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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Subhas Bose

A man called Subhas Bose was born this day, in 1897.

I wonder if it matters to many Indians any more. Nationalism - and everything else that he stood for - has become so passé, and history is so uncool! We remember our loyalty to our nation only when India plays cricket with Pakistan, and when anybody points out any of our myriad flaws.

And I wonder how he would have coped in this era of shopping malls and vanishing education and the obesity epidemic and twitter and trophy wives and designer babies…


Arnab Kar said...

Had the members of the Azad Hind Fauj recited O Captain My Captain at that time then,

"O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead."

they would now recite a modified version-

"O Captain my Captain! our fearful days have come,
The state has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is lost,
The mall is near, the bells I hear, the people all howling,
While follow eyes the sale, the houses grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the pouring drops of tears,
Where on the ground my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead."

Tanmoy said...

It is just 65 years or so that Netaji has died. However, it seems already we have forgotten him and many others. Our museums, relics etc are all gathering dust etc. Today children know Gandhi for Munnabhai films. I wonder what will happen after say another 60 years? At times, I feel it is good that perhaps I would not live to see that day.

I wonder what does it takes to have a good museum, memorial and maintain it, encourage people to visit it, market it.

What does it take?

OINDRILA said...

Dear sir,
This was something which I was talking of on 23rd.Whenever a topic of Subhash Chandra Bose comes into discussion, people are much more bothered to discuss whether he is dead or not. They fail to realize that his deeds are immortal...
Our ex-craft teacher was,is and will remain totally anti-Subhash for the simple reason that she is fond of Gandhiji. Most of the people, like her is very fond of comparing the deeds of Gandhi and Subhash rather than realizing their deeds!!
I would like to talk not of Subhash in special, but all our early nationalists. That was an era which knew how precious independence was and now,... now that 'independence' is available free of cost, people are fond of disfiguring and insulting the age old nationalists not just by their sheer interest in shopping malls and twitter but forgeting who they are. I was shocked to listen to one of Tagore's songs that day...... sir! It has been changed fully in its meaning by this 'remix' generation!!
Had Rabindranath Tagore been alive he would have started hating Bengalis.
Hope we recover soon......
with regards

Rajdeep said...

There is no mention of him or even a small photograph in the museum that portrays our freedom struggle at the Red Fort...
Ms. Oindrila,
We are not going to have any sort of recovery any time soon.
India has perhaphs the longest list of great people in the world. And this is the kind of country that we have after that. Where the mind is always in fear and the head can never be held high...

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

While I am ashamed to admit I do not know much about Netaji beyond what I have studied in school text books, I do agree that fewer and fewer people realize and what's more, appreciate what him and people like him have stood for. In Tamil Nadu, there were people like Vanjinathan and Tirupur Kumaran who are revered freedom fighters in text books, yet, no one gives a thought to them outside of classrooms. Tirupur Kumaran's wife, died only some ten years ago when my dad was posted in Coimbatore and she had been languishing without much money or resources, in anonymity, yet her husband is still hailed in text books as the man who cradled the flag on his chest even in death. But who cares? Beyond scoring marks or sending patriotic forwards on Independence day?


Amit parag said...

There were times when words like love, honor, respect were used to show very strong sentiments, these days they have become nothing more than cliches.Nothing angers me more than seeing someone who knows the name of a famous person, heaps panegyrics on him in front of all, but fails to remember what he says. Is not insult to that great man's memory, to that cause for which he gave his entire life and (to quote Lincoln) his last full measure of devotion?
I think Subhas Chandra Bose,had he woken up today, would have at once known that the country has still not been liberated. Wonder what would he have done then.

Anirvan Choudhury said...

Respected Sir,

It is always nice to remember our greatest hero on his bitrhday. However, it is unfortunate that most of us including and specially myself manage to remember the great soul only on 23rd January.

