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  • Anupam Sen Gupta

THE UNCROWNED PRINCE OF ILLUSIONS

Updated: Jun 28


I had appeared for my school final exams as a private candidate. Since my love for not taking interest in McCaulley education system had resulted in ‘Not Promoted’ or 'Promoted on Trail’ many times, I had to leave school by Grade 8.

But at that age, you don't even know who the fuck was this McCulley. I was just not interested in the claustrophobic classrooms that usually housed 70 odd students on an average to one teacher. The ratio is appalling for blaming a student for not taking interest in studies !!!

This was a time when my vision for my own life was to look handsome & sexy, wear denim & orange shirts, have tons of girlfriends and change them like you change your underwear (no personal offence to anybody please), be a hero in cinema, have my private jet and perform with my band across the world. Oh did I forget? Walk at the Heathrow and Changi airports in glazed kid shoes with red shoe soles to board my private Boeing.

I had no clue that life had a different plan for me.

The year 1968.

I was born to a Bourgeoisie Jagirdari family. Originally Patta holders, who preferred to call themselves Zamindars. This was a few generations back in the 1700s and 1800s in Pabna, Bengal Subah or later Bengal Presidency. Now Bangladesh.

My original name, Partha Sarathi Sena Sharma.

Even after I was born, the so-called aristocratic post-colonial pro-European lifestyle ruled our mannerisms of how to sit in the living room to how to behave at the dining table. What to wear for dinner or what books to read.

Anyways, I grew up thinking that we were not average common people. But I must add that these were not the values that my father or mother, were imparting.

It was all happening in my head! Maybe, due to the patriarchal information of my ancestors stored in my DNA.

But there was another ancestor, who ran away from the claustrophobic life of Jagirdari he was forcefully heading and at the age of 18 ran away to North Bengal to embark on his independent journey in life. He went on to become one of the first Bangali Tea Estate developers in India on his own merit and with the support of the Nawab of Jalpaiguri. Though I belong to this lineage, the impact of this particular ancestor happened much later in my life.


Instead, I thought that my family ruled the world and I, being the scion of the family, will be soon be crowned the ‘prince’.

I decided that I’ll not study further and join the board of Directors in my father’s maritime company after my matriculation. Only my father had no clue of it!

So when I gave my matriculation as a private candidate, I was least prepared as it didn't matter in my personal world of illusions.

My exams ended on the 5th of May and by the 10th of May, I found myself in a shipping company other than my father’s. Though as a management trainee, I could have got Rs. 2500/-, my father ensured I got Rs. 600/- as stipend and made sure that I travelled by public transport. The year was 1986.

Now I was bloody angry. Offended. How could an ‘uncrowned prince of illusions’ work in somebody else’s company? I saw myself no less than the Managing Director! Come on...Hello!

My first day. 10th May 1986. Upmarket Camac Street, Calcutta. I reported for my job. I had no clue that my boss, who was also a Captain in Merchant Navy, hated my father due to some professional rivalry.
The glamorous American Shipping Agency office made me feel at least that the place was suitable for someone of my lineage.

But this feeling was short-lived. My boss instructed me to go to the port in the scorching heat and take photographs of all the sea containers that were lying unused.

This was the time when I was preparing to be a hero in cinema and would apply masks, cereal paste, and cucumber slices on the eyes on a regular basis. My father once got so angry with my self-beauty treatment that he stopped talking to me.

Well, I was given an automatic 35mm camera by my boss. I had managed to flick some money from my mother’s purse. So, I took a cab to reach the port.


Like I said, since I thought that my family owned the world, I just walked through the gates of 3 KPD. The security had seen me a few times before this when I was forced by my father to go with him to the port on Sunday mornings. So they didn't ask for my entry pass.

Now, who would know that every time I went to the port, my father would have arranged guest entry passes for me to enter it?

I went straight in. Took out the camera. Lit a cigarette and began clicking photos of the FEUs or 40 feet long sea containers lying scattered over the dock area.

About an hour later, through my viewfinder, I suddenly saw security personnel with a rifle asking me to walk up to him.

What the hell? How can an ordinary security personnel order an ‘uncrowned prince’ of all that he surveyed? See, how I am using archaic English that I learnt from my spoken English teacher who would always throw me out of the class!

Anyways, I asked him to walk up to me if he wanted to talk. And why should I talk to these ordinary people, was my instant reaction.

He walked up to me. Asked me to show my entry pass. Well, I said, why should I need an entry pass. After all, my father’s name was Capt. A.K. Sen Gupta !!!

On realising that I was inside the port without a pass, he asked for permission from Calcutta Port Trust and CRPF to take photos inside the dock area. Who knew that this was a restricted area where photography was strictly prohibited?

And as luck could have, the Chief of the security system was passing by in his Jeep. They called him General. For some odd reason, he stopped and began walking toward me.

So, the me in me (sounds like Nityananda of Kailasa) asked the who in who if he knew my father. I still hadn’t fathomed the trouble I was in.

The General snatched my camera. Next, I see the security personnel holding me by the collar and pulling me towards the Jeep.

How dare they ?? I was Capt. Sen Gupta’s son after all. Scion of an erstwhile Zamindari family ?? And it so happened that, Capt. A. K. Sen Gupta too was passing by in his car at that very moment.

Realising the trouble his ‘prince in illusion’ was in, he actually had to beg the General to let go of me. It took him an hour to take me out of the mess when the General realised that it was my first day at work and I was utterly ill-informed. Or should I say, ‘victim of ragging’?

What happened between me and my father till he dropped me at the closest bus stoppage to go to the office, is another story for another time.

This was the first time I realised that I was living in a bloody world of illusions. And my father was an ordinary man like any other. But it didn't change things overnight. habit don't die so soon.

It took many more such situations and at least another decade and a half to be who I am today!

Don't know if the outcome is ‘realisation’ that of a Raja or a Runk (Hindi) !!

But even now I live in illusion. The illusion of the creation of the Universe.

Didn't they say, we all live in a web of illusions - Maya !

(disclaimer - images have been sourced from the internet. we dont have any claim on them. used as reference)

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