Journalist Santosh Gupta: An Idol

Memories of Santosh Gupta: Syed Badrul Ahsan

Santosh Gupta. Photo: Star File

Santosh Gupta was, from every perspective, a man steeped in modernity. And that is what made him different from other men. He was unlike any other journalist in that he believed journalism had a larger role to play than being a mere presentation of news as it was shaped around the journalist. A journalist, in Gupta’s view, was a good deal more than one upholding his profession. He was indeed an individual with a deep sense of commitment to all those causes which touched the lives of citizens. Those who came forth with news, a packaging of it, were for him people who through their world view made a difference in the way society transformed itself at varied points of time.

That was when Santosh Gupta became Aniruddha. It was a column he lived with, identified with, indeed became it over time. It was within its parameters that he held forth on the ills that afflicted society and offered thoughts that could in the end produce a solution. Aniruddha’s was a clinical foray into the dense wood of socio-political deadwood. Gupta saw the thick bushes, the dark undergrowth and then chose to hack away at the mess. He took on arrogant men with politeness but with razor-sharp sarcasm. Never abrasive, he nevertheless knew he owed it to his country to reveal the hollowness that the seemingly great appeared to thrive in. Through his column, Aniruddha gave readers a clear sense of what journalism ought to be. It was never the journalist who was in the limelight. It was always the journalism that mattered.

There was much that was self-effacing in Santosh Gupta. He carefully steered clear of the temptation of turning into a celebrity. That is what cerebral men generally do. They come up with great thoughts and incisive writing and gentle demeanour, all encompassed in humility. Gupta was a cerebral individual. He was a poet who believed rhymes and verses must reflect the worries of contemporary times. A revolutionary spirit underscored his commitment to national causes, through his poetry:

Mrityu’r janaza mora kichhu-tei koribo na path / koborer ghum bhange jiboner daabi aaj ato-i biraat.

Life, in Gupta’s comprehension of the meaning, was but a constant struggle for the uplift of the collective human spirit. And the struggle was to be waged through the relentless march of socialism. For Gupta, socialism or for that matter communism was the modality that would give men with sliding hope a coruscating new meaning to their lives. That was modernity, again, at work in Gupta. He never gave up hope in the ability of socialism to make people take care of their own world. It was a belief he never let go of, even if it meant a march to prison in the dark days of Pakistan.

The journalist-poet-socialist, beyond and above all that, was also a Bengali who would not abandon his cultural heritage. He watched a rainbow take shape for Bengalis through the gathering momentum of rising nationalism in the 1960s. As part of that nationalistic wave, he became part of the war in 1971, in order to be part of the generation that was to cause wonders in this land. Santosh Gupta was made of stern patriotic stuff. He was one of the soldiers who came home on a winter’s day and let us in on the truth that Bangladesh was free.

It is this courageous man we celebrate today, eight years after death put an end to the vibrancy and vigour penned through his ceaseless writing. Santosh Gupta never made light of life. There were the convictions he held on to, despite the weakening men around him. There was seriousness of purpose in him. He believed in the ability of the masses to uphold their larger interests. Democracy in Bangladesh, he was willing to agree, was frail and flawed. But he was never in any doubt about its digging deeper roots in the Bengali soil in the flow of time. It was the thinker in him that spotted the light at the end of the tunnel.

(Santosh Gupta — journalist, poet, political commentator — died on 6 August, 2004).

The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star