The After Life of
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
The Ayodhya Tale
Dedicated to: Santh Samrat of Sitapur
Author: Dr. Alokesh Bagchi
Series Editor: Nikhil Das
Chapter Six : The Telltale Tape
To the mind of the Purohit of Ayodhya, the world was not the chief concern, though he kept himself abreast of all the happenings of this time with disdain. The Purohit’s simple mind could only conjecture that the chief purpose of Babaji was to become something akin to a divine being. At the same time, the Purohit was sure that the man’s primary concern was to keep his real personality a secret.
Strangely enough, the security system seemed spiritually secured and salvaging the secrets became extremely hazardous at this stage. When asked, the Purohit told that after Gumnami Baba left his Dharamshala and he went to Gurudwara Brahma Kund for a while and then moved to a new location, to a Sikh household in the vicinity of Brahmakund Gurudwara complex. At this time the old lady, Mrs. Saraswati Devi Shukla was there, neither had she come along with him from Basti, nor did she accompany him to Gurudwara Brahma Kund. It was only Durga Prasad Pandey who took him to the new house. He also told that the Muslim guard was not there while he lived at the Gurudwara; however, Durga Prasad’s son stayed with him there for 5 or 6 days.
When asked he told further that he visited the Gurudwara to see him, frequently but not as a matter of routine. Asked if he was ever asked to buy the daily necessities from the markets, he said that sometimes Babaji would ask him to go to Faizabad and bring certain things in the list including butter, bread, cigarettes, soap, and vegetables. He always paid for those items. When asked why the consumption of bread and butter did not raise any suspicion in his mind, he said ‘No, it never occurred to me. Eating bread and butter is not a sin. Though not vegetarian items, many people ate such things. Besides, it was well known that Babaji was a great scholar of Hindi, English, Bengali and Sanskrit languages and a member of the elite. Common beliefs may not hold at that level with equal force.’
Asked about the source of Babaji’s finances, he told that ‘his men’ from Calcutta who used to come regularly, might have brought it. Again it was asked that as he was a frequent visitor, did he not ever notice who were the other visitors. He said that during his stay at Brahmakund, Dr. R. P. Mishra and Late Dr. T. C. Banerjee, both from Faizabad. It may be recalled that members of Dr. Banerjee’s family were the only ones who were allowed entry inside Babaji’s room - a privilege granted to rare of the rarest by the man.
Q: It means that Dr. Banerjee and his family members must have seen him?
A: Yes, obviously (bilkul dekha hoga).
Q: Would you please tell us about his living standards?
A: He always wore saffron dhoti and half sleeves vest. At the contemporary period this type of half sleeves vests, known as photua, were commonly put on by Bengali elderly persons. Even my Grandfather too, used it. This I knew from the clothesline. He had a pretty good standard of living. The stiffed bedding ‘Dunlop’ was ordered to be unrolled at the time of visits by his men.
Q: Did he appear to be economical while ordering for things from the market?
A: No. He was always asked for good quality - regardless of the price.
Q: Did you ever feel that his expenditure was quite high?
A: I always thought that. I guess it would be around Rs.2500/- to Rs.3000/- every month.
Q: Who were the other visitors from Faizabad?
A: Dr. R. P. Mishra, Dr. B. Roy and of course Late Dr. T. C. Banerjee and his son Dr. P. Banerjee.
Q: Any one else?
A: Krishna Gopal Srivastava - a teacher in Rajkaran College.
Q: Since you knew well all these persons, you must have attempted, as a matter of curiosity, to inquire from them about the identity of the Babaji?
A: No, I never did, not on my own. In fact, it was the Dr. Banerjee who once hinted at this.
Q: What did Dr Banerjee tell you?
A: Once, as I reached the Brahmakund abode I found Dr. Banerjee standing outside, on the verandah adjacent to Babaji’s room. He looked worried. I enquired about the welfare of Babaji. The doctor replied that he was stable and added that there was nothing to worry about. Suddenly, I don’t know what overcame him at this point, and he said ”Aap dhayna hain jo ke Subhash Babu ki seva mein kuch samay de paatey hain ” ( blessed are you that you are able to spare some moments in the service of Subhash Babu.
