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Friend of Nehru and Bose in Prague.

It was there that Subhas

Chandra Bose met him when he arrived
from Vienna on 29 June 1933, for meetings
with Eduard Benes, foreign minister of
Sugata Bose Czechoslovakia, and professor V Lesny of
the Oriental Institute in Prague. Bose re-

here is Nambiar?, Subhas book reviewS turned to Prague the following year for the
Chandra Bose asked his wife launch of the IndoCzechoslovak Friend-
Emilie Schenkl on his arrival in A Life in Shadow: The Secret Story of ACN ship Association on 4 May 1934, at the
Europe in April 1941 after his great escape NambiarA Forgotten Anti-Colonial Warrior by Lobkowitz Palace. Nambiar played a key
from India. Bose tracked down his friend Vappala Balachandran; New Delhi: the Lotus Collection (An role in helping Bose organise Indian stu-
Imprint of Roli Books), 2016; pp 344, `695.
Arathil Candeth Narayanan Nambiar in dents and forge relationships with politi-
Foix, France, and they met in Paris in cians and intellectuals in Czechoslovakia
August 1941. Nambiar joined the Free relevant secondary sources. The author and other countries of central Europe.
India Centre in Berlin as Boses deputy in seems unaware of Nambiars fascinating Nambiar had met Nehru in 1927 (p 118).
January 1942. Once Bose left on his sub- interview to Sisir Kumar Bose and Krishna He saw Indira for the first time in 1935
marine voyage to Asia in February 1943, Bose at his flat on the Spiegelgasse in when she accompanied her gravely ill
Nambiar took charge of the Free India Zurich in September 1971, a year before mother Kamala to Vienna and Subhas
Centre and the Indian Legion in Europe the interview by Nanda, with rich details Chandra Bose received mother and
for the remaining years of World War II of his work with Subhas Chandra Bose daughter at the station and later accom-
(S Bose 2011: 206, 227, 229). He suffered that were described in Krishna Boses panied Kamala on her train journey up
incarceration and interrogation by the book, Itihaser Sandhane (In Search of to Prague. Nambiar was witness to the
British at the Wars end. Life came full History; 1972: 99102). meetings between Nehru and Bose in
circle when Jawaharlal Nehru appointed 1935 in Badenweiler where Kamala Nehru
him as the first Ambassador of India to Expatriate Patriotism received treatment for pulmonary tuber-
the Federal Republic of Germany in Nambiar was born in Kadiroor village culosis at a sanatorium. Subhas was by
1955. A bridge between Bose and Nehru, near Tellicherry in Kerala on 2 June Jawaharlals side when Kamala died in
A C N Nambiar was a remarkable, if 1896, and spent his student days in Lausanne on 28 February 1936 and
somewhat elusive, anti-colonial revolu- Madras. Balachandran has reconstructed helped with the funeral arrangements
tionary in his own right. the story of his youth, especially his tu- (S Bose 2011: 90, 10304, 107).
Vappala Balachandran must be con- multuous and troubled marriage with Nambiar visited Bose in Badgastein in
gratulated for supplying a shaft of light Suhasini Chattopadhyay, the youngest December 1937 and received him in Prague
to illuminate a life in the shadows. The sister of Sarojini Naidu and Virendranath in January 1938, when Bose met President
author knew Nambiar only for the final six Chattopadhyay. Nambiar first travelled Benes. Nambiar was also on hand for
years of his life, from 1980 to 1986. While to Europe in 1919 and was permanently Jawaharlal and Indiras trip to Prague
working on an intelligence assignment settled there from 1922 onwards. In 1924, later in 1938. In March 1939, Nambiar was
in Europe under diplomatic cover, he met he shifted from London to Berlin, which forced to flee Czechoslovakia when the
Nambiar in Zurich and took care of the he found far more thrilling and excit- German army stormed into the country.
elder statesmans needs under the instruc- ing (p 31). Berlin was the central di- Forty years later, on 19 April 1979, he
tion of Indira Gandhi. This was a social asporic space where Indian anti-colonial wrote to Sisir Kumar Bose from Zurich:
responsibility entrusted to him, not part revolutionaries congregated between the I had with me in Prague round sixty letters of
of his official work. Nambiar had served two world wars, as Kris Manjapra has your uncle written during his stay in Europe
when a new world war, so to say, was in the
as the young Indiras guardian in Europe shown in his brilliant book, Age of Entan-
offing. They were of historic interest, some,
during the 1930s and remained an avun- glement (2014). Nambiar was a key figure carried too prophetic import. All these got lost
cular if not a father figure for her until her in this history of Indian expatriate patri- to me when I had to leave my flat in great hurry
tragic assassination on 31 October 1984. otism in Europe from the 1920s to the in March 1939. My flat in Prague and all that it
contained I was not to see again. I also lost,
Balachandran continued to look after 1940s. His name was well known in India
never to see again, a long and interesting letter I
Nambiar after he returned to India in as the author of incisive articles on in- got from your uncle in Foix (France) in the pe-
1984, until his death in 1986. His book is ternational politics and culture in the riod of the Second World War, as well as, a letter
based on a transcript of Nambiars dicta- Hindu of Madras and the Forward of I got from Tokyo somewhat later. (Oracle 2017)
tions of his memoirs in 1985. He has also Calcutta managed by Sarat Chandra Bose. Sisir had invited him to serve on the
used B R Nandas interview of Nambiar Soon after the Reichstag fire incident of editorial advisory board of the multi-
conducted in 1972, British intelligence 27 February 1933, Nambiar was expelled volume Collected Works of Netaji to be
records, Bombay Special Branch files and from Nazi Germany and took up residence published by the Netaji Research Bureau.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW JUNE 24, 2017 vol liI nos 25 & 26 59

