Love Without BoundariesMartin Chandler |
Author: Gupte, Carolyn
Publisher: Gupte, Carolyn
Rating: 4 stars
Love Without Boundaries* has many of the hallmarks of a cricket book. The title itself is, of course, a play on a cricketing term. There is an image on the cover of a cricket ball colliding with a set of stumps. Inside the book there are many photographs of an international cricketer. Admittedly in almost all of them he is ‘off duty’, but there are several shots of newspaper cuttings relating to his on field achievements, and others of items of memorabilia.
There is however no discussion of cricket matches, of cricketing technique or of other players and there are no contributions from former teammates or opponents. Accordingly whilst Love Without Boundaries is a book about the life of the man Garry Sobers still asserts is the greatest leg spinner he has seen, for those whose only interest in Subhash ‘Fergie’ Gupte concerns his deeds on the field this one is probably not the book for you.
The book is written by Gupte’s daughter, but is not simply an emotional tribute to her parents. That it is written from the heart is a given, but amongst her many talents Carolyn Gupte is a trained journalist and her prose is beautifully written, as befits what amounts to a love story. It is just as well the book is not expressly billed as such though, as if it was I would probably never have opened it, and that would have been my loss.
The story begins in Trinidad in 1953. Gupte was a member of the first Indian side to tour West Indies, and spent what cannot have been more than a month on the island. He met Carol Goberdhan there, a teacher from San Fernando. There followed a whirlwind romance, 1950s style with chaperones, before Gupte left with his teammates. The relationship continued by letter for four years before, via that medium, Gupte proposed marriage in 1957.
The proposal accepted Carol flew out to Bombay, as it then was, to live as a guest in the Gupte family home for a short time before the couple married. The Gupte family was not a wealthy one, although his was a similar sort of ‘upper middle class’ background to that of his bride. The trip must have been a daunting prospect for the future Mrs Gupte, and it speaks volumes for her strength of character and the impact that Gupte had had on her that she embarked on the journey.
In those days Gupte was a full time professional cricketer, playing in India in the southern hemisphere summer before travelling half way round the world to the Lancashire League in England, where he was a great success. His wife, of course, accompanied him. The marriage seems to have been an extremely happy one throughout, and there were two children of whom author Carolyn is the younger.
Eventually, in 1962, Gupte fell out of love with cricket and turned his back on India after he was dropped from the Test team against England as a result of his room mate, AG Kripal Singh, having the temerity to ask a hotel receptionist out. Whatever the standards of behaviour expected of international sportsmen in those days it was still baffling that a man who had nothing to do with that particular ‘crime’, should suffer for it, the more remarkably because whatever cursory investigation was carried out the Board never bothered to even speak to Gupte, one of their senior players, about what had happened.
The result of his cricket career ending was that Gupte took his family to Trinidad, where he spent the rest of his days. He did not enjoy the best of health latterly, the effects of an accident combined with diabetes meaning that in his final years (he died in 2002) Carolyn played a significant caring role. At least Gupte lived long enough for the rift with his homeland to begin to heal and to see his family grow up. Carol died twelve years after he did.
I have to say I much enjoyed reading this book. The social history and the ever-present cricketing context make a story that might otherwise have passed me by a fascinating one. It is well written, nicely produced and superbly illustrated. It also hints at more to come by referring to a collection of scrapbooks put together by Carol after Gupte’s death, something that sounds to me to be just the kind of material that an experienced Indian sportswriter who is steeped in the history of the game could fashion into the sort of cricketing biography that would be the perfect complement to Love Without Boundaries.
*Anyone wishing to buy a copy of the book can contact the author via her facebook page, ‘Love Without Boundaries’, or for those in Australia Roger Page will be stocking the book.