Famous for throwing opulent soirees, she’s no stranger to controversies. Married to the Mafatlal scion, Atulya, she had everything going for her — a fairy tale wedding, a loving husband and a happy family — until fate inverted it all. There were rumours of a crack in the marriage.
Adding to her woes were reports of Atulya and his 19-year-old daughter, Marushka, from a previous marriage, filing a police complaint against the socialite for the theft of several expensive paintings. Life has been hell since. But the lady stood up for her rights and fought back.
Today, after Atulya issued a public apology for wrongly accusing her, she claims to have reunited with her family. In an exclusive interview to HT Café, Sheetal opens up about surviving her very public ordeal, and coming out stronger.
‘I haven’t inherited anything nor do I feel elevated’
You were accused of stealing expensive paintings by your husband and his daughter in 2009. It must have been quite an ordeal.
It’s very devastating. In the 21st century, it is shocking that I had to wake up one morning to a situation like this. Anyway, it was an allegation. Now, I have been given a clean chit.
How do you feel now that you are freed from the charges?
I feel relieved. My reputation is restored, that’s a huge weight off my shoulders. I was drained, but luckily, I have emerged emotionally stronger.
Are you back with Atulya?
I have great respect for Atulya. He had the guts to rectify the damage he has done to me with dignity and courage. I am starting
life afresh and living in the house with the children and him.
What do you mainly attribute the breakdown of your marriage to?
As long as my father-in-law was alive, everything was good. He took pride in the family and its name. He would have been devastated to see it disintegrate to this level.
But after his demise, the absence of a patriarch in the family led to everything going out of control. I don’t want to indulge in mudslinging, but I will stand up for everything I believe in.
Where do you figure in the family dispute and why were you dragged into it?
I am a very social person, so my image probably went against me. I was not the inheritor of the estate. I didn’t know why I was dragged into this.
How do you feel when certain people call you a social climber?
Oh, please! I didn’t marry above my social status, I come from the same strata. My dad is the head of Nirlon, a product of Wharton and my mother is an LSE (London School of Economic) graduate. I had to move out of my plush Pali Hill apartment into a joint family. I haven’t inherited anything nor do I feel elevated.
Would you also accept that the age gap between Atulya and you was also partly responsible?
There isn’t much of an age difference between us. He is only 43 and I have known him since I was 15. We briefly dated, split up and got back together. Unfortunately, we parted ways again as he got married. And then, destiny brought us together! I know Atulya looks older than his age because he has suffered a lot after his father passed away. His family disputes only added to it. All this took a major toll on his mental and physical well-being.
What exactly went out of control in the Mafatlal family? Even Atulya left you.
He didn’t leave me, ever.
They have apologised to you. Are you willing to say sorry and get it over with?
Atulya has publicly apologised to me for falsely accusing me of so many things and that ends the matter.
Can all of you remain happily ever after?
It’s better to distance yourself to protect yourself, rather than set your hands on fire and not expect to burn them.
What’s your claim to fame?
I have no claim to fame. I don’t want fame and I have no desire for it. At the moment, I am focussing on my future and my plans for my company. I have a lot to achieve. I want to focus on the luxury and lifestyle segments in the Indian market.
Don’t you want to be a mother now?
I have treated Atulya’s children as my own. They have lived with me as my responsibility, since I got married and continue to do so even today. And we are starting life afresh. As for my own children, I haven’t given that a thought until now.
Any message to women who have had a similar fate?
I empathise with other women who face similar situations. My message to them would be to stand up and defend themselves. It will be difficult but eventually the path will open up. Never give up and have faith in God, there is divine justice!