For a love like theirs
In a new book, daughter of late India leg-spinner Subhashchandra Gupte sets out to retrace how Trinidad became the place of refuge and love for her dad, when he was down in the dumps
Pick up lines, more often than not, are meant to amuse—swaying somewhere between just-giving-a-compliment and trying-my-luck. But, in 1953, when India leg-spinner and Shivaji Park boy, Subhashchandra Pandharinath Gupte, a member of the first Indian team to tour the West Indies, bowled one such googly off the sports field, it had fallen flat. "May I be so bold to say that yours is the kind of face that I would like to see every morning at my breakfast table!" Gupte had asked Carol Goberdhan, a young Trinidadian, whom he met on the sidelines of an exhibition game that was being played at San Fernando, Trinidad. Carol, who was assisting her father—head of the organising committee of the event—"manoeuvring her way around the tables, while carefully balancing a tray of empty glasses", had been anything, but impressed. "Excuse me, are you speaking to me?" she had asked, pointedly.
While it would take an apology from Gupte for her to quickly melt, it also set the stage for a whirlwind romance, which has now been retold in a novella, Love Without Boundaries: The 49-year partnership of Subhash and Carol Gupte, written by the couple's daughter Carolyn Gupte.
Published in Trinidad and Tobago, where the Indian team is currently touring, the book has already made its way into the hands of captain Virat Kohli and former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. "It [the book] was written to satisfy my niece's curiosity about her ancestry. As the youngest member to join our small family [Rhiannon Gupte was born in 1998], she knew very little about her grandparents' story, their legacy, their contributions in the fields of sport [my father] and education [my mother]. For the four short years that she spent with her grandfather before he passed away in 2002, she only knew him as a semi-handicapped man who used a walker to get around the house, made her laugh and who spoke with a funny accent. A large part of her relationship with her grandmother Carol also centered around illness as my mother spent the better part of her retirement years battling depression post my father's demise," says Carolyn, who is based out of Trinidad. Though the book revisits real events from her parent's life, Carolyn felt it was more apt to describe it as a novel, because it's "my interpretation of my parents' memories, derived from the many conversations we shared as a family".
Author Carolyn Gupte
Gupte, nicknamed Fergie after West Indian leg-spinner Wilfred Ferguson, was among the greatest leg-spinners of world cricket, when he fell in love with Carol in the 1950s. "My father ran the risk of being ostracised by those in his inner circle who were critical and skeptical of his choice of mate," says Carolyn in an email interview. Her mother, she says, had it a lot tougher. "Coming from a small island, the Goberdhan family wielded considerable influence and indeed was an important pillar within the powerful Presbyterian community. She defied her parents' wishes by falling in love with a foreigner, who was a Hindu and a cricketer... In my mind, my mother demonstrated extraordinary courage by taking a chance on a man she barely knew."
Growing up, Carolyn remembers her father as a "Mumbai Indian" at heart. "He enjoyed regaling us with stories about the culture, the food, the people, the sights and sounds of Mumbai at night—descriptions of Marine Drive, Dadar beach and of course, his beloved Shivaji Park," she says.
Gupte would have possibly never left his home city, had it not been for the career-ending controversy, which his daughter describes "as a sore point in his life". During the 1961-92 England tour, Gupte was sharing a room with teammate Kripal Singh at the Imperial Hotel, when Singh allegedly asked a hotel receptionist to go out with him. The call was traced to their room, and though the duo denied this, they were suspended. Gupte, who had pleaded innocence, had been bitter about the "gross miscarriage of justice". "I wrote about it [the controversy] from his perspective. It formed an important part of the story since it precipitated the move to Trinidad. It remained off-limits to a certain extent, and a bitter pill for my father to swallow. Undoubtedly, it was one of the main reasons for his reluctance to pen his autobiography."
In the 1950s, Gupte was said to be among the greatest leg-spinners of world cricket
His premature exit from the world of cricket and forced re-entry into a new life in Trinidad in 1963, had not been easy on the family. After moving, Gupte took up a job as a salesman in a sports store. A few years later, in 1965 he got a job as liaison officer with a sugar company. The company had its own primary school and Carol was hired as the principal. She started her own private school in 1972. "It [the shift] required a great deal of sacrifice, patience, understanding and love—especially on my mother's part. With two small children under the age of five, there were many financial considerations and other decisions which required careful planning," says Carol. Her father, she says, was extremely supportive of her accomplishments. "His love for my mother was evident... he never made any attempt to mask or deny his feelings of undying devotion to her. Daddy was always her greatest advocate."
Carolyn hopes this book will set the record straight about her parent's relationship. "One of the most common misconceptions was that on his first visit to Trinidad, my father met my mother and never returned to India."
Everything aside, the book, which can be ordered by contacting the writer as it's currently available only in Trinidad and Tobago, is quintessentially about two people in love. "My mother always said that 'no matter what the crisis, with courage and faith, love conquers all.' My father had a far more lax approach to life. This is what I cherished—she really was the yin to his yang."
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