“A Prince Among The Patriots” by Maj. Gen. M K. Paul (Retd)

Often books are referred to as labours of love considering the huge amounts of work that go into writing them and the unbridled passion with which they are written. Knowing the author as I do, I can say with certainty that, “A Prince Among The Patriots: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” by Maj. Gen. M. K. Paul (Retd) is definitely one such book. This “labour of love” has been recently published by Heritage Publishers, New Delhi.

Over the decades since India became a free nation, there have been many books on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whom I consider to be the most heroic Indian of the 20 th century. You might well ask, ” Why then should there be one more?”. To my mind, the advent of social media, the explosion of information available and a renewed interest in knowing how India won freedom from the British are factors that have propelled the writing of this book. I need hardly add that the author’s passion for the subject of the book has been a key driver.

As a keen student of literature in general and biography in particular for the last six decades, I believe a biography rests on two central pillars. The first pillar is about the subject of the biography. This addresses questions like: Who was the person the book is about? What kind of person was he/she? What characteristics and behaviours did he/she exhibit that set them apart from others?

The second pillar is about their achievements and contributions which make them worthy of being written about. How did their actions impact society around them? What were the results of their endeavours? To what extent did they succeed in achieving the outcomes they worked for?

Seen through this prism, “A Prince Amongst The Patriots” elaborates upon Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s personality and character and his stellar contributions towards winning freedom from the British. The latest available literature and accounts point out to how it was the fear of a large scale mutiny by the British Indian Army, The Navy and the Air Force that was the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the British Empire. Towards this end, the valiant actions of Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) which actively battled the British had a big influence on the minds of ordinary Indians serving in the British Indian Forces. It was Bose’s war cry of “Give Me Blood and I will Give you Freedom” that sent a chill down the backs of the British.This was a very different approach from one they had been used to for decades: Gandhiji’s non-violent cry of “Quit India” which they had ignored.

Netaji was an extraordinary leader who led from the front. His exploits in escaping from British India in disguise in 1941 and coming back by German and Japanese submarines to take charge of the INA in 1943 speaks volumes about his personal courage. His is a very different story than that of his more famous contemporaries in Indian history who exhorted crowds to face lathis while they never faced attacks by the police themselves. Even when they were imprisoned, Nehru and Gandhi spent time in relatively comfortable prisons as distinct from the terrible experiences Netaji had to go through when imprisoned by the British in the early years of the Second World War.

Apart from Netaji’s interactions with Gandhi and Nehru in India, the book dwells upon Netaji’s interactions with Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo in Germany, Italy and Japan. His mind was set only on one goal – freedom for his motherland. He was ready to take anybody’s help to achieve his dream. He was a man of principles, with a steadfast commitment to his cause, and a born leader with a flair for being different. Sadly, for decades after India became independent, Netaji did not get the recognition he richly deserved –

Hats off to Gen Paul for his work on Netaji Bose. I think the book could have seen better editing, but considering the author is 91, it is remarkable that he achieved one of his dearest ambitions: to write an interesting and informative book about his hero!

Highly recommended for those – especially amongst our youth – who are interested in Indian history, military history and biography.