Book Review: Bird in a Banyan Tree My Story

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 - 7:10am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Author: Bina Ramani
Publisher: Rupa

It's easy to dismiss her as a caviar socialite from Delhi's swish set. However, what many tend to overlook are the challenging episodes in her life she's braved through with guts and gumption. Bina's life has been a sea of scary vortexes in which she's often found herself trapped but eventually emerged stronger. She's dabbled into fashion, entrepreneurship, restaurant business and philanthropy and this memoir unravels so many facets to her multi-layered persona, which are relatively unknown. The lady became the target of media's witch hunting during the unfortunate, sordid and shocking Jessica Lal murder case. The book fascinatingly captures how with courage and conviction she pulled herself together during the trying times and of course with the unstinted support from daughter Malini and husband Georges.

Her story kicks off beautifully in the post-partition period when she moved to Mumbai with her large conservative family comprising many siblings. The chapter describing her courtship with Shammi Kapoor makes for quite a read. However, the timing was not right. The late Raj Kapoor's wife Krishna was strongly in favour of the match because she felt Bina had the 'right combination of traditional and modern values' and would bring stability into Shammi's life but Raj felt that her conservative background and Shammi's wild ways weren't compatible.

However, Bina's decision to marry her first husband Andy who was a manager at Air India is a tad shocking. Even though before marriage she got to know that Andy had a live-in relationship in San Francisco, she decided to go ahead with it. Sadly, she was trapped in a loveless marriage dealing with an abusive husband and taking care of two daughters Malini and Gitu followed by a messy custody battle.

There's a well written chapter mentioning Bina's meeting with the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who loved a jewellery piece made by her. Bina later interviewed Indira too.

Bina's unfair targeting by the media in the Jessica Lal murder case is described lucidly. From the fateful night at the Tamarind Court Café to the big lie of wiping blood – she sets the record straight.

She writes how she became the target eventually and not the culprit – Manu Sharma. "Sabrina Lal later confirmed that when the SIT examined her, they had asked so many questions about the Ramanis, she had had to remind them that they were shifting focus, as it wasn't Bina who had killed her sister."

Bina's self-esteem had hit rock bottom, but her integrity and support from her family kept her going.

Excerpt from the book:

Unable to bear the pressure of the damaging media reports, I decided to speak to Sabrina Lal. I thought she would be the best positioned to explain to the SIT that they were barking up with wrong tree.

Sabrina's reluctance to meet came as a surprise. After much persuasion, she agreed to a meeting at a coffee shop in her neighbourhood in Gurgaon. She was visibly surprised to see my distressed state. 'What's the matter, Bina?' she asked.

'Sabrina, why is the police team hounding us?' I asked. 'Don't they know that we are their main hope if they want to solve the case?' I added, 'You know it too, don't you?'

I was amazed by her chilly response. She basically shrugged her shoulders and said, 'I can do nothing about it. Why don't you speak to KK Paul himself, he's the man in charge. I can do nothing.' She gave me his number. 'I don't know how else to help you, Bina; just get in touch with him, he's handling the case now.'

I broke into tears several times during our conversation and told her that I become a bundle of nerves at home, that Malini and Georges were alarmed and couldn't bear to see me in this state. Strangely, these very dialogues were to appear five years later in the film, No One Killed Jessica (2001), which painted Ramanis, especially me, in a very damaging light.

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