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Netaji: A Legend Revealed by the Family

Bhaskar Parichha reviews a non-fiction written on Netaji by his family.

Title: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Life, Struggle and Politics 

Author: Krishna Bose

Editor and Translator:  Sumantra Bose

Publisher: Picador India

Books on Netaji Subhas Bose are plentiful and readers are unvaryingly fascinated by every book that hits the bookshelves. The enigma and the ecstasy of Netaji’s short yet eventful life continue to enthrall people worldwide even after decades since his death in a plane crash.

This new book Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Life, Struggle and Politics by the late Krishna Bose is a refreshingly new account of the great leader’s life. Three aspects of his life stand out prominently in the book: Subhas Chandra Bose’s political motivations, personal relationships, and the daring military campaigns he undertook to secure India’s independence. 

Krishna Bose (1930-2020) was a Member of Parliament thrice. A professor of English Literature, Krishna (nee Chaudhuri) married Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose — son of Netaji’s elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose. Sisir was Netaji’s chief aide in his daring escape from India in 1941 and drove the escape car from the family’s mansion on Kolkata’s Elgin Road. After Netaji’s death, Krishna helped Sisir build the Netaji Research Bureau at Netaji Bhawan. She served as NRB chairperson after Sisir’s death. 

The book offers a rare in-depth account of the Netaji’s meaningful life by one of Bose’s close family members. That makes the book authentic and stimulating. Originally written in Bengali, the writings reveal the “human being alongside the revolutionary and freedom fighter”. It traverses Bose’s life from childhood to his death in August 1945. With important chapters about his youth, political career, and the power equation with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the book subtly brings out different shades of Netaji’s personality.

Drawing on Netaji Research Bureau’s archives and decades of fieldwork and interviews, this book offers an unmatched portrait of Subhas Chandra Bose – the man, his politics, and his epic struggle for India’s freedom. Krishna Bose’s writings were compiled, edited, and translated from Bengali by her son Sumantra Bose.

Krishna Bose traveled the world and extensively to the subcontinent in order to find out more about Netaji’s life.  She strung together her findings, giving new insights into Subhas Chandra Bose’s political motivations, his personal relationships, his epic journeys, and the daring military campaigns he undertook to secure India’s independence. Written over six decades the book vividly reveals Netaji as a human being alongside his radical views.

The book has a detailed account of the women who influenced Netaji (his mother, adoptive mother, wife, and close friends as well as the soldiers of the all-women Rani of Jhansi regiment that was trained in Singapore), an eyewitness account of Netaji’s epic struggle in Europe and Asia, his secret submarine journey and escape from his Calcutta home and the Andamans where Netaji raised the national tricolour.

Divided into seven chapters (‘The Women who Influenced Netaji’; ‘Netaji’s relationships with Indian and World Leaders’; ‘Azad Hind Fauj’: ‘Netaji’s Epic Struggle in Europe and Asia’, ‘Netaji’s Soldiers: Remembering the Brave’; ‘The Liberated Lands’: ‘Visiting Manipur and the Andamans’; ‘Netaji and Women’: ‘In War and Friendship and Requiem’), the book is a truthful chronicle of Netaji.

The book contends: “[W]e visit the Manipur battlefields where the Indian National Army waged its valiant war, the Andamans where Netaji raised the national tricolor; Singapore, where the INA took shape; Vienna and Prague, his favorite European cities; and Taipei, where his life was tragically cut short. We meet Netaji’s key political contemporaries – from Nehru and Gandhi to Tojo and Hitler. And we learn in gripping detail about the Azad Hind Fauj’s spirit of unity and the bravery in the war of its men – as well as the women who fought as the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.”

In fact, Krishna Bose closely knew many personalities who feature in this book – Basanti Debi, Subhas’s adopted mother; Emilie Schenkl, his spouse; Lakshmi Sahgal, Abid Hasan, and many other leading soldiers of the Azad Hind movement – who all shared vital memories that helped complete Netaji’s life story.

Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose are the two most iconic figures late modern Bengal has produced. The nature of their relationship is, however, not very well known. We are told: “Tagore and Bose first met at sea, in July 1921. Subhas, aged twenty-four was returning by ship from England to India after resigning from the Indian Civil Service to join the national struggle for freedom taking shape under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. Tagore, aged sixty, happened to be a co-passenger on the ship. In his book, The Indian Struggle, 1920-1934, published in London in January 1935, Netaji recalled that journey and wrote that he and Tagore had extensive discussions during the voyage.”

Aiming to bring an end to the controversies and conspiracy theories surrounding the freedom fighter, the over 300-page book gives a detailed and evidence-based account of his death in one of its chapters. Notwithstanding the mystery surrounding his demise, Netaji is widely believed to have died in a plane crash in Taiwan.

Featuring 95 images and letters from family albums and Netaji Research Bureau archives, this compilation by Krishna Bose on Netaji and his struggle for India’s freedom will enlighten readers, and especially the younger generation, about Subhas Chandra Bose’s ideals and his vision about the development of a free India.

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Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of UnbiasedNo Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

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