We all know that "once a genius - always a genius" and "once a fool - with age simply becomes an old fool". So even at this era of "neo modernism"(sarcasm intended) Netaji would still be a "Cool Dude" to a lot many, though may not be in ways, he liked. For us the "old conservatives" it would have been absolutely a feast for our senses to see how few regionalistic morons and materialistic intellectuals would have behaved and lived through had Netaji been alive. Isn't it odd that today we contest the very basic principle of our constitution that we swear and our ancestors fought for.

I hate to say this but the blame again lies with society and our system of learning - "Chatur Manufacturing Syndicate"

Sincere regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

One cannot 'remember' a great man formally and ceremonially every day of the year, Anirvan, but one can certainly, if one truly knew and respected the man, try to live every day according to the hero's ideals. Something like that was said at the end of the movie called Lage Raho Munnabhai. We as a nation have decided to hang up portraits of Gandhi everywhere, and carry on with our shameless petty wheeling-dealing day in, day out, right underneath.

And of course, it goes without saying that our teachers have been at the root of this gross moral decadence. I have seen with my own eyes for 14 years how my colleagues parroted the noblest of ideals in the name of our greatest forefathers, while giving the lie to every one of their ideals in the way they talked and worked. And so the students have learnt the only obvious lesson: hypocrisy, the bane of this nation!

sanjukta said...

Dear Sir,
I always say that men like Gandhiji and Netaji are foolish. It is because some great and wise men like them do not have a good foresight. They expected that after the independence we would learn the meaning of unity and honesty, but alas!
In 1857 there were some people who betrayed India .In1947 their number did not decrease. Today in India beneath the pictures of Gandhiji and Netaji a ‘holy’ river of corruption flows. There are many people in India who know the names of great men. But to know is one thing and to understand and follow their teachings is something different. Most of us use these names to deceive others and to defend ourselves from the blame of corruption. Unless everyone understands the meaning of independence, the thing that men like Gandhiji and Netaji started will never be accomplished and our Constitution will remain a book fit for termites.
Most probably these people (now in heaven) are lamenting over the fact that they wasted their lives on a bunch of idiots. But there is no harm in hoping that some day (in far future) we will be better. It will be a consolation for at least some of us!
Thanking you,
With due respect from,
Sanjukta Saha

Navin said...

Hi everyone,
With great respect to Subhash Bose and his rare qualities of a great leader, dreamer and patriot, I have difficulty understanding the reasons for the existence of the Azad Hind Fauj.
Please keep in mind that this question is in no way meant to deride a person such as Subhash Bose but it is an acceptance of my ignorance of his motives, his grand plan, and the world history of those times.
I could never see the bigger picture of him going to the Japanese to help defeat the british, knowing fully well the history of japan as a violent and a hugely abusive ruler. Did it never cross his mind that the japanese would be worser rulers than the british. Was his attempts to raise an army to fight the british an intentional emotional attempt to martyrhood or was there any reasonable way in which he could have implemented his plans of a "free" and "independent" India.
I realize that people commenting here might have a greater insight into his motives and his grand plan and any information and views would be very welcome. Please consider me totally ignorant and stupid when answering this question as any facts regarding this question will go a long way towards resolving this query which has been with me since school.



Tanmoy said...

When my grandmother was alive, I learnt from her that one of her biggest achievement in life was to hear Subhash Bose address a crowd of people. Whilst, like everyone during those days, she was motivated by Subhash Bose’s speech against the British rule, but what stayed with her throughout her life was how Subhash Bose stressed on things such as self-discipline, personal hygiene, focus etc. As long as she was alive, she ensured all her children, their wives and grand children – a huge number of people, know about the importance of these things, practice them – because she felt without these attributes you cannot be useful to anyone. This she said she learnt by watching Subhash Bose speak when she was perhaps 13 or 14 years old and married.

I have heard from my parents, when they were young in school, schools used to organise “probhat feri” (morning march), street cleaning initiatives, talk sessions on 23rd January. People were encouraged to work / contribute to society on that day. I think those days are gone now or may be restricted some schools in distant village.

