Had a good time in prison: Rajat Gupta

Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Procter & Gamble board member, exits the Manhattan Federal Court in New York, June 4, 2012.

Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Procter & Gamble board member, exits the Manhattan Federal Court in New York, June 4, 2012.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Former Mckinsey CEO Gupta, charged for insider trading in the United States, said his prison experiences were far more positive than he had imagined.

“I was sentenced for two years, and spent 19 months in prison. It’s very difficult to fully articulate the feelings you go through, but when I came out of prison about a year ago, I wrote a letter to my friends on what I felt as I was coming out of the prison,” ex-Mckinsey CEO Rajat Gupta said on Saturday. The Hindu is reproducing the letter as read out by him verbatim.

January 1, 2016 –

Dear (Friend)

New Year’s Day is just like any other day in reality, but today, I could not but reflect on my time in prison that is about to end in four days. With that, a difficult chapter of my life will come to a close. The last eighteen months have taught me a lot and I will mostly remember it as a joyful time, full of camaraderie, laughter, friendship and humanity. I have forged some deep friendships that I will keep for the rest of my life. I learnt many new skills and was able to teach fellow inmates a few too.

Even though the regime tries hard to ensure that the prison does not become a community, most of us look after each other and help whenever we can. A good example of this is a remarkable act of kindness I witnessed at the camp – a camp is a lower security prison. One day, an inmate at the camp turned pale and suddenly fainted. He was clearly in great pain, with one side of his stomach region turning purple. The medics came and despite the likelihood that he was bleeding internally, they did not take him to the hospital. An inmate we used to call Doc, who was really one, stayed up all night next to his bed, periodically checking on him in case he needed to be taken to the emergency room. Improbable as it sounds, the overall experience was far more positive than I would have imagined and while I would not have volunteered for it, my life is richer for having gone through the experience.

In the last 18 months, I lived in 3 different facilities, nine months in a low security prison, two months in solitary confinement and seven months at the main prison. As a result, there was a great variety of living situations, experiences and people I encountered. Every place has its own peculiarities and culture. There were a few experiences that I will never forget, such as the first gay couple who wanted to get married despite the reticence of the regime in the prison. One of them asked me to contact Anderson Cooper of CNN to do a story on them to pressure the regime to allow them to marry. It turned out that one of the men was not gay at all. It was a ruse employed in order to get transferred to some other facility.

Well, in addition to reading, meditating, and working on writing a new book, I learnt many new skills including some new card games like Spades, which I never played before. I also took up chess again, after 50 years. My Spanish friend taught me Dominoes and one of my best friends egged me into playing racquetball. I even learnt some new hood language – hood is the short for neighbourhood, basically black Slang. Language like, ‘Let me see that’ — which means give that to me. ‘Riding together’ — which means eating and cooking together.

Overall, I am glad to be leaving here, but I had a good time. In a very strange way, I will miss the place including the colourful characters such as the transgender person who is named Kardashian whose sex life and extra-curricular activities in the Boom Boom room are a subject of great speculation and gossip.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. It’s so true in prison. The exquisite dishes that inmates can cook using only the microwave… we only had access to the microwave oven. I enjoyed a variety of cuisines, Mexican, French, Asian, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Italian and of course, usual American foods. They also made beautiful birthday and other cards out of limited art supplies. There is no real currency here so stamps are what is used for trade. I had a world class trainer who pushed me into shape doing squats, sit-ups, push-ups and the like. I have had expensive trainers outside but no one as good as this guy who cost 5$ an hour.

As they say, life is a series of experiences. None is inherently good or bad. It is what you make of it. This experience has been good for another very important reason. The love that I received from each one of you (my friends) during this difficult time and you should know it means a lot to me. Let me close by wishing you a very Happy New Year.

Rajat Gupta

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:05:03 AM |

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