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Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose really die on this day 77 years ago? New book has a chapter on tragedy| Review

India Today logo India Today 18-08-2022 Roktim Rajpal
File photo of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose from Getty Images. File photo of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose from Getty Images.

Subhas Chandra Bose's death remains a mystery nearly eight decades after Netaji, as his followers called him, allegedly died on this day (August 18) in 1945. While many believe he was killed in a plane crash in Japanese-ruled Formosa (now Taiwan), others feel this wasn't the case. 'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle', a book written by the late Member of Parliament Krishna Bose and edited by her son Sumantra Bose, has a chapter dedicated to the tragedy.

It examines how the author, the wife of Netaji's nephew Sisir Bose, visited Japan and Taipei in a bid to know more about the mystery surrounding the braveheart's death. She tries to give us an idea of what may have happened to Netaji on that day by recalling Colonel Habib Ur Rahman's account of the moments he spent with Netaji on what would prove to be the latter's final flight. These portions strike a chord even though the author has presented them in a matter-of-fact manner. She also mentions that one General Katakura had once told her that he was astonished by the fact that Subhas Chandra Bose's ashes were "still lying in' the Renkoji Temple and had not been sent to India.

It is, however, Krishna Bose's interaction with Juichi Nakamura, who acted as Netaji's translator while he was in the hospital, that hits the hardest as they give us an idea of the moments leading to Subhas Chandra Bose's death. The chapter ends with a sonnet likening him to a figure from Greek mythology who died while flying too close to the sun. These lines, originally penned by Professor Edward Farley Oaten who was once assaulted by a young Netaji sum up the leader's undying spirit while capturing the mystery surrounding his death alive.

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A cover of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle.

'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle', however, isn't merely about the tragedy. In it, Krishna Bose also talks about the experiences that shaped his personality. The book begins with a chapter dedicated to his mother Prabhabati Bose. This proves to be a good move as it adds a tender touch to the narrative from the word go. Krishna Bose then goes on to describe Netaji's bond with his sister-in-law Bibavati Bose, wife Emilie Schenkl, and foster mother Basanti Debi. It merely describes his interactions by adopting an overtly emotional tone. Despite this, some incidents strike a chord. The portion dedicated to Netaji's interactions with Basanti Debi after her husband, Deshbandu's death is a case in point. The book also captures Emilie Schenkl's reaction, after learning about Netaji's death, reasonably well.

'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle' touches upon the braveheart's equations with leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler. Krishna Bose writes about his meetings with them without getting into the details. That said, to her credit, she uses these chapters to subtly bring out different shades of Netaji's personality. This is particularly true for the chapter dedicated to Nehru. In it, she mentions the differences between these personalities but also acknowledges that they had some similarities.

'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle' also deals with "Netaji's Soldiers". While these portions are necessary, they don't really focus on the man himself. This, however, doesn't apply to the segment dedicated to Abid Hasan. It revolves around his bond with Netaji quite well. In a particularly hard-hitting portion, the author highlights how Subhas Chandra Bose objected to a common prayer room for soldiers as he felt religion was a deeply personal matter.

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The last available photograph of Netaji - his arrival at Saigon Airport on August 17, 1945. (Photo credit: Facebook)

'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle' also features 95 rare photos from the INA commander's family album and the Netaji Research Bureau archives. Some of them have been used quite well. They provide a visual relief and help the reader 'see' his journey. That said, the placement of Prabhabati Bose's photo is not ideal. There's a chance that some readers may not notice it.

To sum up, 'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Life, Politics & Struggle' is a meticulously put-together description of Netaji's life. It touches upon the controversy surrounding his death but doesn't limit itself to the tragedy itself.

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