Book: Emilie and Subhas
Author: Krishna Bose
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Recently, during my visit to Kolkata, I visited Netaji Bhawan. Looking at THE MAN’s belongings, reading through his notes and letters, and seeing his various pictures filled me with the same sense of awe that I have held for him for many years now. It was but natural for me to read this book after this visit.
My brother had gifted this book to my mother, who in clear terms told me that that this was still her prized possession and that I could not take it as mine. 🙂 What caught my eye when I opened the first page was this – amidst the personal note that son had written to his mother, was a date. 30th November 1934. The date when Subhas Chandra had written his first love letter to Emilie. The very same date, 80 years later, when we (my brother and I) lost our father. Some connection indeed! My emotional quotient had already multiplied. My mind, still capable of some coherent thought, wondered how much more of mush it would have to handle from the heart.
This book, however, is not so much about the heart. It is more of a recap written by Krishna Bose – wife of Sisir Bose (son of Subhas Chandra’s brother, Sarat Chandra Bose) . If I were to just talk about the book I was a tad disappointed because I had been more looking forward to reading the letter exchange that had happened between Subhas Chandra Bose and his beloved wife Emilie. But, then what does one do when many of the letters that they wrote to each other is lost in history.
This said, the book with its photographs from archives and family albums does take the mind to a time and place from ages ago. It felt dream-like.
I don’t have it in me to review this book because it is not really a book but rather about the ‘other side’ of a man who I have always had great reverence for. Rather, what I would like to tell those who read this article, is about the various facets of love that came out from amidst the couple of letters and the few lines from other letters that has been shared in this book.
Love Understands Bereavement
In one of his letters he tells Emilie that a westerner won’t understand the bereavement when the wife loses her husband. Love is not country specific! Everyone understands and feels bereavement. I guess his immense sense of ‘being Indian’ overrode his belief that love and loss of a loved one is understood by all. I wonder how Emily would have reacted then. And how she would have reacted had the same thing been played today?
Love Makes You Lose Your Guard
Subash wrote, “I’m so aweful, am I not?” when Emilie wished him on his birthday which he had forgotten about or in another letter where he writes, “I’m a bad correspondent, but not a bad man I hope”. When two people are in love, I guess it’s alright to express one’s vulnerabilities without the fear that he/she will be judged. Subhas Chandra Bose could have been the fearless patriot who loved his motherland with his life, but to his wife he was a man. A normal one. And he was happy to be that to her.
Love Makes You Remember The Little Things
Love makes you remember even the little things that is important to the partner. He remembered to bring the incense sticks that Emilie had asked for in one of her letters. Imagine a Subhas Chandra, the man who is creating an army and thinking about freedom struggle, remembering to get incense sticks for his wife!
Love Makes You Worry About The Other More Than Yourself
Love makes you worry about the other even if you have enough worry of your own. Many letters written in the early months of 1936 show Subhas Bose writing to Emilie with worry about her frail health (chronic cold and cough) and financial adversity. Also, even when he was caught up with the freedom movement he took time out to teach her, through letters, how to write political commenters and articles in international relations so that she could become a journalist such that she could earn her living. Later, when the war was on, letters reveal that Subhas used to send food coupons to Emilie along with short letters.
Love Makes The Most Hardened Man A Romantic
When he was in exile he wrote the most touching letter to Emilie. It had words he hasn’t shared with others. He couldn’t confide his sadness to anyone else. When a man builds a persona of himself to the outside world, he has to retain it. So the emotions he feels when it comes to love, often tend to be tough to open and express. The one he cares for, however reads him like an open book and he does not feel any anguish is showing his vulnerability to her. This shows Subhas’ letter – “If fate should thus spectate us in this life – I shall long for you in my next life”. Wow! Truly the epitome of romance. Mills n Boon – learn!
Love Lets Go Of Pretence
Discussions become easy if there is friendship in love. One doesn’t expect the other to know everything. And it feels just fine to sometimes listen. One doesn’t feel the need to always contribute or to appear what he/she is not. We thus find in the letters how Subhas tells Emilie about a complex case and sends her clippings of the same and tells her to read the Gita, and, in turn, asks her to send him letters in German so that he may meant the language better.
Truly these letters were “expressions of endearment squeezed in surreptitiously” and a “unique record of Emilie’s life of fortitude and her love for Netaji”.
Netaji’s life has always been shrouded in mystery. What was restricted to how he had died, has now progressed to what was his exact marriage date (How does the exact year matter? Can’t we stop looking for gossip in every nook and crevice of now and in history? Isn’t it enough that he wrote to his brother saying that Emilie was his wife?) and whether he had married another woman – a Czech lady – and if he had a daughter named Nima with her or not. It’s time we let the man and his family be. It’s time we remembered him for what he has done. It’s time we let his love – for his land and his family – just be. No more questions. No more digging.
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