbai with her parents Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, co-founders of INX Media. They were arrested for allegedly conspiring to kill Bora, Indrani’s daughter from a previous marriage.
The book is a sharp telling of surviving an emotional hurricane and emerging out with empathy. 23 today, Vidhie has learned to come to terms with life.
The Quint spoke to Vidhie Mukerjea about writing the memoir, her relationship with her mother, and life after the book’s release.
"A journey to hell and not quite back yet" is what you described the last six years of your life as. The book is an account of a very tumultuous time of your life. You have mentioned that you contemplated writing a book multiple times. So, what finally made you take the decision of writing it and putting it out to the world?
Vidhie Mukerjea: I always knew I would pen down my experience, although I wasn’t sure whether it would only be for my eyes or for the world to read. As I wrote, I began to think about how everyone feels anxious, everyone goes through certain spurts of depression. I felt I should explore the possibility of publishing what I was writing—if the book could help even one person, that would be a job well done for me. It very soon became about the bigger picture and purpose.
As much as the process of writing the book may have been cathartic, was it difficult to relive some of the most trying incidents of your life while penning down the memoir?
Vidhie Mukerjea: Of course, it was hard as I was reliving some of the toughest days in my life, and so many memories were entirely suppressed deep within me, I'd almost forgotten I'd experienced them. But it was important, and for the "closure" I needed, I had to relive them. I'm grateful for it.
You have described your relationship with your mother in great detail with honesty and courage, traversing many shades — love, anger, manipulation, deceit, abuse, forgiveness. How difficult was it to accept and forgive her without knowing or lending a judgement of her actions?
Vidhie Mukerjea: I believe when you forgive someone you let go of the past and unburden yourself. Of course, it took many years for me to reach this place. I had to essentially decode my mum and then myself to understand and empathise with my mother on many counts. I couldn't ignore the fact that she had such a tough childhood. That scars you so deep, there's no return. It turns you into a stone. But more than anything, as a daughter, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't try and get to know the real her and give her a chance.
You have written at length about your interactions with your mother since she has been in prison. In the book, they change dramatically with time. What are they like now? How have you come to deal with her presence in your life?
Vidhie Mukerjea: I’m incredibly grateful to have her back in my life. There is an understanding between the both of us—no lies and secrets anymore. I’ve taken a leap of faith to trust her on that. She is my mother and I can’t abandon her. She has no one else but me.
The memoir tells us of the incredible and endearing bond you shared with your stepfather, Peter Mukerjea. Has the separation influenced your relationship with him?
Vidhie Mukerjea: Our relationship has only gotten stronger since he went in—he’s all that kept me going for the longest time. We would write letters to each other and those letters would sustain me for days, sometimes weeks, as I re-read them over and over again. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I only want to make him proud with everything I do.
You have very courageously written about hitting rock-bottom when your mental health could have gotten the better of you to reach a dreadful turn. You describe the problems and the low points, as well as the recovery and therapy. It ought to resonate with people who have gone through similar experiences with their mental health. Have you been getting responses and messages from readers about that?
Vidhie Mukerjea: I’ve been receiving the most touching responses. It's been so overwhelming and emotional for me to have people open up to me in the ways that they have. Of course, I'd hoped that my memoir would help some people to some extent, and I'm so touched by the people who reach out to me almost every day about how the book has helped them and how they resonate with me on so many different levels. I can't be more grateful for all the platforms I now have to speak about topics such as mental health. It's okay not to be okay and there are always people rooting for you—this is what I've realised.
Have your parents, Indrani and Peter, gotten a chance to read the book? What were their thoughts on it?
Vidhie Mukerjea: Yes, in fact, both of them read the book the first chance they got, which was shortly after it was published. I heard my father almost had tears in his eyes and was really proud of me. My mum, too, is incredibly proud of me, that I've written a book. I think she wished I'd consulted her on a few things before, but was very understanding of the fact it was my story.
You also talk about the traumatising experience you had with the media in the past where there was an invasion of your privacy. Now that your book is out, media interactions have become common for you again. How different have they been?
Vidhie Mukerjea: They’ve definitely settled down more and are more sensitive to the issue and my book. Obviously not all, there will always be a few rotten apples, but that’s life. Can’t all be good or else it would be so boring!
A lot of your journey has been letting go of the labels and opinions associated with you of being your mother's daughter. And you have too. But tell us how did you come about the title of the book, what it means to you, and why you chose to dedicate it to your mother?
Vidhie Mukerjea: To me, the title is so incredibly deep, beautiful and creative. It's a title with many meanings and is entirely open to interpretation. I feel my memoir is quite a read-between-the-lines book, and the title reflects that. It's a metaphor for how I was viewed by people in India, the society, the law and mostly myself. I dedicated the book to my mum as there has been so much time lost for the two of us, including the most important years of my life, when I wish she’d been around. The book is essentially like one long letter to her.
(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published in October 2021. It is now being republished to mark Sheena Bora's death anniversary.)