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India’s Freedom struggle isn’t just a topical debate. It isn’t just about a period of time, which led to the historic events of 1947. And surely, it isn’t just any memorable well of emotion denoting mega uprising.

No depiction of India’s Freedom struggle or its retelling is complete without Bose. It is in fact, a feeling, an emotion and, a phenomenon laden with history, plied with inexhaustible courage and a subject so elaborate, that despite having had endless intellectual mentation and scholastic run-ins since ’47- it hasn’t and cannot be rendered complete. Ever.

Implicit in the heart of India’s fight-back (against tyrannical colonial uprising), a specter of tremendous suffering and a somber event signifying cruelty- lies a man, deeply misunderstood and widely debated. To an extent that his mere name commands both respect and fills hearts with ungratified emotion and tremendous respect at the same time. Often branded as a connoisseur of courage and daring and, at other times re-branded as a jaded revolutionary, no depiction of India’s historic fight back, cannot and, must not be rendered complete without dwelling on a certain Subhas Chandra Bose.

While logic defies celebration of a birthday, fundamentally because it is a date marked with history, one that only exists in sequels that bare resemblance to the original, it is enough to suggest that January 23 marks a day that India doesn’t celebrate as Subhas Bose Jayanti. Perhaps it should. Perhaps it shouldn’t. But the point is whether you like Bose and his ways or not, it doesn’t increase the price of fish. What matters most is that you make an attempt to understand one of India’s most gifted men and also the most unsung as far as popular culture’s understanding and representation of him goes.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Netaji’s Showing of Resolve Was Resolutely And Philosophically Different

Amidst the cacophony of loud cries during British rule and the sepia-tinted nostalgic affirmations to being good natured and polite, India’s response to suffering under the great Mahatma’s reign, Bose stood up for a different approach.

We all know what that is and we’ve often remained polarized in our own philosophy of understanding it.

The classical debate rests with the eternal question for which yet there isn’t a perfect answer- should Bose’ affirmation of taking things in ones own hands by way of defending against attack be regarded more or should one pay heed to Mahatma’s philosophy of extending the other cheek in case the first be tight-slapped.

And This Further Leads To An Exemplary Question

While fundamentally we are no one and shouldn’t pride ourselves as having egos to freely ‘question’ and ‘doubt’ the different stands of two icons of India’s freedom struggle, one who stood for peace, non-violence, the other for defense of pride and taking affirmative action- we must look beyond the obvious.

Were Gandhi and Bose wrong or right or incorrect or biased of one another? And that, does it give us the moral sucker-punch to hail one above the other?

Perhaps Not! Actually, Not At All!

These were men of incredible courage and made of strong moral and indefatigable character. They were forces of pristine virtues and revolutionaries who furthered tireless vigils in uniquely different ways, perhaps never even aiming to have their forces collide with one another as much as they are today, in free, independent India. Do you really think that Bose or Gandhi would’ve wanted to have had incessantly passionate diatribes to be leveled against their ideologies today, 70 years after Independence and that they would’ve been remotely interested in knowing who is hailed above another? Did they have that kind of bandwidth of time?

And yet, all that goes around today, from corridors of parliament to streets riddled by stray dogs and trashed tea cups are endless tirades about who was right and whose strategy wasn’t, whilst Bose and Gandhi have long become not just inspirational forces but figures who blankly stare at us from walls that hold them mightily.

The reason why Netaji, a figure of mystique and the tireless motivator to rebellious ideas that confer fighting for self-worth and raising voice toward oppression is respected today is for implying something we often forget whilst we hail the man, 120 years after he was born.

A Lesson in Bose

That we must fight and let go waiting for justice to be served at the peak of chaos was central to his philosophy of ‘answering back’. Bose wasn’t about slapping back, or jabbing back with a fist full of anger, blithe, venom or hatred.

Bose was about self-reflection, about doing an intense prognosis of what is going around and how one must answer- armed as much with courage as with perhaps a subtle but sure understanding that one may not be hailed in the end at all, even if settling scores with detractors and oppressors may just be the divine call.

So central in his ideology, if you may call it one, were utmost regard to India as a whole and about rising together, coming together to fight it out that in ‘acknowledging’ his ubiquity in India today, he’s purely seen as a revolutionary and not a figure who also united people. Albeit, in a dramatically different way than the great Mahatma.

What We Must Also Remember About Bose

So much of Netaji Bose is about anything but ‘Netagiri’ and so much of him is about compassion, tireless love for the nation and, a feeling of pity and suffering for his own that in reminding ourselves of his incredible character- we fail to view the man in completion. He wasn’t just a fighter. He had great intellectual depth and enormous understanding of India as a land where filial piety – the Oriental tradition of paying devotion to one’s parents was a cornerstone in upholding the dignity of our elders.

As a student he was a rare genius, as an orator- no less extraordinary than any Khalil Gibran polemic on love, as a negotiator who would stop at nothing but pure, unbridled freedom for his country- he was a staunch realist who could turn back the course of time if he could.

The fact that Subhas Bose had a wealth of knowledge and a very sophisticated charm in abundance to appeal to a nation to fight with him and, to make it realize that the key to freedom lay in its own hands (and hence mobilizing everyone) and not in control of British made him a first class comrade and a soldier chivalrous and determined, no less than Field Marshal Rommel.

His ability to fight back and not merely fight against, symbolized resurgence of an India often tied to the paramount worship directed at an equally great Mahatma and Pandit Nehru.

Let’s Dissolve Our Fictitious Ideas About Bose-worship And Celebrate Him Instead

In fact so bogus and lame is the concept of singularly holding only Gandhi Ji or Nehru above all- a league of extraordinary gentleman featuring Sardar Patel, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfakulla Khan, Rash Bihari Bose, BalGangadharTilak, LalaLajpatRai and others, that it defeats the very purpose of paying an ode to men of valour, principle and great inimitable character.

And when, we enter endless discussions about who was better and who wasn’t we do a great service to society, not least the timeless legacy of those who made a supreme sacrifice for this country.

The truth about Bose- erudite, sincere, tireless, pluralistic, convener of unity and suggestive of profuse love for India- is to stay detached from hate or love and be passionate toward the sanctity of celebrating unity and thus, upholding dignity, pride and, freedom. If you are doing that and nothing else at the expanse of ‘delivering sermons’ on India’s freedom struggle, you are doing good!

image: source