'If my family could trust me, why didn’t my fraternity?': Jigna Vora

From a scribe to a fortune-teller – how journalist Jigna Vora navigated the bad times and found her future

By Manju Ramanan

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Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 7:29 PM

Journalist turned tarot card reader Jigna Vora is in the Big Boss House. It’s a far cry from the horrors of jail that she endured for almost a year after she was wrongly accused of leaking vital information to the underworld about a fellow crime reporter, which resulted in his murder. After nine months of imprisonment, she was acquitted of all charges but she struggled to keep afloat because the shadow of a criminal record didn’t leave her easily. She went on to write a book titled, Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison that inspired the Hansal Mehta directed web series Scoop on Amazon Prime.

Jigna spoke to City Times about her gruelling term in the jail, how it turned her life around and made her resilient.

You are a Dubai girl, aren’t you?

Yes, my father worked in Dubai, and was a partner in business with his friend since 1964. I was born in 1974 and was a student at the Indian High School. We lived in Deira. I enjoyed the 'parottas' in the small restaurants and abra rides that were then priced at 25 fils. After a few years, I was sent to Mumbai to study with my cousins. My last visit to Dubai was in 2008.

Tell me about your experiences in jail. What did you learn from it?

Though it was a terrible phase for me, I learnt that prisoners accept each other without judgement unlike people outside. As a journalist, I realised I was very judgemental. There, I heard their stories. There is a lady I have mentioned in my book, called ‘spider woman,’ who was in jail because she was trying to steal money for the treatment of her child with blurred vision. Another girl Suman Sony was tortured by her mother-in-law (for being childless), who would insert an iron rod in her vagina while her husband watched the scene, laughing. Soon the husband died and the mother-in-law continued to torture her and one day, she hit back and retaliated, and was then jailed.

Did the experience in jail influence you to take up a different profession?

Where were the jobs after I returned? Most of my colleagues back then kept a safe distance from me. Also, most HR companies do not employ anyone with a criminal record. Today, I thank that experience because I am called everywhere to talk about how I survived the ordeal. But I never gave up. During the winters I would make 50kg of undhiyu (a Gujarati dish) every week and sell it. Then, tarot and astrology became part of my life.

Are you more resilient today?

I am resilient today because I developed that quality while in jail. You have to surrender to the situation. My family was rock solid in their support and though my parents were old, they came to visit me time and again and my heart broke when the paparazzi would photograph them. A Gujarati inmate once asked me if I became an escort or a call girl and earned a lakh of rupees a week. I couldn’t sleep that night struggling for an answer. The next morning, I went to her and asked her politely who would want to be with a jail-returned girl who is accused of having ties with the underworld? Probably no one. She had no words to argue and I walked away with my peace and dignity. In these 12 years, I have evolved and have healed nearly 80 per cent. Drop your ego and have faith. Apna time aayega (our time will come).

How did your son react to all of this?

My son is my anchor. He didn’t believe a thing that was said in the press and in the school. In fact, there is a scene in Scoop that is very emotional where he supports me when I am out on bail. He was just a child but a mature soul who knew it all. My parents looked after him and today he is in the US and is in the food industry. I am very proud of him.

Is there going to be a second book?

Not a book but a series of scripts now. I have signed with two production houses for a series about the characters I met during my jail term and what they are doing now. Some of them, interestingly, joined hands and have become bigger criminals. But I often feel why it required a web series to understand my situation. Why wasn’t I supported by my community of journalists? If my family could trust me, why didn’t my fraternity?


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