Nambiar did so until he passed away in Legion only saw action against Allied (pp 16768). Even though Emilie refused
January 1986 and also promised to send landings in France during 1944 and 1945. help, Nehru made arrangements to sup-
Sisir reports of some interesting talks Balachandran has reproduced a fascinat- port young Anitas education in the 1950s.
he had with Netaji (Oracle 2017). ing letter from Nambiar addressed to When Anita made her first visit to India in
Nambiar sent at least one such report My dear Netaji on 12 January 1945, December 1960, she stayed with the Prime
of his conversation with Subhas Chandra which shows clearly that, despite his anti- Minister in New Delhi. Balachandran
Bose in Paris in August 1941. Over a Nazi ideology, Nambiar was fully com- rightly dismisses the needless gossip
glass of dubonnet in a Parisian caf, Bose mitted to the realpolitik of utilising the that Nehru did not care for Boses family
explained to Nambiar three possible out- international war crisis to fight for In- as quite incorrect (p 168).
comes of the war and the different ways dias freedom (pp 30407). In the autumn of 1948, Sarat Chandra
in which their wartime anti-colonial Netaji was a one-idea man: singly for Bose and his family travelled through
activities could enhance the Indian cause the independence of India, Nambiar had Switzerland en route to Vienna where
in each of these scenarios. Nambiar was said to Sisir Kumar Bose and Krishna Bose. they warmly welcomed Emilie and
a better conversationalist than a writer I think the only departure, he explained, Anita into the family. A C N Nambiar,
and had vividly narrated the experience if one might use the word departure, was Sisir Kumar Bose writes in his memoir,
of this and his other meetings with Netaji his love for Miss Schenkl; otherwise he Uncle Subhass close associate in Germany
to Sisir Kumar Bose and Krishna Bose in was completely absorbed. He was deeply during the war, was waiting for us at the
1971 (Nambiar 1982: 6162; K Bose 1972: in love with her, you see. In fact, it was railway station in Zurich when Uncle
Subhas and Pandit Nehru visited Europe,
96113). Nambiar travelled by train with an enormous, intense love (Bose 1972;
Nambiar became very close and friendly
Netaji, Abid Hasan and Alexander Werth Illustrated Weekly of India 1972). Subhas with both of them. He was fluent in German,
from Berlin to Kiel on 8 February 1943, and Emilies daughter Anita was born on a most engaging conversationalist, and we
and saw Netaji and Abid Hasan off on their 29 November 1942. Nambiar described were charmed by him. (S K Bose 2016: 246)
submarine voyage in the early morning how he travelled to Vienna with Netaji in Nambiar told the Boses about Netajis
hours of 9 February 1943. Netaji had been December 1942 and was with Bose when difficult negotiations with Germany and
insistent that the Indian Legion must not he first saw his daughter (Bose 1972: 104). Italy during the war.
be deployed against the Soviet Union on In 1947 Nehru learned from Abdul Hafiz Nambiar himself had emerged from
the eastern front and that it would fight Akmut that Boses wife and daughter were detention with the help of his lifelong
only against Britain. Despite pressure facing severe privation in post-war Vienna. friend Eva Geissler and was finding his feet
from the German authorities, Nambiar was Nehru immediately wrote to Nambiar on again in post-war Europe. In 1951, Nehru
able to maintain Netajis position on this 7 August 1947 to enquire about the facts offered him the post of High Commissioner
crucial matter. Detachments of the Indian and said we shall naturally try to help to Ceylon, which the Europhile Nambiar

