On Wednesday, President Pranab Mukherjee unveiled the restored black German Wanderer Car used by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose during his ‘Great Escape’ from his ancestral home in Kolkata to the Gomoh railway station on January 16, 1941 at 1.30 pm, when he was house arrested by the then British government. The car rolled out again after 58 years in a museum.
Netaji had used ‘Audi Wanderer W24’ to escape from his Elgin Road residence to the railway station in Jharkhand to catch a train to Delhi.
The President unfurled the flag on car’s bonnet. Mr Mukherjee also got into the car, restored by Audi, and took a seat next to the driver. Netaji’s great grand nephew and Trinamool MP Sugato Bose drove the vehicle for a few yards on Wednesday evening with Mr. Mukherjee sitting by his side. Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi sat in the right rear seat.
A professor of History at Harvard University, Bose, who praised over the event, said the President did not want to sit on the rear seat, where Netaji sat.
The car was unveiled to commemorate the 76th anniversary of Netaji’s Great Escape as well as 60th anniversary of the Netaji Research Bureau (NRB) Kolkata.
Netaji had escaped on the rear seat of the car disguised as Mohammad Ziauddin, an insurance agent drove by his nephew Sisir Kumar Bose. But when the car drove out of the annals of history on Wednesday, President Mukherjee, West Bengal Governor Keshri Nath Tripathy and several officers were present to pay their respects to the “chariot of freedom”.
Every Sunday, the car will be taken out of the garage in Netaji Bhavan and driven a few yards just to give a feel to visitors. “The 80-year old engine is still strong enough to move on the roads,” said Sugato Bose at a brief function at Netaji’s ancestral house on Elgin Road in south Kolkata.
Mukherjee said, “Sisir Bose was a personal friend of mine for several years and I know every nook and cranny of this place. When Krishna (Krishna Bose is Sisir Bose’s wife) requested me to be here on this day, I could not say no.” He added, “I must congratulate Krishna Bose and other members for undertaking the task of refurbishing the car which was used by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for his great escape.” The President said Netaji’s name “is the most emotive issue in the Indian political arena, and especially in Bengal.”
Mr Sisir Kumar Bose’s son and Mr Sugata Bose’s younger brother Sumantra Bose read out the excepts from the writing of Sisir Kumar Bose on how Netaji had kept the door of the car open. The idea was that if police come to investigate, they will be told by others that they heard only one door closing. Netaji kept pouring coffee for Sisir Kr Bose during the long journey.
Mr. Sisir Kumar Bose use to drive the sedan regularly until 1957 and later it was given to Netaji Research Bureau and kept for visitors there. The car was again driven briefly for the Japanese TV project in 1978. In May 2016, a team of Audi mechanics of Kolkata started working to restore the iconic 4-door Audi to its former glory.
It is the most prized possession of the Netaji Research Bureau Museum. Netaji was said to be the first to own an Audi car in the country.