'Netaji asked me to give the song a martial tune that would not put people to sleep, but awaken those who were sleeping'
When a hero goes unsung, it hurts. More so if he composed the music for India's national anthem and Kadam kadam badhahye ja, khushi ke geet gaye ja, the theme song for Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army, now sung by military and paramilitary personnel across the country.
Captain Ram Singh, 87, who provided melody to both these patriotic
songs languishes in Lucknow today. The composer, who joined the INA in 1942 and was taken as prisoner of war by the Japanese, is deeply disillusioned by India. He is hurt on not receiving a single invitation to the various official functions organised for the nation's golden jubilee. He is unhappy with the state of the country. "This is not
the India of Netaji's dreams." he confesses.
In conversation with Sharat Pradhan, Captain Ram Singh spoke about dreams that have run asunder and how Independent India has wronged him.
We had conceived an India-free from all ills -- poverty, crime violence and humiliation. Unfortunately, these ills are the only things I have received from governments in recent years. What could be a greater humiliation for me than to be left
out of all celebrations of the 50th year of
our Independence. The only occasion where I was
formally invited was in a school. I could not even attend that
function because I was
unable to climb onto the high police truck sent to fetch me.
It was on July 15, 1942, shortly
after the surrender of the British Indian Army before the Japanese
in Singapore that General Fujiwara handed over some 40,000 prisoners
to General Mohan Singh. He along with Rash Behari Bose of the
Independent League formed the INA. It was then that I was
also inducted into the organisation by General Mohan Singh.
About a year later, Netaji took over
the command of this army. Netaji made all the difference to
the movement which for sometime nearly shook the pillars of
the British regime in India. He inspired us with his
thoughtprovoking and dynamic speeches. He made it
a point to remind us that it was the right time for India to awaken and
take advantage of the World War by taking
military assistance from Britain's common foe.
Netaji reinforced in us the confidence that our Independence
was not far. If it had not been for the air crash,
after which there was no trace of Netaji, we would have got freedom
as he had conceived. He was
confident of military support from all those nations which were
already engaged in war with Britain or its allies. That made
all the difference. How could we
have matched the might of a power like Britain without the
help of others? Netaji was naturally encouraged with the response
he received, that in turn gave us the confidence that we would
Besides the 40,000 troops that he inherited from Singapore,
a large contingent of young volunteers got themselves inducted
in the INA. The sublime faith everyone had in Netaji's
leadership was depicted in their willingness to lay down their
lives for our great leader and commander.
Netaji attached great significance to
music as a source of inspiration for a force that was being prepared
to fight till the finish. I distinctly remember that
day in 1943, which Netaji came down to the then INA broadcasting
station at the Cathay Building in Singapore and asked me to compose
music for a song translated from Rabindra Nath Tagore's
original Bengali score. He asked me to give
the song a martial tune that would not put people to sleep but awaken
those who were sleeping.
The Hindi version of that anthem was, Shubh, sukh
chain ki barkha barse, bharat bhagya hai jaga.
The translation was jointly done by Netaji
and his close confidantes Abid Hasan, Mumtaz Hussain and Bhonsle.
After I composed the tune, the first pat for the tune came from Netaji himself.
It was a memorable moment for me when I was asked to play the
tune while Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled
the tricolour and lowered the Union Jack in New Delhi. While
Tagore's original in Bengali was chosen as the national
anthem, the tune composed by me in Singapore was formally adopted
for the anthem.
Company of India, which brought out a special album titled, Delhi
Chalo containing Netaji's favourite songs, includes Shubh sukh
chain ki barkha barse in the same tune as Jana Gana
Mana. I composed all the songs in that
album sponsored by the Netaji Research Bureau. I have also composed around 30 patriotic songs.
Captain Ram Singh continues to cope with this neglect and humiliation everyday. His predicament was best
spelt out on last year's judgment of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad
High Court. The judgment said: 'It is unfortunate
and matter of concern for this court that Captain Ram Singh who
was awarded the King George VI Medal in 1937 for the services rendered
by him in the North West Frontier during 1937 to 1939, was
arrested during World War II by the government of Japan and remained
in prison with effect from January 1, 1942 to June 11, 1943 in
Malaya and Singapore... has been treated shabbily by the state
The judges further observed: 'It is really sad that Captain
Ram Singh has been denied the respect and regard which is due
to him. If we cannot do anything more for him at least we must
provide him a decent living.'
On March 22, 1996, the court directed that an honoranium of Rs 1,000
a month should be given to him. In a contempt petition moved by him, the court once
again on May 19, 1997, issued orders for compliance of its earlier
verdict. But that too has met a similar fate and even as the nation
proudly celebrates its 50th year of Independence, Captain Ram Singh waits on.
Who composed the score for Jana Gana Mana? Gurudev or the Gorkha?
Controversy over Jana Gana Mana takes a new turn