Subhas Chandra Bose in HCMC

For several years I have been taking people to see the house in which Subhas Chandra Bose stayed in Vietnam before allegedly crashing on the airport in Taiwan (no recorded crash etc) …

At present though the House is desperately in need of renovation before we lose it forever. Not only important because its the last place Bose stayed etc… [before he became a Sadhu in Varanasi where he still lives on, as some people say, though some also say he was Ho Chi Minh’s advisor in the Paris peace talks etc etc… ha! myth and miracles] but because the building on a prominent street in HCMC is an example of architecture not much found and the character of the city needs to preserve something other than French colonial and high rise glass. As I said, its now a bit of a wreck, though still lived in, it is apparently still owned by descendants of the fellow who invited Bose. As you can see in the pics, taken by various freinds on visits, the yard has become home for street-food cafes and the front is covered in hoardings for a surely fairly easily removed flower shop (with due compansation of course).

I imagine bose in teh hexagaonal building in the back, making plans for a resurgent INA and getting the Brits out of India once and for all.

Background you say? There are roo many things – do a search. Here are a couple of things to start…

In 2020 Shrawanti Saha added some great detail in her FB post on the house and its owner (it is still in the family I believe): “

Netaji – the symbol of courage, valour and patriotism, my mind takes me back to my holidays in Vietnam couple of years back. While browsing through the various museums, war remnants, palaces, French colonial landmarks and the food stalls lining the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, (Saigon), I had the good fortune of visiting the mansion, where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, was last seen in Saigon in 18th August, 1945 before he mysteriously vanished from the face of earth. This sprawling villa in the posh ‘white town’ of Saigon belonged to Leon Prouchandy, one of the most prominent and affluent Indian Tamil, originally from Pondicherry, living in Saigon.

Like many Indians living abroad, he too, supported Netaji’s bid for armed liberation of India and donated handsomely to the fund of Indian National Army. This mansion on Hai Bha Tung Road, Ho Chi Minh City, once 76 rue Paul Blanchy, Saigon, used to be Prouchandy’s abode before he gave a portion of it away to serve as the secretariat of Indian Independence League. This was the mansion, where Prouchandy bade adieu to Netaji before flying out in the Japanese plane on the fateful morning of 18th August, 1945. It is said that the two spent the previous night together discussing about his final destination and the whereabouts of the cash, jewellery and gold donated by the Indians to INA. Soon after the 2nd World War ended and Japan surrendered, the British authorities arrested Prouchandy infront of his entire family from this same mansion.

It took me little time and effort to spot this once palatial villa on the busy Hai Bha Tung Road as I could never imagine a place of such historical importance could house dirty shacks selling momos and street food, the sprawling lawns used as parking spaces for two wheelers and the porch in front could have a florist shop!! It was painful to see how this historic building is in a dilapidated state and lacks minimum maintenance.

However, in case you are still wondering about the whereabouts of Leon Prouchandy, then you sure are in for some shock. He was imprisoned and subjected to inhuman torture to extract information about Netaji and his treasure trove. Those 3 months of barbaric torture left him shattered and broken. He had lost his memory, senses and speech, when he was brought back to Pondicherry, where he lived another 23 years of his life in a vegetative and debilitated state. This was the price Leon Prouchandy, paid for his patriotism and supporting Netaji Bose. Thus one of the prime financiers of INA died a death of anonymity.”

OK, John again now: My own earlier post on this was to promote/critique the film The Forgotten Army :

“I know its a dangerous thing to even mention Subhas as it seems to get me entangled in long ‘conversations’ with those who think he’s due to return any moment – a sprightly 123 year old jogs past and I wonder, doesn’t he look a little… – but I want to write something about “The Forgotten Army – Azaadi ke Lite”

“The Forgotten Army’ is the dynamic story of Lt. Sodhi and his daredevil band of men and women who fought a heroic battle for the independence of India as part of the Indian National Army which was forged out of British defeat in Singapore during WWII and led by the charismatic, indomitable Indian leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose”

Starring Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari Wagh,

I am not sure how to get into it, but I’ve collected Bose trinkets since 1987 – when he will have been 90, so might still have turned up at one of the expectant vigils – cue every Sadhu spotting hyper-mystery mulcher ever. I do at least have the chance to sit and write this, or at least sketch a plan, in the last house he lived in here in Sai Gon (as it was then, Shashwati Talukdar) before, probably, being carted off to the nearby, still extant, police lock-up (though not a lock-up anymore, and the dungeons are totally flooded, thanks Tim Doling). Many thanks also to Joe Buckley for first taking on the mission to find the place when I was stuck in District 7.

Now, how to track the INA through the Malay Peninsula and up to Imphal. Planning random trips in lockdown may be a little perverted though. Challo Delhi!

You like unrequited love stories? This series has it too – Shah Rukh Khan’s influence perhaps 🙂

And a critique of Amazon to boot.”

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