This is a biography of a great revolutionary who played a prominent role in India’s freedom movement. It was an Indian, Rash Bihari Bose, who was instrumental in introducing Indian curry to Nakamuraya, though he was not just a chef but a leading revolutionary fighting for India’s freedom in the 1910s when the country was a British colony.
In 1905, the British tried to breed disharmony between the Hindus and Muslims by partitioning Bengal at a time when the state was the hub of the Independence movement. This movement was thoroughly suppressed by the British rulers and key Indian leaders were arrested. India’s Independence movement entered a new phase with the return of Mahatma Gandhi from overseas in 1915. During this period, bomb attacks took place intermittently, the most serious being the attempt on Lord Harding, the Viceroy of India. The person who planned and carried out the attack was none other than Rash Bihari Bose.
Born in 1886 in Chandan Nagar, north of Calcutta, Rash Bihari was brought up by his maternal uncles and father. His father was a clerk and posted to Simla. Rash Bihari was a rebel by nature and in Class VII, he was asked to leave school for his behaviour. He joined the Morton School in Calcutta.
In 1901, he read Devi Prasanna Roy Choudhury’s book Sharat Chandra which carried an elaborate description of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857. Deeply moved by it, he developed a strong antagonistic feeling towards the British. Since Chandan Nagar was a French colony, it was outside British control and important base for anti-British movement. Bose left school and decided to join the army. But his application was rejected. So he joined a publishing house engaged in printing government publications. His job involved typing handwritten manuscripts. Gradually he developed a command over the English language. In 1906, he became an assistant in a chemical laboratory of the Research Institute at Dehradun. Here he met Jitendra Mohan Chatterjee, a leader of the radicals and who appointed Bose as a link between the radicals of Punjab and Bengal. Bose played a leading role in underground activities. He had a special skill – to make bombs without any assistance as he handled chemicals in large quantities at the Forest Research Institute. He taught some young activists the technique to make and handle bombs. In 1910, with the British tightening the ropes, JM Chatterjee escaped to London and the leadership of the radicals fell on Bose, who continued to collect large numbers of revolutionaries. Meanwhile his mother fell ill, so he rushed home to Chandan Nagar where he met activists like Moti Lal Roy and other radicals. As Moti Lal prescribed to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, he influenced Bose. He said, “Hinduism is the ethical doctrine for the rescue of mankind”. Bose read the Bhagavad Gita and was deeply moved by the spirit of atma-samarpan.
In December 1912, the British planned to hold a Viceregal procession to show their control over India. Bose and his colleagues decided to kill Viceroy Harding. On 12 December 1912, at 11.45 a.m. Bose’s accomplice Biswas hurled a bomb at Harding. There was a deafening sound and the police cordoned off the area, while Bose and Biswas escaped. However, in February 1914, all the radicals except Bose were arrested as he was away in Lahore. The radicals were sentenced to death. Bose left for Benaras where he held a secret meeting with VG Pingle in November 1914. Bose was checking out the bombs where one of them exploded and he received a serious injury on his left hand. He fled to Lahore and from there to Chandan Nagar. His life was in danger in India and he planned to fly overseas to procure weapons and funds for further action. He opted to escape to Japan which had just secured victory in the Russo-Japanese war and was rapidly expanding its national power.
He took a ship and reached Kobe. Here he met Sun Zhongshan, who was known as the man to establish the Republic of China after the revolution of 1911 but had to take refuge in Japan in 1913. Bose met him to seek advice about what an Independence movement based on armed revolt ought to be and how to seek weapons.
The ‘Asianists’ of Genyosha and Kokuryukai headed by Mitsuru Toyama rescued him. They skilfully hid him at the Nakamuraya, a bakery famous for its buns and ‘Indian curry’, of Shinguku. Bose thereafter married Toshiko, the daughter of the owner of Nakamuraya who provided him shelter. He had two children from his Japanese wife and settled down in Japan. Subsequently, he developed close association with Japanese nationalists, politicians and army men and had a big say in Japan. He explained the need to liberate India, not only to those in power but also to the common people and developed an anti-British movement in Japan.
In 1941, with the outbreak of the Greater East Asian War, he got deeply involved in a military strategy with the Japanese army. In 1923 he became a Japanese citizen. Meanwhile his wife Toshiko’s health started deteriorating and in March 1925 she passed away at the young age of 28. During her last moments, Bose recited Hindu mantras and Toshiko repeated them faintly. Both of them became so close in the last moments that even Kokko, Toshiko’s mother could not intervene. Even Bose recorded, “Our married life was very short but it was bliss. I had a feeling that I enjoyed total happiness during those few years.” Rash Bihari loved Toshiko from the core of his heart.
After Toshiko’s death, Bose rejected all proposals for remarriage. He began writing for several magazines unfolding his ‘Asianism’ aimed at bringing down imperialism. He believed in solidarity among Asian countries in the struggle against imperialism and explained the importance of establishing the ‘Oriental League’, of which Japan, China and India were central. He however was critical of Japan for trying to “win equal treatment with the White race by trying ill-matched Western dress.” He advised Japan to recognise the Soviet Union for Russo-Japanese collaboration in bringing down British rule.
Rash Bihari Bose’s life throws up many problems and issues for people living in the 21st century. While his book Bose Cries Out was completely ignored after the war, the Indian curry of Nakamuraya still holds popularity among the Japanese people.
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