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refused. In 1954, he became ambassador Nambiar. She took a detour from Gene- Indira Gandhis violent death within
to Sweden and then, in 1955, Indias first va to Zurich in March 1981 just to say two weeks of his return to India came as
ambassador to the Federal Republic of hello to Nambiar. It is so long since we a great shock to Nambiar. A dry letter
Germany. He was a highly capable diplo- have met, she wrote, and I have been from Rajiv Gandhi addressing him as
mat, but the Cold War context ensured deeply concerned about the state of your Dear Nambiarji in response to his letter
that he was not as successful as he might health (Appendix VII). The 18 letters of condolences upset him. Nambiar died
have been in building ties between West written to My dear Nanu by a loving a lonely man in January 1986.
Germany and India. He was unable to per- and affectionate Indu, reproduced by
suade Nehru to issue an invitation to Balachandran, are precious historical doc- Deserves a Rightful Place
Konrad Adenauer to visit India. Despite uments. They reveal Indiras grief at the Balachandrans excellent book contains a
Nambiars close friendship with Nehru, death of her younger son, her anguish at few avoidable errors of fact. For exam-
there was another man from Kerala at the being denied access to her grandson by ple, Subhas Chandra Bose could not
time commanding a stronger influence on her younger daughter-in-law, and the have been walking with Vithalbhai Patel
the Prime Minister in the realm of foreign depth of her concern for the well-being of in 1935 (p 144). Vithalbhai had died on
policy. This was V K Krishna Menon. Nam- someone who had been a father figure 22 October 1933. Balachandran seems to
biar formally retired from diplomatic ser- since 1935. But, they also contain the Prime suggest Nambiar played a leading role at
vice in 1958, but his correspondence and Ministers candid assessments of the trou- the first meeting of the Free India Centre
meetings with Nehru until their last bles in Punjab and the new regional poli- in Berlin on 2 November 1941, where
goodbye in March 1964 shed light on in- tics of Andhra Pradesh in the early 1980s. resolutions were passed by Netaji formally
ternational politics before and after the The last letter, handwritten and dated adopting Jai Hind as the national
SinoIndian war of 1962. 22 October 1984, reads as follows: greeting, Jana Gana Mana as the national
My dear Nanu, anthem, and Hindustani as the national
From Indu It is nice to have you back in India. But please language (p 163). Nambiar arrived in
Balachandrans book is strongest on the dont think it is an imposition for you to drop Berlin from France only in January 1942
in at meal times when you feel like it, or at
period from 1980 to 1986 about which he and became Boses deputy from that
any other time. If you let me know at what
has personal knowledge. It is fascinating time you have your meals, we can always
point onwards. The book needed a much
to learn about the fostering care Indira send something. better system of citation of primary and
Gandhi showered on the octogenarian Affectionate greetings, Indu (Appendix VI) secondary sources.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 24, 2017 vol lii nos 25 & 26 61

Overall, Balachandran offers an astute included Sreenivasa Iyengar and called References
assessment of Nambiar. Had Netaji not on all of the top Soviet leaders. Balachan- Bose, Krishna (1972): Itihaser Sandhane, Calcutta:
picked him for special tasks, he would dran correctly concludes that Nambiar Ananda.
Bose, Sisir Kumar (2016): Subhas and Sarat: An Inti-
have been known only as a senior jour- was never recruited by any intelligence mate Memoir of the Bose Brothers, New Delhi:
nalist stationed in Europe. He performed agency (p 267). Unintended and will- Aleph.
these special tasks with dedication and ful misreading of intelligence reports Bose, Sugata (2011): His Majestys Opponent: Sub-
has Chandra Bose and Indias Struggle against
distinction. He acquitted himself with alike, Balachandran cautions generally, Empire, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of
credit when Nehru appointed him contribute to false, tendentious claims Harvard University Press.
Ambassador to the Federal Republic of and opportunistic politicking (p 272). Illustrated Weekly of India (1972): Important Women
in Netajis Life, 13, 20 August.
Germany. In October 2014, preposterous A unique link between Nehru and Manjapra, Kris (2014): Age of Entanglement:
reports appeared in the Indian media Bose, A C N Nambiar fully deserves to be German and Indian Intellectuals across
describing Nambiar as a Soviet spy based rescued from obscurity and given his Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
on a complete misunderstanding of a de- rightful place in the history of Indian Nambiar, A C N (1982): A Memorable Meeting in
classified intelligence file in the National anti-imperialism in Europe. Paris with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
Archives of the UK. Nambiar had indeed Vol 4, No 1, January.
Sugata Bose (sbose@fas.harvard.edu) is Oracle (2017): A C N Nambiar to Sisir Kumar
been part of a very public Indian delega- Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard Bose, letter dated 19 April 1979, Vol 39, No 1,
tion to Moscow in the late 1920s that University, Cambridge, MA, US. January.

62 june 24, 2017 vol lii nos 25 & 26 EPW Economic & Political Weekly