Guran Sengupta at work on a Pratapaditya Road wall in Calcutta South. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
When he is not selling books, Guran Sengupta is painting the town red.
Come elections, 55-year-old Guran takes a sabbatical from his day job as a bookstore salesman on College Street to become the field marshal of the CPM’s graffiti gang in Calcutta South constituency.
“Graffiti writing is my passion and the party likes my work. What more could I ask for?” he asks, trousers rolled up till his knees, paintbrush in hand and eyes fixed on a 20x10 feet wall of a private building.
How about asking the house owner if he is okay with his wall being defaced?
“We always seek permission. Sometimes party cadres forget to get the consent forms signed before the paint job but they definitely do it after a couple of days. Why are you creating an issue out of it?” asks Guran.
Gourda — that’s what party workers call him — has been doing this “voluntary job” for the past 17 years. A decade ago, he would paint up to seven walls a day but can manage not more than three now because of weak eyesight. His passion for graffiti writing, however, remains undiminished.
“I skip lunch on the days when I am on the job. I make do with 25-odd cups of tea and two bundles of bidi. This is a tough task,” he tells Metro, painting the first letter of a name on the wall.
On being reminded that he — not the candidate or other party workers — could be penalised for writing graffiti on a wall without prior consent, Guran doesn’t seem too bothered. “Tai na ki? (Is that so?). Anyway, I have been doing this for a long time. I don’t care (about the rule) because I know the party will take care of me,” he boasts.
Little has changed for Guran, however, in all the years that he has served the party. His College Street employer pays him Rs 2,000 a month but the graffiti job doesn’t fetch him anything other than a pat on the back, perhaps, from a local CPM leader.
A resident of Chandra Mondal Lane in Tollygunge, Guran’s day begins at 7am. He first distributes copies of Ganashakti, the CPM mouthpiece, in the locality before heading for the local party office. Mission Graffiti starts around 11am.
According to Guran, it takes him a minimum of three hours to paint a 20x10 feet wall. The slogans are mostly his. “I try to make the slogans catchy so that they appeal to the common man,” he says.
So, what is his message for this election? “I urge people to show Mamata Banerjee the door because she drove the Nano factory out of Bengal,” he says.
A group of youths assisting him clap in agreement.
Guran, who could not complete his graduation because of financial problems, has splashed paint on the walls of at least 20 houses on Pratapaditya Road, in Tollygunge, since March 13. His target for the next two weeks is more than double that number.
“Please don’t mind but I can’t talk to you any longer. I have to finish writing on this wall by 5pm,” he says, painting the last letter of the name “Rabin Deb” with a flourish.