“Netaji: Living Dangerously”: by Kingshuk Nag

On his birth anniversary on January 23, I had paid tribute to one of my biggest heroes in Indian history, Netaji Subha Chandra Bose. In that post, I had briefly mentioned the author, Kingshuk Nag. Today, I write my impressions about his book , “Netaji, Living Dangerously”.

I admired the way Nag has crafted this book. He has touched upon the key points of Netaji’s interesting and illustrious career in a 208 page book without sacrificing the essence of his deeds. Since the book was published as recently as 2016, he has been made use of the latest information available on the subject. Earlier authors on Netaji could not do so as all the archives about Netaji were classified. They were not made available to the public by successive Governments in India.

One may wonder why Governments took this approach given Netaji’s reputation and name all over India. His fame, ironically, was the reason why Congress Governments- starting with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet- made it their mission to downplay Netaji. They supported the story that he had died in an air crash in modern day Taiwan in 1945.

Nehru did not want Netaji to emerge in India post Independence as by then he was the tallest leader in the country. He knew that Netaji could pose a threat to his popularity and political fortunes, hence the deliberate downplaying of anything abut Netaji. Indeed, we know now from archives made public, that Netaji’s family was under surveillance for decades after Independence. Nehru and his successors wanted to know if Netaji was planning to return to India. This started the surveillance activity.

Nag also writes about the mysterious Gumnami Baba who first came to Uttar Pradesh in the mid-1950s. He was also called Bhagwanji or Gumnami Baba as he had no name! Many believed that based on anecdotal and other evidence found over the decades that he was indeed Netaji. He died in 1985 with his secrets intact. What was the true story of Gumnami Baba remains in the realm of speculation.

The reader is explained the political developments that took place towards the end of the Second World War. You will remember that Netaji had allied himself strongly with the Japanese who surrendered in 1945 bringing the Second World War to an end. The British Empire, weary after the long war was on it’s last legs. Netaji had influenced an armed struggle for the first time in British India. The mutiny by Indians in the Royal Indian Navy was a major event which made the British decide to leave India once and for all. On the other hand, the United States and Soviet Russia had become the most powerful countries in the world.

Nag suggests that post 1945, Netaji was a prisoner in the Russian labour camps. The Russians under Stalin had no interest in him, Japan was seeking a new beginning, Nazi Germany had been vanquished, and India had become an independent nation under Nehru and the Congress. Where would Netaji fit in – in this new world? Perhaps his experiences in Russia convinced him to live incognito in the future? Did he therefore emerge as Gumnami Baba to live out the rest of his dues in relative anonymity?

I have said enough about the book. You should read it to come to your own conclusions. I can assure you it makes for highly interesting reading, especially if, like me, you are fan of Netaji and a student of Indian history and politics.

Storytelling Podcasts

Guess what? I have got hooked to listening to podcasts. Sure, I had heard of podcasts even a decade ago but at that time my focus was on writing. So I used to read a lot and write as much as I could but I didn’t really listen to podcasts. It was only recently that my attention was drawn to podcasts by none other than WordPress which I have been using for my blogs for years together.

I saw that blog posts in WordPress could be converted without too much effort to very basic podcasts! I found this quite interesting and made one myself. A Book Review of ” The Girl Who Lived” by Christopher Greyson using Anchor. This excited me in a big way.

Could I convert some of my short stories to podcasts? I had to find out ! So I explored the world of short stories and podcasts. It was thrilling to find there are many websites devoted to podcasts of short stories. For example, I discovered this website from Bustle called 10 Storytelling Podcasts You Need To Listen To If You Love Short Stories!! Bustle is part of Bustle Digital Media, said to be the fastest growing publisher in modern media with 84 million readers!

To start with I explored The Moth and loved the very first story I heard. It was by Stacy Bader Curry in the podcast In Service Of in Moth Radio Hour.

I also enjoyed The Short Story Masterclass by The Aerogramme Writers Studio. In this, leading writers share their experience and thoughts on writing short stories in a podcast series produced by Thresholds, an online international short story forum based in the University of Chichester in collaboration with Small Wonder Short Story Festival.

There is so much there to learn and enjoy. If you have time – while on a flight, on a road trip, while waiting for someone, or just being free to do what you like- do dip into a short story using the podcast mode. There are so many talented people out there who have the ability to tell a story so well that you will ask for more.