Many times in our country and in our daily lives, we tend to practice “patriotism”. We blame each other, blame the system and in effect blame someone else. We blame someone else believing if that someone else was proper, we would have been proper too. We forget that what people like Subhash Bose or Mohandas Gandhi stood for was development of people. Yes, the premise was India’s freedom struggle, but there were much more to it. They perhaps wanted Indians to be represented globally as humane, honest, law abiding, polite, strong, educated and civilized citizens. Sadly, most of us have not been able to fulfil that.

All of us know for example that throwing garbage on the streets is utterly disgusting and wrong but we still do it, because others do it. All of us know for example, unnecessary shouting in public places in uncouth but we still do it when we are standing near a street corner with our friends. All of us know for example, that wasting precious time in useless gossip is detrimental to us but we still do it. These are just a few example, because if we ask ourselves (which I sometimes do), we would know many things which we hate doing but we still do.

Subhash Bose could have been relevant even today but we as a society have deliberately chosen to move on. This surely is an attempt to escape what he stood for. I am sure, Indians 80 years back were more or less the same too, but Subhash Bose had the courage to at least motivate a lot of them. And why only Subhash Bose, many people did motivate many more. We blame many teachers/parents/others for not teaching us who Subhash Bose was and what he stood for, but I wonder how many students have gone to a teacher or a library asking – was Subhash Bose a really great man? Should I read about him?

I wonder why something that could happen that time could not happen now? It can happen, only when we feel that it is time that we take on the mantle and do something about it. Today it saddens me, when very undeserving Bengalis/Indians claim themselves to be “celebrities” and talk nonsense on media. What saddens me more is probably; we accept that and don’t do anything about it.

We surely have some latent attributes to do something, but most of us don’t do it for some strange reasons.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

But Navin, located as you are in a big US university with lavish library facilities, you are very well placed to research the subject yourself, aren't you?

I can't go into an extensive history lesson now, but let me say a few things I know:
1) Bose was driven by despair, convinced that there was nothing more he could do for his country from inside,
2) He was (unlike Gandhi) desperate for hastening the coming of independence, sure that nothing good for India could be achieved without getting independence first (and he did have a lot of post-independence plans),
3) He had reached a point, where, despite knowing about much that was wrong with the Soviets, Germans and Japanese, he was willing to 'sup with the devil', on the premise that 'my enemy's enemy is my best friend' (the same argument that Churchill used to persuade Roosevelt to join the war against Hitler in alliance with the USSR),
4) Having had a deep insider's view of high-level global politics, he probably knew that everything about the Axis Powers was not as bad as the global media (dominated by the British and the Americans) made them out to be - in fact, he highly admired their discipline, work efficiency, and nationalistic spirit,
5) Even if he was afraid of later Japanese attempts to colonise India, he had probably, like a true practitioner of realpolitik, thought 'we shall cross those bridges when we come to them'. The Japanese admired him deeply, so they might have given him a lot of leeway in ruling India, and, knowing other national leaders who have done it (Tito protected Yugoslavia lifelong from becoming a Soviet stooge, despite remaining communist, Ataturk did it with Turkey, De Gaulle in the post-war era with France when the US was breathing down his neck, Lee Kuan Yew kept Singapore free of excessive interference from both China and the US), I think he might quite possibly have done much good if he had held the helm of even a semi-independent India, until he could make her strong enough to shake off all foreign interference.

More questions? I shall be glad to answer someone like you. Just remember that though I profoundly admire the man, I have never blindly worshipped anybody. Indeed, people find it surprising that I also deeply admire Gandhi. They forget that it was Subhas who first called Gandhi 'father of the nation', and Gandhi gave him the highest certificate for selfless patriotism!

My deepest anguish is, where have all those patriots gone?

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

I could have easily read about Subhash, but whatever I could have read could not have helped me connect things like you did it in point number 5. Now I have enough material to research on.

Thanks a lot.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Good to hear that an old schoolteacher can still be of some use to grown-up and highly educated old boys! Happy reading, Navin...

and Tanmoy, thanks for the comment. We share certain sentiments very closely. Men like Subhas Bose were never merely about fighting for independence: they had very clear -cut views about how they wanted their countrymen to evolve, and passionate about the necessary changes. When I lament that we have forgotten them, the lament is more about those lost ideals than about the men themselves, who would be long dead and gone anyway.

