The Not-so Peculiar Case of Guptaji (A Political Biography)

I have always had looked at him with great amount of interest. His body movements, posture or the clasping of his hands into a specific manner behind the back when he would strut like the sophisticated, new-money, rural nouveau-rich of North India, who always wanted the same status and finesse of lifestyle as the established lord of his village – all appeared so gelled in to make that man and that family the way it is. When I moved in the neighborhood, he had an illegal and flourishing ground-water supply business (and still has it). Gradually he took to selling packaged water in those 20 liter jars, which you might be drinking at the shops where they so respectfully and caringly serve you a glass of water to their customers, and also in tiny polythene pouches for the poor. Day and night tractor after tractor would fill in water from the underground water source, which is located in the public land, and sell at exorbitant prices to the water-parched residents of Delhi. And regularly that khaki clad man with a diary in his hand would visit him, sit in his office and have tea – a silent message to the neighbours of his sanction to the enterprise.

 It was interesting how sometimes the khaki shorts wearing man (RSS !!!) would regularly come and sit in his office. It was probably then that we saw this desire in Guptaji to get close to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). I would remember he printed posters with his photograph on it along with that of the local and national level BJP leaders. Maybe he was nurturing his desire to become a ward-councillor or develop a clout within the local level political and administrative circles. Then BJP lost the assembly elections the posters from the electricity poles and tankers/tractors near his home vanished.

It was during this period only that Guptaji, in his usual philanthropic way of capturing public resources got the road side near house-cum-office cleaned, plastered and a peepal tree was given a significant importance with some garlands hanging on to it.  There was a small bust of Shiva and some photographs from the huge pantheon of gods and goddesses alongside. The small tea-shop owner whom he patronized (who also seemed to be selling ganja as the smell from his shop would tell) was the regular worshipper with his daily loud, noisy bhajans based on the crass hindi-film tunes playing every morning and evening. I would get every morning to tell him to lower the volume and he would apologetically do that for a few minutes. Finally, I had to do what I did best to my ability – write letters to the MCD, which after more than a year later evicted him. It was through this chaiwallah that Guptaji wanted to get a temple constructed there, which could be avoided only after our intermittent call to the police station and protest by the neighbourhood. The local college kids (who had won some kind of election in their colleges) would come in their Honda Citys to threaten us and the local policewallah would more often have cups of tea and maybe other routine collections from Guptaji.

There was a lull for sometime before the new enterprising initiatives were to surface – his son’s venture to get into the bollywood through some kind of religious video album (the posters were all over his tankers/tractors) seemed to have failed, the number of tractors getting a refill at the underground water counter had lessened. Though Guptaji could still be seen strutting in safari-suit with his hands clasped behind his back and his wife’s hoarse calls to those workers in his godown and water packaging facility could still be heard.

One day we saw opening of this clinic and gradually it’s popularity increasing. When I asked one of my maids she said that Dr. Gupta gives some kind of injections for the diseases that people come up with (Yes, our Guptaji, who has a new board hanging on one of the doors of his huge four-story building calls himself a Registered Medical Practitioner, a term originally meant as a qualification of selling medicines in a shop probably but has become synonymous with medical quacks across the country). He seemed smart and I felt that he must be into this new business of NGOs and trusts. His tractors were one day having huge banners saying that it supplied water free of cost to supporters of Anna Hazare at the venue of his fast. Guptaji, who has usurping pubic resources, trying to get cosy with all sorts of political affiliations, was now an anti-corruption crusader.

He had a new huge board at his residence, which reads like he has registered some kind of ‘….co-operative society’ and his future projects include sugar mill, hospitals, schools, etc. His clinic is doing great with a doctor couple sharing the space with him. So, hopefully, registered doctors do give his medical credentials as a quack validity now. And more and more people queue in his clinic. The hope for a corruption-free society and more democratic ethos would be nurtured over a period of time in such clinics and enterprises.