Of a warrior, Philosopher, hero and leader

First Published on 02/02/2013


Title:-   His Majesty’s Opponent, May 2011 by Harvard University Press

Author:- Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University and Subhash Chandra Bose’s grand-nephew

Genre · Historical biography on the life, thought and works of Shubash Chandra Bose, one of Pre-Independent India’s greatest leaders. Captures the era just before Indian independence, with a vivid description of British dominance, Indian resistance, the second world war and the story of an armed struggle. 


1. A detailed account of the latter part of the freedom struggle. 

2. The politics within the Indian National Congress and the various divisions within the party.

 3. The complex relationships which existed between the Mahatma, Vallabhai Patel, Nehru and Bose.

4. The Second World war, interpreted mainly from the point of view of the Axis Powers. One is so attuned to concurring with the Anglo-American point of view. The Japanese involvement, to me is particularly interesting.

5. Bose’s views on administration, economics, philosophy and self over and beyond the freedom movement. He seems to have been the most pragmatic of all our freedom leaders, Nehru included.


1. The frequent eulogies of Bose by his grand-nephew Granted, it’s his biography; it could still be written in way which would not explicitly suggest that the book was written by a beloved relative.

2. The rather abrupt end. His death and it’s aftermath were not covered sufficiently enough, I feel.

Bose Trivia

– Stood Fourth in the Indian Civil Services examination, despite studying for less than 7 months.

– Was among the first Indian leaders to demand complete independence from the British in 1929, when even the Gandhi was keen only on dominion status.

– His unfinished autobiography is called the Indian Piligrim.

– Escaped from home confinement in 1940 by disguising as a Pathan, Muhammed Ziauddin

– Was jailed 11 times between 1920 and 1941 for periods varying from 6 months to three years.

– Was accused of lynching a racist Professor during his College days, when he was the Student President. He neither accepted nor refuted this accusation.

– He participated in the only submarine-submarine transfer of passengers which has been recorded in the annals of World-war II. He and an aide transferred from a German U-boat to a Japanese I-29 submarine near Madagascar in 1943.

– Was the first major freedom leader to use Jana Gana Mana, Father of the Nation, Jai Hind & the Tricolor; Quite the trendsetter !

Quotable quotes

1. The more I think about Congress politics, the more I am convinced that we should devote time and energy to fighting the high command ! (how true even today )

2. There, there in the distance-beyond that river, beyond those jungles, beyond those hills lies the promised land- the soil from which we sprang- the land to which we shall now return. 

3. Give me blood and I shall give you freedom.

4. No real change in history has ever been achieved by discussions.

5. Freedom is not given, it is taken.

Quote of the week:- 

After breakfast, anytime is lunch time:- Rocky Singh from Highway on My Plate

In the next book review session:-

 Beloved by Toni Morrison.


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