Had it not been for Stalin, the Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Das Gupta would have written poetry for his wife, Jayasri; had it not been for politics, he would have been a professor and had it not been for the life-size portrait of the Mahatma, his “heroes” Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose would have managed some wallspace in his two-room flat in Kolkata.
It was in school that he flirted with verse. But it was only after Stalin’s death that he poured his heart out. But today, he can’t even remember the lines he had so emotionally penned. Even when he courted Jayasri, there wasn’t much time for poetry. Their marriage was a stormy one. It divided Jayasri’s family, with her grandfather asking her father to either leave or stop his daughter from marrying a communist. Mukherjee Sr was a staunch Congress supporter and communists were unacceptable to him. Interestingly, Das Gupta started off his political career by opposing the communists. As a student leader, he foiled a strike sponsored by the Communist Party. Politics also cut short his desire to join academics. Even today, his favorites remain Byron, Keats and Shelley. Mention Shakespeare and he confesses being hooked on Othello.
Other than Stalin and Jayasri (in that order), Das Gupta’s “first love” was Netaji. It was Netaji’s freedom call that drew Das Gupta to the Independence movement. But sadly, poverty overtook that fervor and Das Gupta concluded that because of Stalin and his policies the Soviet Union was economically better off. “Having read Tagore’s Letters from Russia, I believed that Soviet Union was a new paradise. I began to drift,” Das Gupta recalls.
Das Gupta is one of the rare comrades who visit temples. His deity: Swami Vivekananda. Those who have seen Das Gupta at work may find him short on patience. His image is of a no-nonsense MP. He has also moved the largest number of calling attention motions in Parliament. But take him down memory lane and he is vulnerable. Otherwise serious, he breaks into a smile and his gruff voice mellows.