He could easily be Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s biggest fan. Fifteen years after retiring from the army, ‘Robin’ Gopalakrishnan Nair is riding across the length of the country on his motorcycle to enlighten people about Bose’s contribution to India’s independence.
He is convinced that Bose was the pivotal figure of the independence movement. Nair claims that the founder of the Indian National Army (INA) was the sole reason why joined the army as a 19-year-old and served for 17 years before retiring as a Naik.
But even after retiring from the army, his urge to ‘repay’ Netaji continued to gnaw at him. Nair wanted to do more.
“Netaji got us independence. I’m clear on that. Yes, others played their roles. But his intelligence freed us,” says the soft-spoken man from Kerala. “I wanted to do something for him since I retired in 2001 but I didn’t know how to go about it.”
Fifteen years after his stint in the army, Nair is now a bank employee. The 51-year-old former soldier had married off his daughter and saved enough money for his son’s education, but his wish to spread awareness about his hero remained unfulfilled.
Three months back, Nair, who was also a stunt rider in the army, decided to travel across India on his two-wheeler, and preach about Bose’s contribution to the country’s independence.
“When I told my wife, she just said one thing - don’t jinx it by telling anyone. First let the day come and then let’s inform,” Nair laughs.
And the day did come. On August 1, Nair straddled his Royal Enfield Bullet and started his ‘patriotic’ mission from India’s southernmost tip Kanyakumari. His final destination is Jammu.
A board fixed on the back seat proudly asserts his motive - “Gopalakrishnan Nair on Bharat Yatra to salute Subhas Chandra Bose”. Two flags that resemble the tricolour with Bose’s picture on them are fixed on either side of the board. He travelled across eight states in 11 days and reached Delhi on August 11.
“I stopped wherever I could and educated people on Bose. I got huge response and people listened to me intently and agreed with my ideas.”
“I visited many villages where people were completely unaware of Bose. Their knowledge about Bose was very minimal, but no one disagreed with what I tried to convey,” he said.
Nair is convinced that history has not been fair to Bose.
“History books should be rewritten,” he says. “I told the people that we should remember and celebrate Netaji on the same lines as we celebrate Bapu.”
And while mystery still surrounds Netaji’s death, Nair’s opinion is clouded by his hero worship.
“I also educated them on how Bose didn’t die on a plane crash. I’m happy the government has started to make his files public. I hope one day the truth will be out,” says the former soldier.
Nair claims he was stopped on highways by curious commuters, many of whom wanted to click pictures with him.
“Once an army man stopped me, and asked me to park my bike. With tears in his eyes, he saluted. The respect was not for me, but the man behind, on the flag and in my heart and soul. My hero Netaji,” Nair says.
But nowhere he was respected more than in West Bengal, where he took a detour to visit Bose’s house and his relatives. “Children know about Bose in Bengal and that made my mission simple. They received me like a war hero returning after a battle.”
Clad in camouflage pants and grey T-shirt, Nair puts on his helmet for his onward ride to Jammu.
“The nation should not forget what Netaji did. His legacy should be saved. I don’t know what is next in life for me, but I’ll continue on my mission till my last breath,” is his parting shot as the guns the bike to life.