Tell us something about where you live:
Hello! My name is Rolin Bose, the son of a rich business executive. I go by the nickname “Kokil” and live in the most fashionable part of Calcutta. My story is set in the turbulent mid-1960s when the entire world was pulsating with riots, student protests, political assassinations, and an overarching fear of global annihilation resulting from a nuclear exchange between the Superpowers. The Vietnam War raged on adding fuel to the fire of discontent. Violence touched all major cities of the world, including my hometown, Calcutta (now Kolkata).
Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
I am glad you asked me that. Yes, I hated the name Kokil.
It means a cuckoo in Bengali; an ugly black bird with a long-drawn forlorn call. There is something comical about the bird. It was a cruel gift from my father. I still recall him introducing me to my classmates on my first day at school. I fervently hoped that I would outgrow it someday, but no such luck. The name stuck like an ugly wart in front of my nose for everyone to see and make fun of.
I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I am an undergraduate student of science at an elite college in Calcutta, run by the Jesuits. I love everything about my carefree life. What I don’t like is attending useless lectures, such as reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest in English literature class. Why do we have to study this medieval play, when there are so many exciting new authors from all over the world, talking about things that are relevant to the rapidly changing time?
I don’t think I’ll try to answer that. Who are the special people in your life?
I love my mother. She is my best friend. But I have fallen in love with Riza, a smart, beautiful, passionate, and a bit headstrong Muslim girl from an extremely wealthy family. Being a teenager, I was prone to falling in love with a different girl every other week. Most of the time, like a sniffle, it lasted only a few days, without my love interests even becoming aware of my affliction. But Riza causes my heart to palpitate whenever I am with her. I hope our love will endure.
What is your heart’s deepest desire?
I love my life; my golf game, spending time with my friends and eating my favorite food prepared by my family cook. But my biggest desire is to spend alone time with Riza. May I tell you that I experienced my first kiss with her? It jolted every nerve ending in my body.
How wonderful! What are you most afraid of?
I hate the fact that my father is so cruel to my mother and me. I am not sure how to handle it.
I am also deeply concerned about the world around us; street protests are everywhere; burning and looting are becoming an everyday affair. I made a new friend in Ari, a brilliant boy from the “other side of the track.” He is so different from the affluent kids with whom I grew up. Ari took me inside the slums of Calcutta. There, I came to know people like Didi, a resolute woman who tries to earn money for her family, despite the torturous relationship with her abusive husband; a master pickpocket, who loves his son; an erudite call girl; a slum don; a street fighter. I am also worried that the new political movement, inspired by the Maoist communists, known as the Naxalites, would plunge my world into violence and mayhem. With Ari, I join the movement to organize the poor against the oppressive society. I go to a remote tribal village in the vast forest area of India to start a revolutionary base. As I come to know the members of my host family, the village money lender, the old shaman, and an alluring young woman, my confusion deepens. I want to change their society, but do they want to change?
What do you expect the future will hold for you?
I am deeply conflicted about my future. My mother wants me to go abroad for higher studies. I know I can start a new life with Riza. But I feel guilty about leaving my new friends to their miserable lives. Dispossessed and marginalized, their daily sufferings trouble me. How can I build my own fortune in the United States ignoring their plight? I want to join the Naxalite movement and help usher in a new just and verdant society. At the same time, I fear, if we are successful in bringing about a revolution, will we have the wisdom to create such a world? What if, like the story of the Animal Farm, I morph into Napoleon the pig and start cannibalizing the hapless multitude?
What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?
Throughout my privileged life, I felt like a boat without a radar, floating aimlessly down the river of time, pushed by the vagaries of wind and tide. However, at the end of my story, when I lose everything – faith in politics, love, and even my own identity – on my lonesome flight to a new world, in an epiphany I find a strange feeling of inner strength. Like the German philosopher Nietzsche’s “Super Man,” I want to write my own story, shape my own destiny, and create my own identity on a clean slate.
Why should I care about your story?
You would be right to ask, why should you read a story about a teenager getting involved in an obscure rebellion, in a faraway place, more than half a century ago? Since the dawn of humanity, men and women have sacrificed everything to recreate their societies according to their own belief in a perfect order. While we have come a long way in terms of technological progress, we still fight along our sectarian, racial, religious, and ideological divides. From this perspective, my story is never ending and remains as relevant today as it was when I was a young man.
Dipak K. Gupta is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at San Diego State University. He served as the Founding Director of the undergraduate program in International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR). In 1997, he was awarded Albert W. Johnson Distinguished Lecturer, the highest research award for the university, and was the “Professor of the Year” in 1994. His primary research interest involves the causes of terrorism, ethnic conflict, and the impact of political instability on national economic development. For 11 years, Gupta served as the Fred J. Hansen Professor of World Peace at SDSU.
Born in India, Gupta received master’s degrees in Economics from Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, India, and the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his Ph.D. in the area of Economic and Social Development from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a visiting scholar at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, Leiden University in the Netherlands, Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and the Terrorism Prevention Branch at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna, Austria. He was also awarded a summer fellowship in the International Studies Program at the Hoover Institution for War, Peace, and Revolution, at Stanford University. He received a post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute for International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 2010 Gupta received a Fulbright Expert Fellowship at Bilgi University, Istanbul, Turkey.
Professor Gupta has authored ten academic books and over 150 articles in scholarly journals, research monographs, chapters in edited volumes, and newspapers. Gupta is a regular contributor to San Diego Union Tribune’s Opinion section. He has been a frequent guest at the local National Public Radio station and contributed on foreign policy and terrorism matters in numerous newspapers and television stations.
Gupta has been invited to talk about the causes of terrorism from all over the world. In 2005, he was invited to a terrorism conference convened by the King of Spain in Madrid. He has also been invited by the Prime Minister of Norway, the foreign ministry of Sweden, and the Turkish Ministry of Interior. In 2021, he was a keynote speaker at the 32nd International Congress of Psychology in Prague.
Gupta is also an artist. He shows his art at San Dieguito Art Guild in Encinitas.
Lonesome Flight is his debut novel. Visit him online at: https://dipakgupta.com