The inspiring life story of Asha San, one of the many unsung heroes of the country’s freedom struggle, also known to her former comrades in the Indian National Army (INA) as Lt Bharati ‘Asha’ Choudhry, has now come out in the form of an autobiography.
While the original autobiography, titled ‘Asha San Ki Subhas Diary’, was written in Hindi and published in 1992 Parijat Prakashan, the one out now is a translated English version published by HarperCollins.
The HarperCollins publication, titled ‘The War Diary of Asha-San: from Tokyo to Netaji’s Indian National Army’, documents many memorable vignettes from the illustrious life of the Japan-born Indian freedom fighter.
The book, which runs into 250 pages, documents her rise from a young cadet in the Jhansi Regiment of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army to the post of lieutenant.
‘Asha’ Sahay Choudhry takes readers through a journey across war-torn Tokyo and the forests of Thailand, while narrating how she learned to hold a rifle and found her true calling, or the mission of her life as it turned out, in waging war for the country’s liberation from the British rule.
The autobiography has been translated into English by Tanvi Srivastava.
In an interview with ANI, Asha, the living symbol of the country’s resilience in the face of colonial oppression, sat down to relive her good old ‘war days’ in the INA, which was also known as the ‘Azad Hind Fauj’.
Born in Japan in 1928, Asha, still going strong at 94, lives in Patna with her son.
Speaking to ANI, ‘Asha’ recalled her four months of training in the INA in 1943 and a long march, often fraught with danger, from Bangkok to Rangoon.
“I was fond of documenting my days in a diary since childhood. Even during school and college, I would sit down every day to make entries in my diary. Taking shelter from bombings under trains, we (INA fighters) would pen entries in our diaries,” Asha recalled with a smile.
Asha said, “I was just 16 when I joined the INA. In one year, at the age of 17, I rose to the post of lieutenant in the force.”
On her journey after induction into the INA, Asha said, “We marched from Bangkok to Rangoon during the four months of our training. We learned to operate guns, pistols and anti-aircraft missiles during the training.”
“We used to fire at B-29 American aircraft whenever it came into our territory,” the freedom fighter recalled, grinning from ear to ear.
On why she joined the ‘Rani of Jhansi Regiment’ of the Indian National Army, she said, “We grew up infused with the spirit of sacrifice. We were ready and willing to lay down our lives to win freedom for the country. When the Rani of Jhansi regiment was put together in Bangkok, I told my father that want to join the regiment. He allowed me to join the force once Netaji returned from Germany.”
Sharing an anecdote when Netaji reprimanded her and fellow comrades for bowing down and touching his feet after the Indian tradition, she said, “As we bowed down to touch his feet, he said angrily, ‘we have suffered slavery for long and yet you are walking with heads bowed. Stand up straight and say Jai Hind’.” (ANI)