Subhas Chandra Bose was a sensitive, inclusive and objective person: Author Anshul Chaturvedi | Indiafleurit
At the launch of his book A bird from afar at the Kitaab Books Festival organized by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation and presented by Shree Cement, writer and editor of The Times of India Anshul Chaturvedi talks about the mystique of Subhas Chandra Bose on which his latest work is based. IBNS correspondent Sunny shashi was present at the conversation between the writer and Suhel Seth and Nila Madhab
Anshul Chaturvedi has just launched her fourth book, a labor of love that took shape after five years of reflecting on the life of Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose is someone Anshul admits “he almost loves and empathizes with.” The result is A Bird From Afar, a historical fiction that explores the mystique of who Bose was and how it would have impacted India’s future if instead of losing to Stalingrad, Hitler had won World War II and Bose and his army, the Indian League arrived at the country’s northwest border in 1942.
Why did you choose to write on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, isn’t that already a well-defined territory?
Since childhood I have been a compulsive consumer of everything WWII related and over time it has led me to read and think about Subhas Chandra Bose. My mind started to guess what Subhas would have done if things had turned out differently. I also found another point in common with Bose. I have been extremely interested in Vivekananda since I started reading it at the age of seventeen and found out that Bose started reading Vivekananda when he was fifteen. So despite the difference of many years, I found out that this was a thread that I shared with Bose.
What aspect of Bose intrigued you so much?
His ability to have civilized conflicts for one. He was close to Hitler as well as Gandhi, two very opposite personalities, but he was not subject to either. Since his student years, he has had only one goal, the liberation of India, and has stuck with it. While much debate ensued over the circumstances of Bose’s death and his last known years, little else is known about him. There is hardly anything in his previous life like the years he was mayor of Calcutta. These thoughts echoed in my mind.
I couldn’t find even one phase of his life when he was conflict free. He was still grappling with dilemmas that life threw at him time and time again, but he never compromised his ideal of an India free from the British. My admiration grew further when I realized that the man of steel forged by fires over which he had no control was still a person of sensitivity, inclusiveness and objectivity. Since I couldn’t find much about the intricacies of man, I had space to imagine and reconstruct and somehow my thoughts, as happened with my book on Vivekananda, took the form of a book.
It is a highly sought after book. How did you find the time to research and write alongside your editorial responsibilities in a daily newspaper?
The book is not the result of time-limited research. It’s something that grew out of my years of reading, thinking, assimilating and the resulting conjectures. My mind was making up its own stories and brooding over the possibilities. At one point I tried to find stories like Robert Harris’ Fantastic Homeland in the Indian context, but there was a complete gap but in a way that gave me the freedom to follow my own imagination. , reconstruct and explore the circumstances that Bose faced. . I wrote the book as thoughts came to me. Since it wasn’t fiction, I couldn’t set aside a specific time for writing. This book was like poetry, like a shayari, I wrote when ideas and words presented themselves. There were times when I wrote all night and went to work in the morning to do a full day’s work.
Did you bring up Bose’s personal life and his equation with his wife and daughter?
I cannot reveal everything here. My book stops before 1945. You will have to read the book to find out. But let me tell you this, the title A Bird from afar is taken from Bose’s letter to his German wife Emilie in 1936 in which he presents himself as a bird from afar. Netaji Subhas, the leader, was so tall that the person of Subhas remained unknown. As a son, brother, partner, the space to emerge was limited but his writings reveal a very sensitive and evolved mind, far from that of a power-hungry and obsessed political leader.
Do you think historical fiction is a genre that will appeal to Indian readers?
Right now, if I want to read Indian historical fiction, I have to go to mythology. Like I said, this book is the one I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it so I ended up writing it down. Fortunately, my bread and butter don’t depend on the sales of my books. So I have nothing to fear. I don’t care how many books sell, of course I want people to buy them and read them. Hope to find it a good read. I’ve been writing on Bose for a few years now and this novel has finally taken shape. Like I said, it’s fiction but it’s outrageously fantastic. I don’t have a target audience to appease. It’s not a Friday opening for me.
Do you think a book on Bose is relevant for India today?
I think so. In an age when the concept of nationalism is the subject of so much scrutiny, Bose and his nationalism are certainly worth considering.