By Tom WrightA new biography of Indian nationalist hero Subhas Chandra Bose could help resuscitate the leader’s troubled reputation outside of
Long a member of the pantheon of Indian nationalist heroes, Mr. Bose is held in mild contempt in the West for his dalliance with totalitarian powers. In
Harvard professor Sugata Bose, who is the grandson of the nationalist leader’s brother, sets out to correct this one-sided view.
The book, “His Majesty’s Opponent,” aims to be the definitive biography of a man who, as the author writes, devoted “his life to ensuring the sun did finally set on the
Mr. Bose’s life is an action-packed thriller tailor-made for biographical treatment. The author has purposely aimed the book at a global audience who might know Indian independence icons like Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s first prime minister or Mahatma Gandhi but not be acquainted with a man whom Indians know as “Netaji,” or Respected Leader.
Mr. Bose, the Harvard professor, wrote the book at Netaji’s old family house on
The home is now a museum to Mr. Bose, which charts his life. Parked outside is the car in which he escaped British house arrest in 1941, the beginning of an odyssey which would take him all over the world.
Mr. Bose was born at the close of the 19th Century in Orissa but grew up in Kolkata. Twice elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1938 and 1939, he later clashed with Gandhi because, unlike the Mahatma, he backed violent efforts to oust the British from
After fleeing house arrest he found his way to
He travelled by German and Japanese submarines to
Ultimately, the army he raised — made up largely of Indian soldiers in the British army who had been captured by the Japanese — was unsuccessful. They were beaten in Manipur by British and American forces, and had to retreat.
Mr. Bose died in a plane crash in
But his legacy was long lasting. His actions helped to spark naval rebellions against the British in Mumbai and
Mr. Bose also was the first to call Gandhi, with whom he had many disagreements, the “Father of the Nation.” And he coined the phrase “Jai Hind,” (“Long Live India”) now so popular in everyday Indian speech.
You can follow Mr. Wright on Twitter @TomWrightAsia.
In this definitive biography, Professor Sugata Bose analyzes Netaji’s life and legacy, tracing the intellectual impact of his years in Calcutta and Cambridge, the ideas and relationships that influenced him during his time in exile, and his ascent to the peak of nationalist politics. Using previously unpublished family archives, this account not only documents Subhas Bose’s thoughts during his imprisonment and travels, but also illuminates the profundity of his struggle to unite the diversities of India—religious, economic, linguistic—into a single independent nation.
His Majesty’s Opponent is a magisterial study of a life larger than its legend. Both intimate and global in significance, it is the portrait of a man, whose public and private life encapsulated the contradictions of world history in the first half of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Sugata Bose is the Gardiner Professor of History at
Bose, who is Netaji’s brother Sarat Chandra Bose’s grandson, is joint editor with Dr Sisir Kumar Bose of the Collected Works of Netaji published by the Netaji Research Bureau and joint editor with Krishna Bose of Purabi: the East in its Feminine Gender. He has translated into English all the songs Tagore composed on his overseas voyages and recorded them on four CDs titled Visva Yatri Rabindranath.
Sugata Bose’s many books include Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy with Ayesha Jalal and A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire.