Normalising Netaji


Sumantra Bose in Open the Magazine:

I have never written anything on or about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, my grand-uncle. The reason is twofold. First, I have plenty of other interests and pursuits that keep me happily occupied. Second, I do not believe that being a ‘family member’ automatically entitles, or obligates, me to comment on him. In any case, born a quarter-century after Netaji’s martyrdom in 1945, I do not really regard him as a family member per se, but rather as a national leader and historical figure. I have an aversion to being tagged as ‘Netaji’s descendant’. I react to such labelling, almost always by well- meaning people unaware of my aversion, with weariness bordering on irritation—‘Oh no, not again, will I never escape this?’—and give curt, monosyllabic replies to excited questions. And I stay strictly aloof from public discussions and debates about him, including the national media scrum that has been ongoing since last year and, unusually for an Indian news story, drawing some attention in the international media too.

This does not mean that I am indifferent to Netaji’s significance to the making of contemporary India, or to the very special place he holds in Indian hearts. Far from it. In recent months, I have edited and arranged for the publication of the most authentic and illuminating account of Netaji and the Bose family during India’s freedom struggle. Titled Subhas and Sarat: An Intimate Memoir of India’s Bose Brothers, it was written by my late father, Dr Sisir Kumar Bose, prior to his death 15 years ago, based on a bestselling Bengali version he wrote in the 1980s. It narrates the dramatic struggles in the cause of India’s freedom of Subhas and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose (my grandfather), the eminent barrister and political leader who was Netaji’s lifelong confidant and most resolute supporter and with whom Netaji had a unique bond and partnership.

More here.