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A Hologram, An Enigma & A Promise

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By Roli S

I remember as a young student of history, some forty-five years ago, I used to be fascinated by the feats, bravery, and resilience of our freedom fighters. From Gandhi to Bhagat Singh, from Ambedkar to Chandrashekhar Azad there were many who captured my attention. I used to sit with my maternal grandmother for hours and talk to her about the freedom movement. She could barely read or write, but she had a god given gift of telling stories. She would sit for hours and tell stories about anything and everything. I still remember asking her repeatedly about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. With her limited vocabulary she used to give me the message that though she would have loved to know more about Netaji, as he was a very brave soldier, but she did not know much about him. So, Netaji had always remained an enigma for me.

His impressive image clad in army uniform has been a part of many history books in schools across India since the time I remember, but not much is taught or understood about his real contribution to the freedom struggle. But in my heart as a young girl, I was convinced that, even if my teachers are telling me otherwise, it was Netaji who got us freedom. Maybe I was spellbound by the mystery that he carried around him. As time passed, I found myself opting for geography instead of history as my graduation subject and the memory of Netaji faded away.

Then later in life as a mother, once when I was teaching history to my children in the late nineties and early twenties, I again came across the same impressive image of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose dressed in the army uniform and finding mention in a line or two in the chapter on the Freedom Movement. I was very excited to see him, and I wanted to tell a lot about him to my children, but I was loss for words and, also, I was very disappointed to notice that both my children were not interested in knowing about any freedom fighters leave aside my favourite freedom fighter, Netaji! In fact, they were not interested in learning history at all! That picture of Netaji in my children’s history textbook brought back again the memories of my strong interest in Netaji.

I begin to lament the fact that all these freedom fighters who have given their lives for the sake of us future generations, are slowly and steadily being forgotten and the present generation is just not bothered about them at all. I had done my own reading on Subhash Chandra Bose by then and I would like to mention here for the benefit of the youth and their parents who are reading this, that Netaji was a brilliant student and his father sent him to England for studies where he passed with flying colours in his ICS examination. But he wanted to free his motherland from foreigners, so he submitted his resignation to a minister for India in England at that time. When in the India Office, Netaji’s father’s friend, William Dukes, told his father about Subhash Chandra Bose’s resignation. His father replied that he was very proud of his son’s decision to serve his motherland and opt for a life of trial and hardships instead of the easy life of a civil servant. Netaji wrote a letter to his father telling him that he was so proud to be his son.

After that Subhash Chandra Bose never looked back. The kind of will power, persistence, bravery and promise he demonstrated when he journeyed around the world collecting people and resources to get his beloved Bharat free, giving inspiring speeches on foreign lands mobilising people, forming an army that believed that freedom could be achieved by the bravery of those who love their motherland and were willing to lay down their lives for it, is beyond any explanation! So much conviction, so much enthusiasm, so much hope was there in this one man! After the relentless fight displayed by the brave soul, I don’t think I need to compare this transcendental figure to any other well-known and recognised freedom fighters of India.

He inspires me even today. Why are the children of today not bothered to know about such great historical figures of our country I wonder. And to add to my woes, they even question historians and their ideologies and motives to write or rewrite history!
Nevertheless, the events of the past few days around Netaji’s birthday have been bringing back the focus on Netaji and all for the good. But I am quite amused at the same time when I see the claims being made by some leaders limiting a figure like Netaji as belonging to one state! When Netaji himself belonged to the whole of India and fought for one India, one nation, why limit him? Why fight over him? I think this is the time to laud and celebrate the action and the moment that has given the whole nation a hologram soon to be made into a statue, an enigma, and a promise to be proud of.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane.)