Q: How did you react to that?
A: I was stunned for a few seconds. Then I said: “Theek hai, agar aisi baat hai too ham apne ko gaurvanwit samajhtey hain” (if so, then it is my privilege).
Panda Ran Keshore: I had a hunch that this man might be none other than Subhash Babu. On account of his being Bengali and having some conspicuous visitors on every 23rd January from Calcutta, who were Bengalees too. I did not have much idea of that, for I never got in touch with the Bengali visitors. While here, they would sit in one of the side rooms and we in a different room; they would talk to Swamiji alone. *--- Hamarey paash door ke log bhi aatey hain, aur najdeek ke log bhi aatey hain. Lekin hum door sey aayey loogon ko pahley sunte hain.
Swamiji used English and Bengali while conversing with these Bengali visitors. January 23rd was not the only occasion when these visitors came. Even during Navratri they came.
The man’s unkempt appearance and unknown origin, however, continued to intrigue his mind. From behind the curtain it was exceedingly difficult to fathom the expression of the man’s countenance. There was truly something mysterious about it, yet The Panda of Ayodhya did not feel the presence of any evil in the atmosphere. What he sensed was an aura of strange forces, unfamiliar powers; a voice, the like of which he had never heard. ***This is true even today. Babaji has an extremely resonant voice – likened the deep rumblings of the thunder. Believe me!
One thing was established by now, that if he was truly a Sanyasi, he was highly materialistic and unusually cautious one. Every move was carefully calculated with maps on scale. * Babaji still gives a good calculated answer to any problems. Measured, logical and profoundly systematic.
He was a one-man party by birth, inclination and training. Before moving to a new location he would take all the details into consideration before choosing a spot. The so-called Sanyasi was imitating all the characteristics of the historical rebel and the soldier that he is being identified as, almost exactly, by rote as it were, driving home this fact that both these categories of personalities, interwoven, lived with the avowed objective of remaining unknown. * The same methods apply even today.
One fact was getting clear. He was a man with many purposes, unfortunate enough to be unaccepted and un-honoured as a great personality during his life time (?).
***Meere Nau Baar Mauth Hoo Chukey Hai, AB Eke Baar Aswan aur AKA Baar – Param Hans Vani **Baba ( Santh Samrath Yogi Tapaas Bhagwan )… I have died nine times & this is the tenth & the last!
He founded no special creed; none dare follow his mystical inwardness, his literacy legacy, and his historical experiences, leaving mere mortals to ponder over the meaning of his assertions on the political, philosophical and religious planes.
At Brahmakund Gurudwara, his next base of operations, all security precautions were taken as before. The house owner, Gurubux Singh Sodhi, then touching 64 confirmed the peculiar characteristic of the man: ‘ Yes, He was always in hiding, being called upon by strange people at night in cars of all sizes and shapes, with an extraordinary voice and source of income, which were unknown [***Baba still maintains similar methods. Here too He pays in new notes and gives all sorts of opinions. People from all walks of life come and visit here.]
‘ Yes, some people said that he was none other than Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’ said the retired teacher, who at the time ran a private school along with his wife. His son confirmed that among strange vehicles was a regular flag – car that came in regular succession. The number plate of the car was – UTC 3817.
The granddaughter of Mahant Narain Singh (the elder brother of Sardar Gurubux Singh Sodhi) was another youngster who was drawn towards the man. Ms. Harpreet Kaur, also called Lovely, sought the knowledge of English from the man. He gladly imparted lessons in English language. Lovely was probably the only stranger to have come close to the man. Here another man, Pandit Barkhu Mishra who lived in the neighbourhood of the Gurudwara Bhramha Kund, not only observed the man but was appointed as a caretaker by Mr. Durga Prasad Pandey.
