Bird in a Banyan Tree (My Story)

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Item Code: NAG342
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Bina Ramani
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788129129123
Pages: 320
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 470 gm
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
23 years in business
23 years in business
Book Description
About The Book

From arriving as a refugee child in India during Partition to having Binatone, a successful electronics brand, named after her: from a nine-year-old sitting on her favourite black rock, watching the waves and weaving dreams in Bombay, to a passionate relationship with screen idol shammi Kappor; from a loveless marriage and a bitter divorce, to opening her own stores and changing the face of Delhi’s Hauz khas Village; form searching for her daughters across continents, to being taken in police custody and sent to Tihar Jail for being a stubbornly honest witness: from being vilified by the media to being lauded by the country for her heroic role in the Jessica Lal murder case – in this inspiring. No-holds-barred memoir, Bina tells it all.

Candid and fascinating Bird in a Banyan Tree is the account of Bina Ramani’s tumultuous journey through life, as she searches for deeper meaning spiritual enrichment and inner peace. And faces all obstacles with rare resilience, courage and faith.

About The Author

Bina Ramani divides her time between New Delhi, Goa and New York and enjoys exploring the cultural roots of people of all races. She is passionate about Sufi music, painting. Photography, travel cooking and other good things of life. She currently works for the rehabilitation of Child victims of sexual abuse and networks with exceptional women in an effort to empower underprivileged women across the globe.


I had spent seven traumatic days and nights in police custody. The police had found nothing more to hold against me. In fact, they did not interrogate me even once during those seven days. Yet, their daily bulletins to the media claimed, 'Bina Ramani is not cooperating' offering no other detail. Now the police had issued a non-bailable warrant against me, and I was going to jail! Jail! Unthinkable! Why? Finally, the media were demanding explanations. They were asking the same questions we were: why was the key witness in the Jessica Lal murder trial being arrested?

In 2006, the retrial of the Jessica Lal murder case had been announced due to unprecedented public and media pressure. An elite Special Investigation Team (SIT), under the watchful eye of then Delhi Police Commissioner K.K. Paul, had been hastily appointed. We had heartily welcomed the move. Among the few witnesses remaining in the seven-year-long sensational case, in which our role had been frequently derailed by the powerful lobby of the accused, we hoped finally to vindicate our stand and help achieve 'Justice for Jessica'. That slogan was being chanted by millions who had been unanimously roused when the six accused were mysteriously acquitted of the 1999 crime.

Then, in an early step in the new investigation, the SIT, riding the wave of heightened emotion throughout the nation, issued statements to the media that 'The Ramanis' my daughter Malini, my husband Georges Mailhot and myself-'have been put on an international "lookout notice": I had played a critical role in confronting the murderer on the night of the shooting in April 1999. We had reported the crime, grappled with the murderer and taken Jessica to a hospital. We were determined to cooperate with the police team in their investigation. But throughout, we had to stoically stand up to the mounting pressure to cave in and change our statements, as most of the other witnesses had done.

Now here I was, seven years after the incident, and instead of watching justice take its course I sat on a bench alone, in the centre of a big godown-like hall in the Patiala House Court Complex. On either side of me were packed cages, each holding dozens of men and women prisoners of the day. They were to be transported to Tihar Jail at 5.30 p.m. It was now about 3 p.m. Numb with shock, I was trying to take stock of what had transpired in the last hour. The atmosphere around me was totally alien. This hall felt like a different world. Today, the authorities had brought me to court before 2 p.m., almost two hours earlier than the routine appointed time. During my seven days in captivity they had taken me to court daily at 3.30 p.m., where my lawyers, family and friends would appear to rally for my freedom. Each day, however, my custody would be extended, thanks to yet another delay tactic successfully set before the magistrate, Kamini Lau.

On this seventh day of my custody, I craved my freedom. The two policewomen who always accompanied me had cheered me up, saying, 'Try and be happy today, we think you will go home: They had smiles on their faces, which I had never seen before. One of them pressed a tika on my forehead for good measure. I could feel her sincerity.

The magistrate had not yet arrived, and the courtroom was almost empty. I spotted Nafisa Ali, my true and loyal friend, who had always been the first to arrive in court. I gave her a warm smile, feeling euphoric at the prospect of being freed from the nightmarish police custody.