Sunup said...

Dear Sir,

After reading this post, I went through some of Subhash's speeches, which one can find in All India Forward Block's official party website. They are worth reading! Even if it might not instill any nationalistic feelings anymore, one can learn some finer points of life from those speeches, which can be practiced in our day to day life. For example, there's a letter to the Mahatma, where Bose puts forth his 'militant' plans across to Gandhi. But he has done in such a polished way (and yes, he addresses Gandhi as the Nation's father in that), that Gandhi in no way would take offense to it. But today, if someone disagrees with someone, he would publicly voice his displeasure with the meanest words and copy the whole world about it (like what happens in most of our offices). I hope that we can learn and get inspired from people like Subhash Bose about the better things in life.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I think Sunup was referring to the following speech:


I wonder how many of my 'busy' readers would 'have time' to read it through, though... It is so strange that people had so much more time a few generations ago: even people who ruled nations!

Amit parag said...

I agree with Tanmoyda that " we haven't been able to fulfill that" dream. Those men had many tasks around the time of Independence. They secured for us the much needed liberty, believing that we can take up the mantle after they were long gone, and then left to our own devices we failed them. Might be this proves that we needed enforced discipline every now and then. To roughly quote Teddy Roosevelt- they brought us to the end of the road that lead to liberty and left us the legacy of duty.
To Sanjukta Saha, that phrase in your opening line-.....foolish- is inappropriate. They weren't foolish.We thought we were enough intelligent that we could build India on the foundations of sand, while making stone pillars of those great men in every nook and corner of India.
This again, I think, is in resonance with the essay that "My Captain" wrote.

Rajdeep said...

I agree with Sunup. People in olden days had their differences but that did not prevent them from respecting each other and realizing that individual paths can be different. It does not happen today. And the differences are much pettier.
Regarding Sir's comment, well, these days many of us have to do work we do not believe in to just earn a living. After a time a think crust grows and that's that.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, Rajdeep, I trust that my crust is still not as thick as the average person's: else so many young people would not have found me interesting and comforting, if not also inspiring! I went out into the big bad world when I was 17, and I am 46 now, and I still do not believe in easy compromises, as your knowledge of the way I have lived should tell you. One sign that I still refuse to compromise is that I absolutely do not respect small people who whine about what 'struggles' they have gone through, while enjoying (!) lives far safer, more comfortable, and more irresponsible than I ever got a chance to enjoy!

Rajdeep said...

I trust that is why you are an inspiration to many. And we were lucky to have you as our teacher.

sanjukta said...

Dear Sir
I would like to Thank Amit parag for correcting me. I must say you have compelled me to think again. If you travel trough the villages around Durgapur you will find many people who do not know that their country’s name is India. It is our fault that we did not take the trouble to tell them that they were Indians.
Many people died on the frontlines to see their mothers breathe in an independent country. They never asked ‘why?’ .Some years ago I met a soldier in a train. One thing that he said to me was “A soldier is one part brave and three parts fool.” Still now I don’t know its meaning but there is some thing more than just words to it.
All true patriots are soldiers. It is right that in 1947 we were not ready for independence but we were ready for fancy cars and to boast that we are free. It is right that we are heaping stones on a pillar resting on sand. But I cannot forget that numerous patriots died to hold India strong. India is a very big country with many people. I have seen a very small part of India, so forgive me for my ignorance.
Netaji was a very wise and brave man and I never meant to disrespect him. It is just that I don’t find myself worthy enough for his great sacrifice.
With respect from,
Sanjukta Saha.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I don't think either Amit or I misunderstood you, Sanjukta. Rather, I wish a million other young Indians felt like you: the souls of our lost heroes would have been pleased, and India could really look forward to a glorious future again.

Piper .. said...

