Saturday, February 21, 2015


Vartanama, Feb '15
By Pawan Dhall

Come February, and love is in the air, what with Valentine’s Day, parties, roses, chocolates and all that! This month’s issue of Varta is also about love, understanding . . . and remembrance. Some of it in naughty ways – see Times and Lives of Girly Boys in ‘60s Kolkata, the first part of an interview with a journalist who provides a glimpse of the queer scene in Kolkata in the 1960s. Then there is this month’s lead story A Thought for Ma and Baba, which looks at the queer coming out story from the parents’ point of view – in particular about their unfulfilled aspirations and desires even as they come to terms with their children’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Kusum Gupta. Photo credit: Kallol Nath
When it comes to remembrance, yesterday, February 20, was the birthday of the late Kusum Gupta, a remarkable person who was many things to many people – an inspiring mother and grand parent, a persistent champion of women’s, child and queer rights in both personal and professional spheres . . . and a mentor to this writer over innumerable cups of tea and delectable savouries right since the early 1990s. Her unexpected demise in April last year (she was 79) left us the poorer in terms of losing someone who could both listen patiently and argue passionately. But then the memory of her infectious energy is enough to remind one that there’s work to be done and no time to mope!

I would also like to remember another individual who played an important role in my being able to write this article today. C. P. Kuruvilla, a senior journalist who was associated with the Ananda Bazar Patrika Group till retirement, breathed his last on February 14, 2015 in Kerala at the age of 74. He can be remembered in many ways – successful editor, mentor, someone who stood up stoically for the freedom of speech during the days of Emergency . . . for me he would always be my first employer. June 1992, a cobwebbed and noisy Ballygunge Post Office with a now extinct model of a public phone that you actually dialled rather than beeped – I thought I had heard it wrong when he said I was on as a trainee journalist with Business Standard (then a part of the ABP Group). Though not my immediate boss, I knew he was watching me, and watching out for me, as any taskmaster with a heart would with criticism, wit and appreciation. RIP.      

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!


  1. Pawan dear, Thank you for bringing Kusum Aunty back into my (and our) thoughts today. She truly truly truly (can’t say it enough) was an EXTRA-ordinary person!! Not many people in the world look around themselves and say - "Everyone in the world and around me think this way and and this is the 'right way to think’ and it has ‘always’ been this way” -- it is a strong person to then say “I have learned that the way ‘EVERYONE’ thinks and “ALWAYS” has thought is WRONG and I will think a different way even though it seems I am the only one - I know that I am right”

    And a lovely tribute to your mentor/boss. Sometimes what seems like a small gesture from one person has disproportionately large impact in anthers life. Lovely.

    1. Hello Mark, so good to hear from you. Many thanks on behalf of the "Varta" team. Feedback like yours makes our day!