THE Indian struggle for Independence saw many heroes emerge. Some took the path of non-violence like Gandhiji, some chose the political arena like Nehru, some fought battles like Rani Lakshmibai, some became spiritual seekers like Sri Aurobindo and some took to literature like Subramaniya Bharati. But if there was one person who managed to leave his mark at all avenues of the freedom struggle, it was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Anu Kumar's rendering of this freedom fighter's story neatly chronicles the various stages of his involvement with India's Independence and delves into the unusual journey of his growth into Netaji. With several references to Bose's own autobiography, 'An Indian Pilgrim', this book begins with Bose's clandestine journey to Kabul disguised as a Muslim teacher, before foraying into a linear narrative of his life. Throughout his life, we bear witness to the various influences that come and go, the only constant being India's own transformation reflected in the society of Bengal.
Bose, almost unwittingly, moves with the times, whether it is his sudden desire to study in an Indian school, his determination to learn Bengali, his inclination towards social service and Swami Vivekananda's teachings, or even seemingly innocuous encounters, like the one with a visiting sage who preaches complete obedience to one's parents. Bose allows these experiences to enter his life, but through it all, maintains his sense of individuality and identity, something that will shape his destiny path. From a rebel during his college years to the successful completion of the Indian Civil Service exam and his eventual resignation; from an enthusiastic student with mentor, Chittaranjan Das, to his active participation and contribution to the Congress and the nationalist newspaper, Swaraj; from a devout follower of Gandhiji and non-violence to his eventual fallout and the rise of the Indian National Army, and finally, from a simple boy who falls in love with a European and secretly marries her, to his mysterious death in an unexpected air crash - Subhas Chandra Bose's life is filled with moments of resoluteness, pathos, optimism and faith that India will one day be rid of foreign rule.
The author certainly manages to capture the essence of Bose's life and struggle, though one feels that perhaps she had a little too much information to grapple with, leaving the reader overwhelmed at times.
For children, a suggestion would be to read a chapter a day, rather than the book in its entirety. In the spirit of India's 64th year of Independence, do pick up a copy, and let Bose walk you through what it took for us to get where we are today.