Here we summarise our conversation with Barkhu Mishra:
Q : How did you come in contact with Swamiji?
A : My in-laws lived in Basti. It was Mr. Durga Prasad Pandey, the lawyer of Basti, who asked me to take proper care of his Guruji (Swamiji), who was to arrive and stay here in a rented house.
Q : Were you introduced to Swamiji ?
A : Yes.
Q : Were you a regular visitor, afterwards ?
A : Yes, I used to go there most evenings.
Q : What were the main topics he spoke of?
A : Mostly spiritual, occasionally worldly topics.
Q : Was there any occasion that may have aroused your doubts about his identity ?
A : Never during the preaching, but once his servant told a labourer working nearby that Swamiji was in fact Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in disguise, This came to my ears and I reported this matter to Swamiji. On hearing this, Swamiji was very angry and he immediately sacked the servant.
Q: Who were the main visitors to Swamiji from this area ?
A: The frequent visitors included Ram Kishore Panda with his family members, Dr Banerjee’s family and the daughter of Mahant Narayan Singh of Gurdwara Braham Kund and a schoolteacher of Faizabad. Only Dr. Banerjee’s family was allowed to go inside the Swamiji’s chamber.
Q: Did you ever notice if there was any occasion of special significance and celebration?
A: During the Navaratri Days in the Kwar (according to Hindu Calendar), there was perhaps an occasion for special puja. Visitors numbering around seven used to come from Bengal. They used to stay in Swamiji’s house.
Q: Did you ever come in contact any one of them? A: Never following Swamiji’s orders.
Q: Was there any attendants? As you first went to Swamiji’s along with Mr. Pandey?
A: Yes. I saw two persons – One Muslim attendant (Pandey recently told the author that this Muslim gentleman was Sri Imdad Hussein of Bansi. Pandey paid Rs. 30/- per month for his services), and a young person.
Q: How could you make out that the older person was a Muslim?
A: We spoke to each other on many occasions.
Q: How old was he?
A: He should have been around 80 then.
Q: Did Saraswati Devi live with him?
A: He would come here often, or else, Saraswati Devi’s would go for a day or two. During this period I use to take care of Swamiji at odd hours. Q: Did you ever notice anybody visiting Swamiji then?
A: Yes, once. It was around 1-00 A.M. I found once the lights were on in Swamiji’s room. Since I knew he had a hankering for tea, I prepared some and went to serve him. To my surprise from out side I heard his and a women’s voice emerging. The language they were speaking in was altogether new to me. I could not gather which language was this.
Q: It is learnt that Swamiji use to give you new currency notes in a cigarette packet. Why did he do so?
A: Perhaps, because I am a Brahmin. At times, he would put 20 or 50 rupees in a cigarette case, all fresh notes and throw them out from behind the cinnamon curtain.
The Sardar, the landlord of the residence of Swamiji was getting impatient. He filed an eviction suit. The Sardar got entangled in yet another legal wrangle under Section 107/177 Cr. Penal Code in which, he was asked by the City Magistrate, why he should not be charged, for breech of peace and kept under observation for a year.
Here was yet another person, unlike the “Teertha Purohit of Ayodhya” who had, by a quirk of fate, guessed in to the personality of the man, had broken through the tempests of the personality enshrouded in utter secrecy. Yet his unconscious thoughts did not restrain the Sardar to file an eviction suit “No. 2 of 1977 ”, in the Court of the Judge, small causes against the man. But the matter was settled most amicably outside the court, the unrelenting Sardar getting an assurance that the house would be vacated.
Interestingly, during the period the suit was pending, in an application to the District Magistrate, the Sardar voluntarily claimed that according to some people the defendant Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
The man, as usual, fled by the dark shadows of night, on May 5th, 1978 to the deepest cover he had ever sought, to Lucknow Kothi in Ayodhya vacating the Brahma Kund Niwas, surreptitiously – the promise was fulfilled.
End of Chapter Six
To be continued next Sunday ...
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