|HOME | NEWS | REPORT|
July 26, 1999
'I am John Kennedy Jr. Pleased to meet you Mr Gupta'
When Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, now additional commissioner of Income Tax, received a call from Tony Jesudasan, media advisor at the USIS, way back in July 1983, little did he know that he was going to meet a very important person. Within minutes he was in Tony's office and was introduced to John F Kennedy Junior -- a young, unshaven man dressed in a plain shirt and an old pair of jeans. Here, in this first-person account Gupta recalls the two months he spent with Kennedy Jr in Delhi and wonders whether India has lost a potential friend.
He was then looking for someone who would make him understand Indian politics. "Don't want anyone to know that I am Kennedy Jr. This is a promise you have to make to me," he had said.
The man was putting up at a non-descript hotel in Paharganj in New Delhi which did not have basic facilities like a direct phone, a hot water shower, not even good ventilation. In just a few days we became good friends and while I loved to play the role of a teacher, he was happy to be my pupil. This continued for almost two months, till his mother Jacqueline Kennedy came to Delhi and immediately put him up at the Taj hotel.
We would drive through the city talking about Indian politics and culture. We would sit in restaurants, parks, sometimes near the India Gate and discuss what was going on in Punjab. We would discuss the Emergency. He had taken a keen interest in learning everything that India stood for.
When Indira Gandhi called him for a breakfast meeting, he asked the then prime minister some difficult questions which she was in no mood to answer. After the meeting he told me that Mrs Gandhi was evasive on most of the issues. The more we came close to each other the more I realised that here was a man who may be one of the greatest friends of India should he rise in American politics.
He was conscious of the fact that American people had great expectations of him. He simply did not want to get headlong into politics. He was trying to unlearn many things which the Kennedy clan stood for.
He loved Indian food and did not make a fuss if any of the dishes were a bit spicy. He would relish Tandoori chicken as much as he would relish any other American dish. 'National Dhaba' on the outer circle of Connaught Circus was the place where he liked to eat.
I think he spent about six months in Delhi at one stretch. Thereafter he went to Jaipur and Hyderabad also. Before leaving Delhi, he gave me a watch that had an emblem of his father John F Kennedy on its dial. I never thought it would become such an important gift in my life. I am now trying to locate the watch as well as the letter he wrote to me from America.
The man did not remember the famous salute that he gave to his father when he was just three years old. "Well, everyone in America keeps asking me about the salute but I remember nothing about it. I want to forget many things but it's difficult. Things come back to me and haunt me," he had told me. Perhaps the jinx of the Kennedy family was weighing heavy on his mind.
But from whatever I gathered about him during my brief association with him convinced me that he was unfit for politics. He was aware of the expectations of the people of America, but said he was too young to make up his mind. Though Kennedy supporters would plead with him to jump into politics, he did not seem interested in the idea one bit.
I feel that in his untimely death India has lost a great friend. A person who understood the Indian point of view on various issues involving our relations with other countries including Pakistan. His death is a great loss for us. He may not have been in politics, but having him around would definitely have been a source of strength.
I still vividly remember his unshaven face, his pleasing smile and the warm hand-shake that he gave me when he met me for the first time and said: ''I am John Kennedy Junior. I am pleased to meet you Mr Gupta.''
Despite my protests I remained Mr Gupta for him right through our two-month-long association. Though he had invited me to visit the US on a couple of occasions, I could not make it. I wish I could attend his funeral -- his last journey.
As told to Onkar Singh
INFOTECH | TRAVEL |
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK