For any numbers of reasons, India has no shortage of tragedy. To name just three — economic disparity drives crime, insufficient education breeds various abuses and corruption in the police force leads to lax enforcement. Just read any major Indian newspaper on a random weekday, and you’ll come away with enough sadness to last the week.
Which may explain why Kankal Kando, aka “The Skeleton Affair,” has captured the imaginations of Kolkata. It’s tragic, but also weird enough to distract from the daily grind of true horror. Even more to the point, it’s a true-crime tale largely without victims.
On June 11, reports surfaced of a 70-year-old man, Aurobindo De, living with his 40-year-old son, Partha De, in their apartment in Kolkata’s upscale Shakespeare Sarani neighborhood. (The son has also been reported as being 44-years-old.) That morning, the father died in a fire, which has subsequently been reported as a suicide.
When police arrived to investigate, they found something weird: This pair didn’t live alone. They shared their living quarters with the skeleton of Aurobindo’s daughter (and Partha’s sister), Debjani De, plus the bones of Debjani’s two dogs.
Oh, and someone had been feeding the skeletons. From The Times of India:
It now appears Aurobindo, refusing to believe that his daughter had died, had kept her body, feeding her daily. It now appears that Debjani De loved her dogs immensely. After the death of both, she gave up eating leading to her death. Aurobindo not only refused to accept it but kept feeding her, till police found it.
It gets creepier, if you can believe it:
While senior police officers entered the rooms he came across various uncanny sounds, mostly recorded to create a haunted atmosphere. The music used to be played round the clock at the apartment. Police wonder how the stink of decomposed bodies didn't reach the neighbouring apartments. Investigators found dry food alongside the skeletons. Investigators are also taking help of psychiatrists to understand the problem. A group of anti-homicide squad officers of the detective department swung into action after local police reported the recovery of skeletons this morning.
Given the incident’s bizarreness, Kolkata is now swept up in Skeleton Fever and the house on Robinson Street is an increasing popular destination for morbid curiosity-seekers. Local press is actually calling it “the new selfie address.” On June 16, The Telegraph (India) reported:
Gourab Shaw took a selfie with his niece outside a building on Monday afternoon. He immediately posted it on Facebook with the status: "Got tickets to Hitchcock's Psycho house in our very own Calcutta - feeling scared at Robinson Street." It got 50-odd likes in less than 15 minutes and garnered multiple comments...
University student Gourab Shaw had come all the way from Krishnagar in Nadia, 120km away, but hundreds of Calcuttans from near and far are flocking to the "Hitchcock house" for a click...
From schoolteachers to bank managers, little children with their mothers to college students, everyone is stopping at the red brick entrance to the Robinson Street premises.
Morbidity aside, at least this new foot traffic is a boon for local business. The Telegraph interviewed nearby shop-owner Sanjiv Shah who, on a typical day sells a “few cups of tea” to drivers and guards who work in the area. On a single Monday, he sold 650 cups.
Don’t expect the public’s appetite for Kankal Kando to wane anytime soon. As Firstpost reported, a local theater group, Manjori Opera, is working on a production based on the case. It will only move forward if the remains are confirmed as being those of the daughter/sister:
"I am really excited. The script is 75 percent ready but we will have to wait for the Hyderabad DNA test report to confirm if those were of Debjani’s,” says Gautam Chakrabarty, the owner of Manjori Opera to the Express News Service. The props department is already securing skeletons for the show. He’s excited that there are already two confirmed bookings for the show in different districts in West Bengal. “More are expected,” he says happily.
Before you saddle-up your high horse, consider the extreme morbidity of the American public. Ours is the culture with an unquenchable thirst for true crime and bizarre personalities. Hell, we practically invented serial killers with the likes of Ed Gein and Henry Lee Lucas.
India is just trying to get with the times.