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Why Indrani Mukerjea gives an entire class of women a bad name

By Malavika Sangghvi
August 29, 2015 18:03 IST
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High-society incidents like this one inevitably give rise to questions about the morality and ethics of the high and mighty. Unfortunately, they also deepen prejudices and reinforce stereotypes, writes Malavika Sangghvi

For the past few days, like most others, I too have been riveted by the spine-chilling revelations that have accompanied the Sheena Bora murder case.

Besides its savage brutality is the brazenness of the deception. How could someone as high profile as Indrani Mukerjea think she could hide two children and what looks like almost a half dozen liaisons from people?

I had met Indrani socially and like most others who knew the couple, was struck by how obviously Peter doted on his young, attractive new wife. With Star and INX behind him, the Peter I saw was a man who had embraced the life of a lotus-eating, Bermuda and tees wearing, bon vivant with surprising ease.

How much money they had made, no one would say, but it was suggested that the Mukerjeas who had enrolled their daughter in a school in Bristol and had a duplex terrace apartment in Worli, would never have to work again and could now divide their time between Marbella, Ibiza and other European pleasure spots when they weren’t in Goa!

Those who had worked with Indrani had dire stories to tell of her megalomania and ambition, but on the few occasions I’d met her, she came across as an attractive, coquettish woman, very confident of her effect on men.

It is staggering to think that this ambitious woman from a small town in Assam could turn into a cold-blooded murderess and that too of her own daughter!

Or that she could dupe her husband into believing her lies so completely that he doubted his own son and was estranged from him because of this.

Or that a mother could virtually abandon her son and leave him to care for his grandparents, while she was traipsing around the world’s hot spots -- champagne flute in hand.

High-society incidents like this one inevitably give rise to questions about the morality and ethics of the high and mighty. Unfortunately, they also deepen prejudices and reinforce stereotypes.

Are all women who have second or third marriages and multiple stepchildren, who are ambitious, who live extravagant and glamorous lifestyles and who have an affinity to spaghetti straps and LBDs -- little black dress -- capable of committing the crimes that Indrani had?

Of course not. But given how long it has taken for women to achieve some measure of equality and empowerment, each time a high-profile woman is found guilty of a misdemeanour or crime it does affect the progress of all women everywhere -- though it shouldn’t.

Which is why, we, in the media, should try and avoid reinforcing conventional and hackneyed notions of what constitutes “good” and “bad” women. Many women I know in similar situations (much-married, equally ambitious and attractive as Indrani), in fact, live lives of exemplary integrity and dignity.

Who would have imagined that besides shaking up the media world, sweeping away one of its most celebrated executives, Indrani might also be the woman who could give an entire class of women a bad name?

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