Bose and beyond
Sisir was close to his uncle Subhas and helped him escape his home imprisonment in India. “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.”
Sisir, through his writing, has beautifully incorporated both his father’s and uncle’s work. The way he explains the entire incident of Netaji’s escape in a very detailed manner, right from the outset of the plan, shows of his prudent nature.
The book is a closely observed portrait of the Bose family and their role in Indian freedom struggle, however it does miss major events in the brother’s life, making it a little imbalanced.
From being a careful observer, Sisir offers an extraordinarily intimate account of the family, with its many characters and personalities, in a style often enlivened with wit and humour.
But the core of his narrative is extremely serious and sometimes somber, because this family history is really an eyewitness record of India’s long and difficult freedom struggle.
The author’s account of his experiences as a prisoner at the Red Fort, the Lahore Fort, and the Lyllapur Jail in 1944-45 constitutes another fascinating part of the book.
The book starts with a detailed introduction from Sumantra Bose, Sisir’s son, who is currently a Professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics.
He opens the narration by introducing the author to the readers and then explaining how while he was editing the manuscript, he understood one thing. “My father’s lifelong obsession with preserving the substantive legacy of Netaji’s life and work for transmission to India’s post-Independence generations.”
This book, for many, can just be another summed up account of the two brothers. But for a very few it will surely be a memorabilia to the Bose legacy. Illustrated with rare photographs and documents, this lucidly written memoir is both the most original account of the public and private lives of the two brothers and an enthralling narrative of India’s independence.
Sisir concludes the book through English poet GK Chesterton words’:
It is something to have wept as we have wept,
It is something to have done as we have done,
It is something to have watched when all men slept
And seen the stars which never see the sun
The book is, no doubt, a scholarly read, providing fresh insights into the lives of these two activists. But it’s the many anecdotes that pepper the book that would make it singularly interesting among the sea of Subhas/Sarat books for readers of all hues.
It builds a proactive memoir of Sarat’s efforts to preserve a united Bengal even though India’s partition seemed inevitable. It is the unassuming narration of the incidents of everyday life in the Bose household that show how devoted they were towards their country and motherland.