LATE on the night of Janurary 16, 1941, Subhas Chandra Bose dressed as a Maulvi with a beard, fez cap on head and long coat was driven out of a house in which he was on remand and escaped to Dhanbad. He had assumed the name of Mohammed Ziauddin. From Dhanbad across UP, Punjab and the NWFP, he entered Afghanistan as a Muslim pilgrim to Adda Sharif in Kabul. He made contact with the Italian legation, took on an Italian personality under the name of Orlando Mazotta and was smuggled out to Soviet Russia. From Moscow, he was flown to Berlin in April 1941. It was from Nazi Germany’s radio that the world heard that Bose had thrown his lot with the Axis Powers — Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and monarchist Japan under military dictatorship.
Bose was neither a communist nor a fascist. He was single-minded in his quest for freedom for India and was willing to join any power at war with India’s British rulers. To him the means of doing so were of marginal importance: what mattered was the end and his end was to gain Independence for his country. That put him at variance with the two men who mattered most in India’s struggle for freedom — Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi was the kingmaker. He had his differences with both Nehru and Bose. But in the end, he decided to put the crown on Nehru’s head. Why?
This is the theme of Reba Som’s latest book, Gandhi, Bose, Nehru and the Making of Modern Mind (Penguin-Viking) Reba has published many books on Indian politics. She is the wife of Himachal Som, Indian Ambassador in Rome and mother of Vishnu, who is with ND TV. she is an exotic beauty and has as beautiful a voice as her face. Her cassette of Rabindra Sangeet with the text translated in English was released last year.
Gandhi had a common bond with Bose and a firm attachment to the Hindu faith and traditions. Nehru was an avowed agnostic and his values were western. However, Bose’s Hinduism was quite different from Gandhi’s. Gandhi was a Vaishnavite, a strict vegetarian, teetotaller and propagated non-violence. Bose was a Sakta worshipper of Kali and Durga, he also subscribed to Tantra-Mantra, Shakti, wore amulets and once went looking for a guru in the Himalayas. Being an upper middle class Bhadralok Bengali Kayastha, he was a meat eater. How can a Bengali live without his daily intake of machhar jhole (fish-n-rice). This often created problems for the Bose household when the Mahatma came to stay with them in Calcutta. They had to get a herd of goats which were first examined by Gandhi’s secretary Mahadev Desai. He peered into their faces and chose one with a chaste and non-lusty look before she was milked for Bapu’s breakfast.
Bose also did not believe in passive resistance; few Bengalis did. For them fight for freedom required use of bombs and pistols as had been used by Bengali terrorists of the Anusilan Samitis and the Jugantar Party. Bose’s mentors were not Gandhi but Vivekananda, Aurobindo and C.R. Das. He believed in building corps of men and women volunteers who were physically fit, put them in military uniforms and discipline them like soldiers. He subscribed to Vivekanand’s dictum "Salvation will come through football and not through the Gita." More than this, Bose took on Gandhi’s candidates at Indian National Congress elections and won. He had to pay the price for his audacity. Nehru was careful enough never to get into confrontation with the Bapu and became his favourtie son.
Nevertheless when Bose arrived from Germany and surfaced in Japan to reorganise the Indian National Army, he became India’s hero number one. Nehru kept his cards close to his chest and refrained to comment on Bose and the INA, till he was sure Bose had been killed in an air crash in 1945. Then he cashed in on the people’s enthusiasm for the Azad Hind Fauj and addressed mammoth meetings all over the country and defended officers of the INA against charges of treason. He was a more astute politician than Bose.
One of the "ifs" of recent Indian history is what would have happened if Bose had arrived in India as a conqueror for freedom. There is little doubt he would have put Nehru out of the picture. His great strength were his Hindu roots but without any anti-Muslim prejudices displayed by many of our Hindu netas of today: Advani, Bal Thackeray, Modi and the rest of the Sangh Parivar. Bose was not an obscurantist; he was forward-looking and would have speeded up modernisation of the country because by temperament he was also a dictator.
Reba Som’s book makes fascinating reading. The issues she deals with are now of academic interest but nevertheless compel the reader to fantasise where Indian could have got under the leadership of a human dynamo like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Bush is fine; Saddam is a swine,
Vices are all yours; virtues are all, mine!
Ours is a ‘coalition’; his a ‘gang of thugs",
If ya fall out of us, we gonna pull out all your plugs!
They run away from the battlefield, we do a ‘tactical retreat’,
If it’s ‘bravery of being out of reach’, we are really hard to beat!
When Bush’s ratings go down like Niagra
"War" works on us like, kinda—"political viagra"
We do ‘collateral damage’; Saddam’s is genocide,
Which one is justified, we are there to decide!
He attacks to ‘loot’; we invade ‘to liberate’,
Give us a place to land; we are there to fornicate!
Iraq is a big green pasture; we’ll grave it at our own sweet will,
First we pull down their pants; then we’ll send them the bill!
The whole world is our colony, North Pole to South Pole,
Trespassers will be prosecuted, or-Saddamned to a rat hole!
If you are not with us, you are against us,
No arguments, and mind your tongue — "you ass"!
We have to drill or kill we have Texaco, Nixxon n’Shell
It’s our sacred belief that world is a big oil well!
We gotta get it for "twenty cents a ton"
Man-Barrel of Oil comes out of Barrel of Gun!
Bush’s last sigh is, Moor’s ultimate delight
The political temperature in US is 9/11 Farenheit!
Courtesy: Pramod K. Kureel, N. Delhi)
The old man took martini ten pegs a day without fail.
All his friends’ entreaties were of no avail.
When he was in some sense
They urged him to try abstinence
He refused, saying it was too late to try a new cocktail.
(Contributed by Jayanta Dattagupta, Kolkata)