February 1, 2021
A quaint little town, Madanapalle in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, woke up to a horror story last Monday when it had emerged that a highly educated academician couple had bludgeoned to death their two young, unmarried daughters the previous night. Cops suspect the couple – V Purushotam Naidu and V Padmaja – to be heavily into superstition and that the entire family was influenced by thoughts of rebirth, resurrection, etc.
Even while the cops were carrying out an investigation, the couple requested them to be patient, saying their daughters would come alive the next day. Alekhya, 27, was a postgraduate student of the prestigious Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal and was preparing for the Civil Services examination while Sai Divya, 22, was a BBM graduate and was pursuing further studies in music from AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory in Chennai.
As with most of us, Alekhya’s Canadian friend Riley couldn’t wrap his head around what went wrong. “I really am having a difficult time believing she could do this. Or her family. I really feel like this thing can’t be real, that it must be set up, or she was hypnotized. It does not fit the Alekhya I knew,” begins Riley.
Riley and Alekhya came into contact with each other about two years ago in Chennai when the two of them chose to stay in a co-ed hostel. The now student of digital art and web design in Canada, was on a south Indian tour to learn about the cuisine here.
“We discussed everything and anything. Travel was a big thing on her agenda. She admired me for my travel inclinations. My opinion of her is that she was very precocious, and ambitious to make her way, and to break the normal life of being married young,” said Riley of his initial impression of the young woman when they met. “She had Hindu beliefs, and enjoyed telling me the history. She got me a copy of Mahabharat,” he adds.
Going by Alekhya’s Instagram posts, the family comes across as any other close-knit one and Riley also paints the same picture. “She loved her sister more than anyone else in the world. She was so proud of her musical talents. Her parents seemed on the cusp of old and new. They were educated and supportive of Alekhya not following the conventional norms such as marriage,” he says, and adds that Alekhya and her family seemed to be normal and she had a good relationship with them.
A few of Alekhya’s posts have come under the scanner and suggest brainwashing similar to that of her parents. “She voiced her opposition to Islam only a few times. I often told her, It made me uncomfortable, because I prefer tolerance and acceptance. I just had to assume that the reasons were not something I could comprehend having grown up in the West,” Riley opined on the same.
Riley and Alekhya mostly spoke to each other via Zoom chats and they had also spoken nine days before the unfortunate event happened to set up a tentative call to reconnect. They discussed weather, food, meditation, Covid, etc, during their calls. While Riley hasn’t spoken to any of the other family members personally, he says that he had seen them in the background during their calls and they seemed like any other normal family.
“They sounded like good people. I know the house they just moved to a year ago…I don’t even know if their school has opened. I never heard of the dog dying, I know she loved him.” He also let know that Alekhya confided in him of finding a position where she could begin to travel and explore India.
Still not able to believe what has transpired, he says, “It does not add up to me. My heart tells me the story is not correct,” and adds, “I would want to know who was with them leading up. Or did they take morning glory seeds, or get hypnotized… it does not sound anything like the Alekhya I came to know quite closely.”