Ohh it matters, Sir. It definitely does. Nationalism isnt a fad- it will ever go out of fashion.
My grandfather retired as a Major from the Azad HInd Fauj. He was a doctor. He was my mentor while I was growing up, but I didnt have him around for long. However his passion lives on in the books he left behind - his experiences in the Azad hind fauj and his quest for Netaji, long after the world 'declared' him dead. I can safely say that while it appears that our heroes are no longer remembered by so many, you`ll be amazed at how alive they still are in the hearts and minds of so many others.
I happened to discover your blog just today. Needless to say, I`m completely floored! :)

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Many thanks, 'Piper'. But what prevented you from telling me your name? I shall be only too glad to meet some people in whom the old ideals still burn. What a pity I never had the luck to know your grandfather. Maybe someday you will let me read some of the books he wrote?

But I shall stick to my point: except for maybe the tiny minority who still retain strong and proud personal/family memories, most of our young today couldn't care less! They might put up 'mera bharat mahaan' stickers on their car bumpers, but few would want to attend a seminar on Netaji and his ideals today, and even fewer would chuck up a job with an American MNC the way Subhas Bose resigned from the ICS...

Shameek said...

Dear sir,
It is unfortunate that such men are not remembered.The only time i guess people remember them is when they look at the calender to check whether they would get a holiday or not and then forget about them! It is quite shameful but this what happens.And Amit again got it right that in front of everyone we speak good about them and then fail to remember what they said and by doing so we only insult them a lot more.I also find it quite strange why India treats the majority of its 'heroes' in such a manner? Not only are great men like Subhas Bose, Gandhiji treated like this but this is seen in most of the filds! As you had said that public memory is very fickle but these men deserve better recognition and treatment than what we have been giving...

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for the link. That clears up many things.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Why did the comments here suddenly stop flowing?

Ankit said...

Dear Sir,

I happened to read your blog by chance, and I am pleasantly surprised to find mention of Netaji that too being followed up with so many comments.
Did all the readers see some recent reports about Bhagwanji ( the UP hermit) being the real Nataji? I came across more information which conclusively directs to Bhagwanji being Netaji in all probability but would not dwell more on the subject since the topic of discussion is not what happened to him but more about how he and his ideals could have changed the country..
What a shame to the nation to have lost a great patriot and leader who could have transformed our country had he lead us post-independence.
Netaji was the sole leader in pre-independence era who commanded respect and admiration from all religions and could marshall every indian , irrespective of religion , caste or creed towards the single goal of betterment of India. He believed( did not speak much about it though) limited democratic rights till the light of education spreads among all. He was the one who could foresee that India was not really ready in 50s to be a full fledged democracy.. and see where are,, with leaders revelling in garlands of crores and still managing to look divine and secure votes from ill-informed constituencies.. Netaji was also a practical leader more in line with Sardar Patel( who had saved India from Nehru's ill-conceived plans during partition) but I wonder why the two did not get along.. The theory ' enemy's enemy is my friend' has its merits demostrated from time of mahabharata to the gulf wars where US had a mutually beneficial military tie-up with gulf countries where the word democracy is a alien term. And then Sir , u said a very relevant point, Not everything about Japan and German was bad,, the genocide of Jews was a extreme evil act committed but the massacre of our people in Jalianwala Bagh was equally brutal.. And then history is always written buy winners not losers.. Netaji clearly understood that when in war, you should fight to win, doesn't matter whom you tie up with, but at the end of the war if your country is enslaved, the high and lofty ideals you followed to defeat is of no consequence.. the same is partially the reason why Mughals could never defeat the marathas while they could subdue the valiant rajputs...

It pains me immensely to think, weher as a country we could have been if we had a leader like him.. We could have been a China of today or maybe even more than that..

Suvro Chatterjee said...

No more observations? What about reflecting on this: what might have happened if more people had listened to Subhas Bose in ordering their lives?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

23rd January again. It always makes me sigh sadly. I wish that we would at least stop repeating this sick public hypocrisy about adoring the memory of Subhas countrywide and allow him to slide gently into oblivion. At least his soul will find rest... whether or not he did die in 1945, he was awfully lucky he vanished completely from the stage of history, and so (I hope, for his sake) didn't have to see what India was to become. And very lucky for a lot of our tycoons and netas and pop idols, too!

RCE Roorkee said...

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