Remembering our no nonsense Narayan Da  

A.H. Jaffor Ullah


Late Narayan Gupta with his family

Narayan Gupta, a passionate Mukto-mona from Bengal, passed away on May 7, 2003, in Canada.  He was 68 years old at the time of his death.  A lot has happened since his passing.  For one thing, the forum Mukto-mona, which was closer to his heart, has changed and I am sure if he were alive today, he would have liked this new direction of our forum. 

The way I was introduced to Narayan Gupta in 1997 via the Internet was a bit strange.  The Internet was a very new medium then.  Therefore, netiquette was a very new thing for all of us who decided to wet our feet in new cyber forums.  To my knowledge, the only forum we had in those days was NFB (News From Bangladesh), which used to provide news digest from Dhaka.  There was a section call “Readers’ Opinion” that the editor Tanvir Chowdhury kindly provided for an outlet for readers.  Narayan Gupta was a permanent fixture in that forum.  He used to post his one paragraph of witty remarks on contemporary affairs.  Critiquing India’s caste system, Bharatiya Janata Party, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Miah Nawaz Sharif, and Shangha Parivar was his main forte.  Narayan Gupta occasionally would make comments on M.A. Jinnah, Hussein Shahid Suhrawardy, Khwaza Nazimuddin, A.H. Khan Bhashani and others like them who were instrumental in the Desh Bibhag of 1947— a black chapter in our history he rightfully thought.


Now the problem was not with the liberal readers in NFB.  A few hard-core anti-Indian Bangalee readers in NFB decided to corner Narayan Gupta for his expressed views in that cyber newspaper.  The trouble was that those illiberal readers used to use pen name to lambaste Narayan Gupta and few of our secular writers.  When their non-stop tirades made enough noise in NFB, I decided to defend the writings of Narayan Gupta.  Immediately I saw that he became my friend.   

Narayan Gupta’s writings had a rough edge; therefore, a few of us decided to propose to him to let any of us edit his write-ups.  Besides, he was not very particular about typos and wrong spelling of names and places.  That onus fell on me to edit Narayan Gupta’s write-ups.  Once we did that his writings took a new height.  Our opponent now saw a formidable enemy in Narayan Gupta. They did enough research on him.  It was easy to do prepare a dossier on Narayan Gupta because he used to use his real name and the place from where he used to write in those days were copiously mentioned at the end of his articles.  Our opponent—the illiberal (parochial) folks figured it out through grapevine that Narayan Gupta was suffering from cancer.  They used this piece of information in one of their write-ups to state that Narayan Gupta won’t last long in this world.  The tenor of the write-up was very mean; it hurt Narayan Gupta and our feelings.  Nonetheless, he replied to the mean article written against him with humor and wit.

Talking about humor Narayan Gupta had a lot of it and he used it rather profusely in his lampoon.  He used to write articles in which he would bring goats that would talk to each other in hilarious tone.  Those incisive writings used to squash his detractors, which he had aplenty.   

Narayan Gupta knew his time for the final departure was nearing.  However, he felt that he had to tell his stories to cyber readers.  As he was going through some tough regimen of chemotherapy, he wrote almost every night.  Sometimes I would get e-mail from him near midnight.  Those were very powerful write-ups on communal riots that he has seen as a young high school student.  I could tell from the first draft of his article that a rage was going through his mind.  He reminisced about his time in Kishoreganj, Shorar Char, Kuliar Char, Bhairav Bazar, etc., during 1955-1947 riots.  Narayan Gupta’s family was from Itna, which is under Kishoreganj subdivision.  He hails from the Zamindar Family of Itna.  His grandfather was the last Zamindar before the Zaminadri system was abolished from Bengal in early 1990s.  Members of the Gupta clan migrated to either Tripura or West Bengal after 1947.  Narayan Gupta had his college education in an engineering school in Bihar.  Through his work in the 1960s, he visited many backwaters of India.  He finally ended up in England.  From there he came to Canada and then finally to Maryland, America.  By profession, he was a civil engineer.  Nevertheless, at heart he was a freethinker and social reformer. 

I found Narayan Gupta’s writing very incisive.  I took the liberty of sending scores of his articles to Dhaka’s Daily Star.  The newspaper used to print them soon after they would receive them.  Once I told him that Dhaka’s newspaper editor must found his writing interesting or else, why is it that his articles were gracing the pages of daily Star?  Narayan Gupta was so humbled by my assertion that he said, “Jaffor, it is your doing.”  He was very happy to know that while he could not visit an independent Bangladesh, his writings were being published in his motherland. 

I never knew that Narayan Gupta was a born painter.  I collaborated on some project with him where I used his cartoons.  The pen name he used to draw those sketches was Meher Ali, a character right from Rabindranath’s short story.  Needless to say, Meher Ali was a madman.  Narayan Gupta found Meher Ali’s spellbound character rather fascinating.  It may sound strange that in late 2002 Narayan Gupta had realized his time for departure from this mortal world was nearing.  He sent me a request through e-mail asking me to have his recent paintings.  I acquiesced in his request.  A week later, a package containing Narayan Gupta’s pencil sketch and color paintings came to my doorsteps.  Few months later, I learned about his passing away through an e-mail from Fatemolla.  

Narayan Gupta was never afraid to speak his mind.  That is precisely why he had many detractors in NFB forum.  Many of them had insular mind who did not quite see the vast expanse of his mind.  After his demise, I saw one of the detractors of Narayan Gupta admitting publicly in an e-forum for the first time that our enigmatic friend was misunderstood.  Many forum-goers who used to loathe Narayan Gupta for his incisive writing now realize that he was a person who never shied away from telling the truth.  Narayan Gupta frequently quoted poems of Shamsur Rahman and he admired openly Taslima Nasrin’s stance on women rights issue.   

Narayan Gupta was a myriad minded intellectual and writer.  He wrote a few short stories based solely on experiences from his halcyon days in Kishoreganj or Tripura.  Those were gems from him.  I don’t know if anyone has saved those short stories.  The NFB cyber newspaper had published those in 1999 and I wonder if those were saved by any kind soul.  With the archive of NFB long gone because of hard disk crash or ISP’s failure, there is no trace of those gems.  I will sorely miss these articles.  Nonetheless, I was able to save some masterpieces of Narayan Gupta.  Some of them are now in Mukto-mona site. 

Avijit Roy, Mukto-mona’s founder moderator, lamented the other day telling me that Narayan Gupta’s first year death anniversary have come and gone in May 2004 but we forgot to celebrate the departed writers life.  I personally think we have a lot to learn from his life.  He was displaced from his ancestral homeland when he was a teenager.  He could have never called anyplace his home, really.  In reality, he was an itinerant person.  However, he had high hopes on humanity.  He probably thought that with the advent of technology such as the Internet, diffusion of knowledge would create a global society bereft of repression, obscurantism, gender-based discrimination.   

Narayan Gupta was truly a Mukto-mona (freethinker).  His absence in our little world of Mukto-mona is greatly missed by his friends.  Narayan Gupta, wherever you are, please note that this little forum of ours is making a stride in the right direction. 


Mukto-mona Features on Narayn Gupta:


Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA