As it was my first week in college, an obvious sense of dubiousness and hesitation overpowered me. Until of course, I decided to audition for the Dramatics Society. The auditions were my first encounter with her. Now she wasn’t just anybody else. She had a different vibe altogether, a sparkling glint in her eyes and an unceasing stream of positivity in her aura. Sangeeta Gupta, 47 years of age, is the Director of MCM’s Dramatics Society and even though it’s only been a week since I’ve known her, I feel such a strong affinity towards her. She’s an exceedingly renowned theatre personality in the city and has been in the field for over two decades. But the inhuman conditions she faced, to get where is she is today, make for a remarkable and inspiring memory.
“I want to tell the world about my journey. Each and every thing. All that I
“What kind of suffering are you emphasizing?”
“I was molested at the age of fifteen.”
Her words pierce you like swords, when you least expect them to. What gathers your interest in a conversation with her, is how she drowns you in the backdrop and then ushers in a sudden gush of hope, about how she survived.
“Was it someone you knew?
“Yes, of course. Who else would have the guts, the availability? But one has to realize that if you can come out of these things, you can come out of anything. And it is only you who has the power to do that. You learn,eventually, how to survive, how to collect yourself and get back up. I have a peculiar habit of talking to things, I got it because of living alone. I used to speak to each book I read, when the transistor played a song, I’d ask it questions. Stuff like that. That’s how I added colour to my world, and made it a little less monochromatic.”
She’s also got a bucket-load of endurance, curiosity and strength in her. She said that as a child, “I found out that cigarettes cause cancer. So I used to collect old used up cigarettes from the street and puff them in and I used to ask around precisely how long it would take for the cancer to perpetrate. Just so I could die a natural death, with no one to blame.”
However, underneath all those layers of suffering, struggle and turmoil, lied a story of unflinching love. Poetry from the sepia-toned decades would facilitate me when I say that artists are extraordinarily passionate lovers. And someone so profound, her story shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“We were together for 12 years. All we’d done was hold hands! It was the conventional kind of love, the pure kind. He had to leave the town to study law. By the time he came back to see me, I’d fought with my parents, moved out of the house, lived in Mumbai, worked as the leading lady in one of Hema Malini’s television productions and was then working on a dramatics project. I was confident, bold, and independent and a clear contradiction of the person he had fallen for. But we still tried to stay together. It didnt work out. But that’s alright. Although I could never fall for anyone else.”
“I’ve seen a rough childhood, with unsupportive parents and a molester for a tutor, but I picked myself up. I had to. I lost my father in 2002 and by that time I’d done a lot of work in the field of theatre. I’d worked for all kinds of people and I’d helped children discover themselves and saved them from drowning into darkness. My father was in the hospital, I was sitting next to his bed when he got up and touched my feet. He cried profusely and he couldn’t stop apologizing. He said, “You have the power to transfer dreams. Always keep doing that for people.” Theatre saved me. I came to this city with 300 rupees in my pocket and no place to live. Today I charge 3 lakhs for the projects I take up. I’m so happy; I live with my best friend. She does all the accounts, I’ve never been into Math anyway. I pray everyday for this to stay.”
She’s been rusted with criticism, dejection, disapproval and all other travesties imaginable but she’s the strongest woman on the block- a leader for the young, a lesson for the old and a constant support for her companions today. After all that she’s been through, her ability to radiate love and warmth is what truly makes her who she is.