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“Uncle Subhas’s habit of working till very late was known to all, including the police. We incorporated this into our plan for his escape from Calcutta (and India) in January, 1941. He instructed by cousin Ila that the lights in his first-floor bedroom in the 38/2 Elgin Road house should stay on for at least an hour after I drove him out of the house on 17th January, 1941. The bedroom has windows looking out on to Elgin Road and any onlookers would assume that he was as usual working through the night.”
‘Subhas and Sarat – an intimate memoir of the Bose brothers‘ is indeed an intimate account of the life and times of the famous Indian revolutionaries Subhas Chandra Bose (Netaji) and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose, from the eyes of Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose, the son of Sarat and nephew of Subhas Bose. Sisir Kumar Bose was close to his uncle Subhas and helped him escape his home internment in India. Subhas Chandra Bose later visited many European countries and made vital contacts with the political honchos of various countries to spread his political ideology. He formed the Indian National Army (INA) and announced armed revolution in the 1940s in bid to Indian independence.
The introduction by Sumantra Bose, Sisir’s son, sets the mood of this piece straight and makes one keen to jump onto the actual action. The author Sisir Kumar Bose does full justice to the style, pace and story-building aspect of historical narratives by his simple and crisp sentences. Few incidents narrated by the author felt repetitive at times by its presence in multiple contexts and places in the book, but those might have been deliberately used by the author to reinstate the importance of the cause and effects before and after the said incidents.
Sisir Kumar Bose explains the entire incident of Netaji’s escape in a very detailed manner, right from the outset of the plan. It creates a clear picture in the mind of the reader – in the way he went all the way to explain the blueprint of the house from where the escape took place, to the entire way through which it unfolded and finally he describes with ease and a understandable pleasure his relief when he realized the entire incident played out just like the way it was planned. As a twenty year old just-adult person, the importance that Sisir received from his already-famous national figure uncle Subhas helped him manifold in his later years in his life.
The author explained in details about his experiences of being kept as a prisoner in the Lahore jail and Lyallpore jails for his inclusion and role in India’s bid for Independence.
Although the book, by its title, is meant to be Sisir’s account of the life and times of both Subhas and Sisir, his uncle and father, at times it felt like there is a clear lack of balance in covering the major incidents of each of their lives. Netaji’s disputed and controversial death in plane crash got the minimal mention in this aspect. It’s understandable that the lesser an insider speaks about a topic as controversial as the plane crash (or the lack of it), the better. But then again, after 71 years of the incident the least the reader expects to know more about (from the horse’s mouth) is about the very same incident – on whether it had really happened or not, or at least the stance of the Bose family on the same. When the entire country and the world still remain split on the actual reasons of Netaji’s death, this account of Sisir Kumar Bose, Netaji’s nephew, bypasses the topic altogether.
Overall, ‘Subhas and Sarat – an intimate memoir of the Bose brothers‘ is an insightful read and it expands the knowledge of the readers on one of the most famous public figures to have born in India. Sisir Kumar Bose’s narrative prowess makes the story enjoyable and makes the reader understand yet again the importance of the ability of good story-telling.
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