As soon as the magistrate arrived, one of the police personnel accompanying me, a senior cop, walked up to her desk with a sheaf of papers. They engaged in a five-minute discussion, turned towards me, and all of a sudden I was being hurriedly led out of the courtroom. It all seemed so ominous. I was gripped with fear. I grabbed Nafisa's arm as we passed her seat and pulled her along with me, resisting the pressure my guards were using to separate us. Nafisa looked into my eyes momentarily and, like a mother to a child, whispered, 'Bina, be brave. I think they are taking you to Tihar, and it will only be for one night. They have already announced it to the media’.

The media had fallen for every fabricated bulletin the authorities fed them, sensationalizing my so-call misdeeds. Now, as we stepped out of the courtroom, I could not believe my eyes. The empty lane from which we had entered was choked with scores of photographers and journalists, all falling over themselves to see Bina Ramani being led away into the hall reserved for convicts of the day, to be transported to the notorious Tihar Jail!

I had no idea what exactly I was being accused of, but I was forced away by a police cordon amidst the jostling crowds, crying out for my fundamental rights and demanding that my lawyers be given a chance to hear the verdict. It was shocking. I lost Nafisa along the way. Everywhere I looked, I saw cameras and eager bystanders squeezing for a glimpse. A tall, burly uniformed man suddenly materialized as the narrow lane took a turn towards an enclosure with heavy barbed wire for a boundary wall. A doorway from there led us to a big iron gate that opened to receive us. The posse of police parted ways with me, as did the others who had taken me to court. The gate to this large hall was pulled shut and the burly man opened a closet near the entrance, pulled out a bunch of the largest keys I had ever seen and motioned me to follow him.

With nothing more than a bottle of water and my asthma inhaler in my hands, I simply surrendered to my fate, numbed my senses and tried to forget 'me: The burly man, his large keys now thrown menacingly over his left shoulder, led me towards a dark cell. Behind several iron bars, I saw dozens of scrawny, bedraggled and helpless women with desperation in their eyes. They rushed forward, clutching at the iron bars to get a glimpse of their newest cellmate. I was flabbergasted at the sight, but luckily, rose to the occasion and found my voice. 'I am not going in there; I am not a prisoner: I glared up at him. He looked at me in shock for having dared to challenge his authority. I refused to buckle, and raised my hand. 'Do you see this-it is my asthma inhaler: I waved it in his face. The other convicts silently watched our confrontation. I continued, 'Do you know I am a serious asthma patient?'

The man now showed his wrath, taking a deep breath, ignoring my plea, and started to unlock the door with one of his giant keys. I was paralysed with fear. I had to win this battle of wills. Diving into my deepest reserve, I gave it one more shot, hoping I would either intimidate him or reach his human side. 'Okay: I offered, 'take me in. Just remember, if I drop dead there in the next ten minutes, you will be responsible for it: I looked into his eyes with a cold stare. The man hesitated for a moment, then shut the iron door, and again threw the bunch of keys over his shoulder. Irritation clouded his face. He walked me around the corner to a tiny room where they kept the cooling machinery. It was equally bad, if not worse than the cells, being no bigger than a closet and covered with dust. I was horrified. Now I reacted fiercely. 'Oh no, I'm not going in there. I will die here even faster! There's no standing room and it's filled with dust!' I ranted, waving my inhaler in his face again. I spoke in English, knowing it gave me a better chance of intimidating and challenging him.

I saw an annoyed resignation creep into his eyes. A young uniformed woman, who seemed to be in charge of this space, also looked at me in scorn for challenging such a senior officer. My mind ticked at high speed as a defence measure. It was all happening so fast. The burly man now looked at me as if he were weighing whether to bash me up. It certainly would not have been the first time for him; he seemed to enjoy his job. Wordlessly, with a motion of his hand, he walked me over to the centre of the big shed where there were three long, worn benches, all empty. He pointed to the benches and said, 'Go sit there: He seemed eager to disappear from my sight. I chose the furthest of the three benches, which offered a minimal view of the caged prisoners. Numerous official-looking men walked along two open corridors on either side of the benches. I was suddenly gripped with the reality of my situation. My mind reeled with a thousand questions.

Who were all these people? How many were victims of a conspiracy, perhaps like me? What had they done to be locked up? Had they actually committed the offences they were being charged with? What sad and tragic stories could they tell? Would I be with them long enough to get to know their personal stories? Those thoughts filled me with a dreadful sinking feeling. I looked up, hoping to receive an embrace from the sky or something. I saw a dusty, sagging, water-stained asbestos ceiling. Thankful for my tinted glasses, I let my tears flow, wondering for the umpteenth time how and why I was in this mess. How could my life have gone so wrong?

Suddenly, I sensed someone standing next to me. I snapped back into the present, quickly brushed away my tears, adjusted my glasses and looked up. A tall, authoritative-looking man was staring at me. He looked elegant in his crisp white shirt, starched white pants and tan loafers. His incongruous appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, baffled me. Seeing my tear-stained face, he offered me some tea. Even as I accepted his offer, he sat down next to me and gestured to a man who had been standing behind him to bring two cups of tea.

Startled as I was, his presence somehow put me at ease. He introduced himselfbut I did not register his name. Feeling embarrassed to ask him to repeat it, I simply sat there, alert to whatever news he was about to deliver. Even though his appearance had bewildered me, I felt he was a good omen. It seemed like a mirage.

Taking a sip from his cup, he looked around to ensure there was no one within earshot. I observed that a pall of silence had blanketed us. Everyone kept a respectful distance, indicating that he must be a very important official. Then, in a kind but matter-of-fact voice, he started to speak. 'You must not be afraid. There are some people in high places watching over you, and you can rest assured that no harm will come to you. We are proud of the way you have handled yourself. Please continue to be brave. You will not be let down. Many crores have been spent to destroy justice in this case and keep Manu Sharma out of jail, but as long as you stick to the truth no harm will come to you. We are watching. You have a key role to play. Just have patience for another day or two. You will be safe in Tihar; you are protected: He reached the end of his narration and placed his empty cup and saucer on the bench at the same time. It was over as swiftly as it had started.

I took a deep breath as I tried to digest what I had just heard from this mystery man. Even as I framed a question for him, he got up to take his leave. 'Please tell me your name again: I asked, as I thanked him. It was all too much to absorb-was I supposed to have blind faith in what I had just heard?

It was clear that he didn't want to reveal his identity to me, as he mumbled his name incoherently for the second time. It made no sense. I wished he would simply take me away to wherever he was going. Then, desperately clinging to the moment and trying to stretch it, I asked, 'Will the truth finally surface or not? When will the public know about this terrible injustice I am being put through?' He just raised his hand, offering a comforting assurance, and repeated, 'Don't worry, you are being watched and protected by good people who are on your side: He paused for a moment, then before parting, said, 'It's only a matter of days, the truth will be out. Justice will be delivered: Giving me a reassuring smile, he hurriedly left the hall. Whoosh-he was gone in an instant. A surge of relief ran through me, like a balm for my broken spirit. It lasted only too briefly, then the dreadful reality sunk in again. Feeling intensely alone, resigned hopelessly to my fate, I was fighting back tears. What was I doing in this dust-filled, asbestos-roofed enclosure, surrounded by a living scene of Kalyug at its worst? How had I come to this? I wondered. Suddenly, an old memory in the form of my mother's voice awakened my spirit: 'One must learn to separate the "me" from the "self": She used to quote this line from Guru Nanak's teachings. It was just the wisdom I needed at that moment to ease the anguish I was feeling. She would explain that the 'self is the permanence, the God within you that would never let you down if you put your faith in it. The 'me' is the ego that has been created by the illusion of earthly wants and needs. 'Learn to count on your self’, she seemed to be reminding me now. I felt like a child again, reflecting on my mother's words.


1. Dadar and Breach Candy8
2. The Banyan Tree18
3. London26
4. Sindhi Girls38
5. Love...and Marriage53
6. Newly-wed in America71
7. A Walk on the Wild Side79
8. Hot Chocolate86
9. Moving Out99
10. The Dilemma106
11. Diamond Earrings115
12. Jesus Christ!120
13. Rosy123
14. Fate Steps In128
15. A Woman's Psyche133
16. Godman139
17. Stepping Stones143
18. The Last Straw154
19. Lucky Beads161
20. The Interview168
21. Danny Boy176
22. Standing Up to Mr Das183
23. Under the Knife193
24. Pleasure Palace200
25. The Spiritual Path212
26. A Quaint Village220
27. The Golden Days225
28. Embedded Memories232
29. Georges Walks In240
30. The Orbit of Stars247
31. The Fateful Night257
32. The Investigation267
33. The Big Lie: 'Wiping Blood'273
34. The Trial at the Sessions Court275
35. Public Outcry and the SIT278
36. Arrested!284
37. High Court Review293
38. The Media Circus297
39. Aftermath300
40. The Movie303
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