Subhas Chandra Bose (1897- 1945)
Patriot, freedom fighter
One of the brightest jewels of the Indian national Movement Subhas was fated to remain for long unrecognized for the simple reason that he didn’t kowtow the official position of Congress, which in effect was what Gandhi had in mind. Gandhi’s association with Motilal led him to push Nehru as the leader than Subhas. Owing to his stature in the eyes of the people Subhas was bypassed for Nehru. He did provide a viable alternative to the leadership of Jawaharlal that was often wanting in decisiveness or vision. While Nehru took the Centrist position Bose took a Left position.
It is one of the ironies of history that Subhas Chandra Bose was out of the mainstream as events were inexorably marching towards an inevitable Partition, beginning with Khilafat movement of the 20s. Gandhiji fell in with the communal stream while ‘Desabandhu’ Chittaranjan Das resisted it (The Bengal Pact of 1923). Bose sided with Das. Had it been accepted by the Congress secularism would have had a chance in practice than in name to the Indian Congress politics. In 1947 Bose was away while Viceroy Mountbatten with a view to his place in history was ready to partition India and take Britain out of India. Nehru and Vallabhai Patel went along with the division as fait accompli. A patriot of Patriots as Gandhiji qualified him would not have accepted freedom as a gift from the British and instead would have fought as he did even allying with the devil in order to realize it. (Ack: The Hero who walked alone’ Nikhil Chakravarty-The Hindu, Nov16-1997)
During his visit to London he presented his views on India’s freedom struggle at several public meetings. At one he was told by an Englishman thus, ‘Remember, the sun never sets on the British Empire.’
‘Even God does not trust the British in the dark’ was his reply.
Note: there is a similar quote attributed to Duncan Spaeth. ‘I know why the sun never sets on the British empire: God would not trust an Englishman in the dark’.
A common epithet thrown at the English has been ‘perfidious Albion’.’ The English are…perfidious and cunning…’ (Leo de Rozmital-1456)
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Indian savant, monk
His visit to the US was to attend the Parliament of World Religions held at Chicago on September 1893. His noble presence and command of English and not to mention the beauty of his message electrified the audience. He helped build a bridge of understanding between India and the West.
At a dinner party Swami Vivekananda spoke as the spirit of Renaissance his hopes and dreams for resurgent India. A bore across the table kept of interrupting him and at one point he wanted to know the difference between a monk and a monkey.
With a grin the warrior monk finished him off saying, ‘Very slight, just being at different sides of the same table.’
John Mathai(1886-1959)who served as the Finance Minister in the Nehru cabinet had to face the ire of Ramanath Goenka who was a MP, over the budget he had presented in the House. He complained that it lacked the brains and Mr. Mathai retorted, ‘Brains, alas, are not sold in the black market.”
In 1937 Homi Modi(1881-1969) was speaking in the Central Assembly over the proposal to increase the excise duty on foreign liquor. He admitted he smoked and drank but he made it clear that he didn’t know what to do if the duties are further increased.
Satyamurthi commented, ‘Go in for toddy.’
Calmly Modi answered him, ‘No thank you, like everything swadeshi, toddy goes to my head.’
In the 30s while discussing Child Marriage Bill Baijnath Bajoria opposed the Bill which raised marriage of the girls to eighteen, Homi Modi wanted to know, ‘Would you prefer two girls of nine to one of eighteen?’
Once N.M Joshi a labor leader began his speech prefacing,’Mr. President, I don’t understand…’ Modi quipped, ‘That is the trouble with you.’
In a moment of prescience Homi Modi could see through the humbug of the World leaders who vowed at the end of WWI that peace would last forever. He observed, ‘Having fought a war to end all wars, they have created a peace to end all peace’. He was indeed proved right.
George Nathaniel Curzon
Viceroy of India (1899-1905)
Lord Curzon epitomized the British Empire at its heyday. Perhaps his career would explain precisely what was wrong with the British Raj. His contemporary and schoolfellow, Oscar Wilde, described him as one who was mediocre, ‘desperately pursuing a second class degree and then a second-class career.’ It was into his hand such immense power over 300 million Indians the British government had let, – and he created needless controversies one of which was the Partition of Bengal. It was a dry run for yet another Partition that would in 42 years recur with vengeance.
This anecdote concerns him at a time Lord Salisbury hosted a party in honor of Li Hung Chang (1823-1901) at Hatfield his family estate. Curzon was also present. The Chinese envoy asked him how old he was. Curzon replied that he was thirty-six.
‘Dear me,’ the visitor said, ’exactly the same age as the German Emperor.’
After a pause he continued, ‘The German Emperor, however has, six sons. How many have you?’
Curzon informed the Chinese that he was only recently got married and so far none.
In reply Li Hung Chang incredulously asked, ’Then what you have been doing all this time?’
Curzon later admitted that neither then nor subsequently could he find an appropriate answer.
U.N Dhebhar (1906-1977)
India politics is ever played with a Gandhi in mind. For old timers who were caught in the Pre-Independent freedom movement of course Gandhi would mean none other than the apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi. Of the politicians who made Gandhian principles ring true by deeds UN Dhebhar is second to none. In 1947 he was the Chief Minister of Saurashtra and in 1955 he became the President of the Congress Party.
Mr. Dhebhar was compassionate and self disciplined to make Gandhian precepts fit for any occasion and an example of this may be seen during a tour through the drought-hit areas as the CM of Saurashtra. A senior officer, a scion of a princely family, accompanied him. Passing through the outskirts of a village he saw a young girl drawing water from a dirty pond. He stopped the car and asked the girl why she was filling her pitcher from it. She replied that water truck had not come around for a couple of days.
Dhebhar questioned the officer who blamed on the breakdown on the vehicle. The CM asked for a glass of water from the same pond and ordered the officer to drink it. The officer said, “How could one do this?”
“If you cannot do you expect the people to do so?” Dhebhar insisted that the officer to remain there till he fixed the problem. The CM rode off. Meanwhile the news got around that a senior officer was present in the village. The water truck soon arrived on the scene. (Ack: V. Gadgil-Commerce)
benny, Nehru’s father