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A Warrior of Freedom

R. Nithya

By Sugata Bose
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2011, pp. 388, Rs. 499.00


His Majesty’s Opponent tells the story of Subhas Chandra Bose whose life was as mysterious as his death was believed to be. While history text-books have limited his description to that of a warrior and a revolutionary in the Indian struggle for freedom, this bespectacled man with an innocent face has more to him than meets the eye, and much more to offer to the intellectual discourse on Indian politics.   Fondly called Netaji (reverend leader), Subhas’s tales of heroism takes so much space in the minds of his admirers that his sympathetic heart is shadowed by his fiery spirit. Historian Sugata Bose, the author of the book and the grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, perfectly balances the heart and the spirit of this revolutionary leader, revealing to the readers a picture of the legend in his entirety.   The year 1897 was a tragic year in Indian history as it saw the country afflicted by an intense and widespread famine; the official death toll for which reached 4.5 million people. This began a debate between the colonial British and the Indian nationalists who saw the famine as a fatal consequence of poor economic policies implemented by the British. It was during this time in British India that Subhas Chandra Bose was born on the 23rd of January, into an upper-caste Hindu Bengali family in Cuttack, Orissa Division of the Bengal Province.   Bose has neatly divided Subhas’s biography into nine chapters—each about a major phase in Subhas’s life—with the inclusion of invaluable photographs and letters. The readings of Vivekananda charmed young Subhas and drove him to devotion towards goddess Kali and towards his country and its people. Sugata traces this devotion from the letters Subhas wrote to his mother during his teenage years.   Bose’s storytelling effortlessly takes the readers from one phase in Subhas’s life to another, and captures his journey from Cuttack to Calcutta and then to Cambridge. Going to Cambridge for a degree course in philosophy and to prepare for the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination, which he later cleared with good scores, brought a change in the course of his life. Not only could he feel freedom in the air at Cambridge, but he now felt strongly about the lack of free expression back home in Calcutta. He was more politically aware now, and this awareness led him to make one of the ...

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