With the aid of sugar sachets and a newspaper, the man sitting at a table next to mine at an upmarket coffee shop in Delhi was trying to explain Sheena Bora’s tangled family tree to his friend.
Where revelations from news reports failed him, he had his own pet conspiracy theories to fill in the gaps. The girl who was the intended audience was fixated.
Then, he fell short of sugar sachets.
For the past few days, this is what all of India’s news channels, newspapers and websites have been trying to do. Feed news, theories and conspiracies to an audience hungry for any dirt on the Mukerjeas and their complicated lives.
Sheena Bora murder: Why yellow journalism is evergreen
After all, the case – just like the Aarushi Talwar and Sunanda Pushkar cases before it – is made for voyeuristic consumption, via the media.
A mother allegedly kills her daughter with the help of one of her former husbands and her driver. She then spends the next three years managing an elaborate cover-up whereby she tells the world the daughter has shifted to the US.
The driver is arrested, spills the beans and everyone is in jail. The mother says that she hated the daughter, that she was having an affair with her stepson while her husband says he thought the stepdaughter was actually his wife’s sister.
Add to it the fact that the people involved are rich and famous and that the police can smell a financial angle to it. Big money, sex and Medea complex – it doesn’t get juicier than this.
Did you consider use of the word “juicier” improper here? Well, you have heard nothing yet.
There are jokes online about the victim Sheena Bora and the Mukerjea clan, Twitter is agog about “Bora Bora” (talk about the morbid) and we have all been so busy obsessing over the Mukerjea family tree that even Radhe Maa has been forgotten.
You may or may not care about the Patel reservation row but you sure want to know if Sheena is Indrani’s daughter from her first marriage or second (or maybe her third). Were Indrani and Siddharth Das (Sheena’s probable biological parents) married to each other when she was born? Did Peter Mukerjea never check on his wife and the untruths she purportedly told him?
The way this story is developing, the attention is not going to flag anytime soon. The media will go deep and dirty and unearth whatever will keep readers and viewers fixated (e.g. Breaking news: This is what Indrani and Peter Mukerjea ate at their first date. We have a restaurant bill to prove it.) That’s until a juicier case comes along.
There is a thin line between news reporting and voyeurism, and the Sheena Bora case breached it quite a while ago. And before you blame it all on the media (oh, that favourite flogging horse) maybe we all need to spend a minute on why the media are reporting the details in such minutiae. It is you, dear reader.
(The views expressed by the writer are personal. She tweets as @JSB17)