How do you stop yourself from slipping into profound hagiography when talking about one of the freedom fighters who died for the nation? We owe our present to them, who sacrificed their future for us. Yes, I am talking about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. By all means, he remains a revered, and sometimes reviled figure. Indeed, the Communists hated him so much that they called him ‘imperialists’ dog’. A folly they finally corrected in 2006. But for most of us, he remains a person who would pull out all the stops to make India independent. If Bose had succeeded, India might have got independence before 1947, and there is every chance to believe that the thorny issues like Kashmir and Pakistan wouldn’t have existed.
The romanticism around Bose is further deepened by the controversy regarding his death. While his official demise is well-documented, there are various conspiracy theories about his alleged survival and return to motherland, and the way previous governments have handled this issue has only deepened the mystique, and it reflects in his biographies. Among the best is Vishwas Patil’s Mahanayak.
The book, originally published in Marathi, picks up at the trial of the three INA men post Second World War. From there on, it moves to Bose’s childhood, his initiation into the Independence struggle and his interactions with Gandhi and Nehru. Then it goes on to what can be termed as the most contentious or heroic part: his escape from India, meeting with Adolf Hitler and formation of the Indian National Army. Although one feels the Bose-Gandhi clashes could have been improved and made much less critical of Gandhi.
The Marathi novel is well-researched tome that never segues into boredom. The translation of any book has that challenge of keeping the linguistic flavour of the original, while introducing it to new readers unfamiliar with the language.
Mehta Publishing House, who have published the book (I wouldn’t call it a novel), entrusted the task to Keerti Ramchandra, who has to her credit some fine translations, including works by Gangadhar Gadgil already. And she has done a good job in bringing this book to people outside Maharashtra. A must read.