Deadly bonds

Published Sep 6, 2015, 7:40 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 10:37 pm IST
Indrani and Peter Mukerjea
 Indrani and Peter Mukerjea

It’s truth with the strangeness of fiction, and there’s many a sting in the tale. The twists and turns in the Sheena Bora murder case has put every crime-based TV show, film and book to shame. Amongst the many puzzling aspects of the case that has everyone baffled, apart from the fact that a mother is being seen as one  of the prime suspects in her daughter’s murder, is how Peter Mukerjea, one of India’s most successful TV executives who made his name and fortune in the media business, was so clueless about his own wife, Indrani’s doings.

Sheena, his son’s live-in-girlfriend and his wife’s “sister” who lived in his home for a significant amount of time, disappeared suddenly, remained missing for three years, didn’t contact any of them and yet he believed that there was nothing fishy even though his son kept telling him that something was not right.
Peter’s argument is that he chose to believe his wife and that he was anyway never in touch with most of her family since she was not close to them.


This was Peter’s argument despite the fact that he lived with someone capable of being charged with murder. Sheena Bora’s father Siddartha Das, too, explained his being unaware about his daughter’s disappearance by claiming that Indrani dumped him for better prospects in life. But like Indrani, Siddartha, too, hid his past from his current wife. The lady appears to have been gullible and has admitted to the media that she was not aware of the fact that her husband had fathered two children before he met and married her!

Another person who survived to tell the tale of being married to a murderer for 12 years is Harvard-educated Sandra Boss. An external board member, and one of the only two women to be on board of Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, which is UK’s financial services industry’s main watchdog, according to the Daily Mail, policing 1,700 banks, building societies, insurers and investment firm, Sandra not only fell in love with and married a conman, but believed his story that he was Clark Rockerfeller, a scion of one of America’s richest families.


In reality, he was a penniless German, who is now serving 27 years in an American federal prison, after being convicted of murdering the son of his previous landlady. He even kidnapped his daughter, but the police fortunately tracked him down and returned the child safely to Sandra, who has now divorced him.
Sandra didn’t find it odd that her husband never introduced her or her child to any of his famous family. She believed his story that they were estranged. She didn’t even know her husband’s real name — Christian Gerhartsreiter — for 12 years.


Boss, who fell for the con artist’s charm when she met him at a party while studying at Harvard, has publically admitted that he was her “blind spot” in life.
Can love really be this blind? Sociologist, Professor Daniel David, explains, “Love is one of the most selfish emotions that you experience. You cut the rest out.”
But how can one remain so clueless about almost every aspect of their spouse’s personality, character and life?

Clinical psychiatrist Varkha Chulani says, unless Peter is lying, his oblivion is an indication of him having a personality disorder. “A person of his stature should be wiser and more alert. To be uninterested in the background of his wife says a lot about him. To be interested only on the narrow aspect of her life — the role he expects her to play for him, either in business or romantically — shows a lot of narcissism.”


Varkha adds that sadly many get carried away by a person’s charm, romantic ability, projection of beauty and soft social skills like their ability to be well-spoken, well-presented. “Men like Peter didn’t do their homework with their spouses. We pay more attention and do a lot more homework when it comes to buying a car than choosing a life partner. When you are choosing a romantic partner, you are driven by lust and the brain doesn’t work when you are lusting after someone,” reveals Varkha.

You don’t need to be a therapist to figure out when there are serious issues with the person you are planning on spending the rest of your life with. Volatile temper, erratic spending, inability to hold consistent jobs and not having close bonds with any family members are some of the major warning signs that question the person’s emotional stability. We are so busy buying projections sold by social media and running after a projected euphoria, that we choose to be selectively oblivious.


Shalini Sharma, editor of lifestyle magazine Hi-Blitz, says she is not surprised with the fact that modern day couples don’t know very much about each other. “Today marriages are more about a business relationship. In Peter and Indrani’s case, they very cleverly recognised ambition in each other and recognised the fact that the other person can compromise on their morals to get what they want in life. It’s a relationship of business convenience. They projected this great love about how they bonded over their dislike for re-marriage.


Even we (Hi-Blitz) did a piece on their great relationship but there was no love story. Today it’s all about buying a lifestyle, a beautiful trophy wife, someone who will entertain clients and business associates... will fit well into the scheme of things. No emotions attached. It suited Peter to be oblivious about Indrani’s family.”

Society columnist Nisha Jamval points out that perhaps there was no real communication between Peter and Indrani, apart from which parties to go to and perhaps business deals, if he didn’t find Sheena’s disappearance suspicious. “It’s a very sorry state of relationship,” she says, adding, “More than looking for someone with whom you can laugh, share a similar mindset or enjoy a conversation, people are more interested in finding someone who goes to great parties, is rich, has great cars... An actress once told me she wants a man who can buy her a 50 carat engagement ring!”


We should recognise the fact that couples today are only interested in themselves, not each other’s family, says Prof. David. “India, too, has now become such a materialistic society that the sanctity of family has come down. We only get to see all our relatives socially at weddings. Don’t know anything about extended family members.”

People like Clarke Rockerfeller and Indrani Mukerjea are freak cases, but today everyone is so into their own needs, and society has become so individualistic, that nobody really has the time or inclination to get to know people who they feel won’t benefit them in anyway. “Our education today is not making us more caring or generous. It’s a dog eat dog world. Attitudes, mindsets, perceptions are changing. As you grow up you come under a lot of outside influences, are very individualistic. People are living for themselves... it’s very common to see children taking their parents to court over property,” explains sociologist Nandini Sardesai.


Let’s not hark back to the golden age because now it’s an individualistic system. The joint family system where people lived together is over. Everyone wants their share of the pie, people are more selfish and self-centered. Best of sisters become bitter enemies over property. The richer you are the more you want to fight over money.