Here on the Inside, everything mattered more – your name, your crime, your god. That’s my summation.

Every great summation needs an example, so I’ll give you one. For instance, on my last day, the inmates had asked my name. I told them, but I don’t think I’ll tell you. I am disinclined to make the same mistake twice. No offence, humans are untrustworthy and stupid. And for no particular reason, I shall labour under the impression that you are amongst those unfortunate enough to no longer
be apes.

Anyway, my name, which I told them, meant more to them than it had to me.

Tui ki Ban-gaal?’ the smallest, meanest of them asked. Were your parents, or their parents, or theirs – you get my drift – from Bangladesh?

Now, I am a fairly intelligent person, more than most people. You could say I am almost an ape. That didn’t keep me from baring my contempt.

Ami Ghoti.’ I declared with pride. No one in my family had set foot in that pseudo-Bengal, assured as we were of our worth through the many das of the true Bengal. Rabindra da, Pancham da, Dada, collectively ingrained in me a self-belief usually reserved for religious nuts. The other inmates didn’t share my belief. They had plenty of their own.

‘Ami Ban-gaal,’ another Small One had said. His tone was challenging. The Small Ones were always

I wrinkled my nose. They caught that, I am afraid to say. Almost immediately, a closed fist made contact with my left temple. Somehow, my feet gave way beneath me. My last memory was a foot swinging in a perfect arc, an arc that had my face in its trajectory.

In the right circles, a kick like that could have landed the foot a spot at Mohun Bagan. Here, it would do nothing but land me in the infirmary. What a waste.

The last sound I heard wasn’t my nasal cartilage collapsing in on itself. It wasn’t the light, appreciative
laughter. It was,

Bhadralok.’ Gentleman.

Yes, that was me all right. And gentlemen have names. As a last service to my father, I shall refrain from mentioning mine.

Tell you what, my name is not Devdas. But call me that.

I’ve never actually read the story, but I strongly believe that he and I are quite alike. Did he ever go to jail for being jilted in love? I don’t know, but I hope he did. The thought provides some comfort. ‘Devdas’ is still better than all the mouth-breathers calling me Juvenile.

Moreover, he dies at the end. And the way things are going, it doesn’t look like my fate is going to be any different. The Law will kill me. Law – sounds like a Chinese name, doesn’t it? But no, I meant the one with the milord, milord! Not that the milord-ing would save me. My father’s father was a Lord, and trust me, when they finally came for him, he could save no thing and no one. No one because there was no one to save. No thing because there were simply too many.

The Law had gotten him too. Not the milords, mind you, but the Chinese. Not really the Chinese, but the Maoists. He’d died in the makeshift People’s Court, set up in the paddy fields he had lorded over, crying, clutching his dhoti. I had never seen him or his paddy fields, but I envied the man’s death. He died in a place he loved. He got to die someplace that wasn’t the Inside.

He died not of a bullet, a sickle or by tripping over his own dhoti. As the Court sentenced him to bankruptcy, the capitalist died of heartbreak. Must’ve been some paddy.
uncorrected proofs

You reap what you sow, my father had said when he heard. That was the last time he’d spared his highly erudite words for the late landowner. In that young age, I had foolishly wondered if he hadn’t died because he couldn’t reap what he had sowed.

Paddy causes heartbreak, I learnt that early on. What doesn’t?

In one of his private lectures to one of his certifiably over-eighteen female students, my father had lamented the fact that communists just didn’t know how to win. He had never specifically said that communists didn’t know how to love, but I strongly, strongly believe that we don’t.

It wasn’t like I had a large a pool of communists to test my theory on. The total number of communists whose love lives I knew anything about was two: me and my father. It wouldn’t have been proper to go gallivanting amidst the enlightened gentlefolk of Kolkata, asking who they screwed over a cup of communally-grown coffee.

So, given the lack of information, I had no choice but to form an opinion: communism is shitty for your love life. My father was the star of Jadavpur academia, most of his students worshipped him, but the poor man didn’t know much love. Not even from those M.Phil girls that stayed over in Father’s Night School, wearied from all the education.

And I, Devdas? I didn’t have groupies. What I had was a groupie, singular. Her name wasn’t Paro.

So, what shall I tell you about Paro?

Excerpted with permission from My Name is Not Devdas’, Aayush Gupta, Harper Collins.