Well Done, India! From Donee To Donor

Congratulations to our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and his team, our scientists and researchers, our entrepreneurs, our doctors and paramedical staff, and thousands of other involved in logistics for this humanitarian work. At a time when the whole world is still reeling with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic India has sent 56,00,000 COVID-19 vaccines as gifts to many foreign countries. Another 100,00,000 were sent as commercial supply. This move has filled our hearts with pride as these vaccines are indeed precious.

Let’s put things in perspective about the ravaging Coronavirus Pandemic. 219 countries in the world are still coming to terms with this pandemic. They have all suffered in varying degree. As of date over 120 million people have been affected by this all over the world. While over 95 million have recovered, please spare a thought for the 2.6 million who lost their lives. I am sure you too would have lost friends and relatives as I have.

Most people of my generation living in post- Independence India – from the 1950s to the 70’s were pretty much used to our country – and us her people- being donees rather than donors!! At a national level, from time to time, we were dependent on the generosity of other countries to help us out of crisis. Just after Partition in 1947, we saw the rapid spread of malaria which affected some 75 million people resulting in 800,000 deaths. The Canadian Red Cross rushed 92 cases of precious penicillin to India. Today, nearly 75 years later, the Indian Government has agreed to send 500,000 doses of COVID 19 vaccine to Canada based on that country’s request.

India has become the powerhouse of vaccine manufacture. As much as a whopping 60 % of the world’s vaccines are manufactured in India. As of now, two vaccines have been approved by the Government of India for emergency use in the country. The first was Covishield, developed by Oxford- AstaZeneca in the UK, manufactured by the Pune based Serum Institute of India. They say they can make 60-70 million doses a month. The second vaccine has been indigenously developed in india and is called Covaxin. This is manufactured by Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad which plans to make 200 million doses per annum. Some weeks ago our External Affairs Minister Dr S Jayashankar said India had supplied vaccines to 15 countries and at least another 25 were in the queue.

It is indeed creditable that India is offering the vaccines to other countries when we ourselves have a huge challenge at hand. To vaccinate the second largest population in the world! India has started what is probably the biggest and most complex vaccination program undertaken anywhere in the world. The Prime Minister had said that our goal was to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July 2021. In itself a large number but still a little less than one third of our total population!!

In the first phase, front line medical workers were vaccinated. In the second phase, the aim is to vaccinate elders (those above 60 years of age) as well as those who are 45 and above but have one or the other of an identified list of co-morbidities. As of date, an estimated 28 million have been vaccinated in India. We are vaccinating about 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 people per day as of now.

It feels good to see how we have grown as a nation, to the extent that we are considered an important part of the global fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. Even as I key in this post, I read that the United States have agreed to fund the production of 1 billion vaccines by the end of 2022 by an Indian Pharma firm- Biological E.

I would like to finish where I started. I am sure my parents – and some of us much later for that matter – would never have imagined a day would come when India would become in the world of medicine- a donor rather than a donee! Jai Hind!!

“The Girl Who Lived” by Christopher Greyson

I was reading a thriller after quite some time. This one was, ” The Girl Who Lived ” by Christopher Greyson. I found it quite interesting though at times there was a lot of repetition. The author hammered home points building the the character of Faith Winters in the story of four murders that took place years ago in a small town in America. She was the survivor- and of course- “the girl who lived”.

Faith’s traumatic experiences are chronicled in great detail. As one reads more of the story, the reader develops a soft corner for her as she is very much the underdog. She has spent time in a mental asylum, has problems of drugs and alcohol. As a consequence her mind is pretty messed up. Yet one part of her mind ceaselessly tries to assemble the bits of the puzzle that is driving her crazy: a huge need to find out what actually happened that day years ago when her sister, her father and two others were killed in mysterious circumstances in a cottage in the woods.

She returns to that town when she is discharged from the mental asylum, determined to find a closure on what has been bugging her for years. She has no one she can trust. Her dead sister’s boyfriend is in the local Police force. He tries to help Faith but she is not sure how much she can confide in him. Her relationship with her mother continue to be strained. Her mother has written a best selling book about the murders. This angers Faith who believes the has cashed in on a family tragedy.

In the course of the story, Faith is driven to desperation, enough to make her contemplate ending her life. However, she stumbles on from one clue to another. It then dawns on her that while she is looking for the killers, someone is hunting her down! She must find the killers before they kill her to silence her forever.

The book leaves you with an interesting climax! Greyson’s thriller is well worth the time and money you spend reading it.