India @75: Rash Behari Bose’s Nakamuraya’s India Curry
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

In the old days, movies used to promise in trailers that about all the genres it would touch – romance, love, tragedy, drama, action. If there’s one dish that encapsulates all of these, it’s Nakamuraya’s India Curry which was created by Rash Behari Bose, the man who passed on the INA baton to Subhash Chandra Bose. But before that, he created a legendary curry marrying Japanese and Indian ingredients and sentiments.  

In fact, in Japan, Rash Behari is far more famous than his namesake. Born in 1886, Rash Behari Bose was an officer of the British Raj but turned against his colonial overlords during the protests that erupted during the partition of Bengal in 1905. Part of an assassination attempt on the Viceroy of India in 1912, Bose fled to Japan in 1915 by pretending to be a relative (named PS Thakore) of Rabindranath Tagore. He first went to Kobe and then Tokyo where he drummed up anti-British sentiment among pan-Asianists.

He met several leaders, including Mitsuru Toyama, a right-wing politician sympathetic to the Indian cause. Toyama introduced Bose to the Soma family who owned a well-known bakery called Nakamuraya and whose eldest daughter Toshiko, he fell in love with. Their marriage allowed him to get a Japanese citizenship, which was truly remarkable given that that gaijins were looked down upon at that time. While the couple had two children, Toshiko passed in 1925.

In 1927, teaming up with his father-in-law, he launched the Nakamuraya Indi Karri which ‘retained the taste and flavours of Bengal’, reminiscent of the simplicity of a patla murgir jhol. Indrajit Sen writes in Get Bengal: “It comes with potatoes to give a thickening edge to the otherwise watery broth and a gastronomical blend of aroma imparted by use of ginger and onions. The curd used brings a twist with its tangy taste and helps in digestion. The dish was a super hit with health-conscious Japanese as it had the right mix of spices and not an overdose, making the curry light on the stomach as well as healer of the soul.”

Professor Takeshi Nakajima, who wrote the book Bose of Nakamuraya: An Indian Revolutionary in Japan, argued that the curry was a continuation of his anti-colonial struggle, an attempt to win back India’s food culture from British hands. Bose died before he could see his motherland free of colonial rule but his legacy lives on with every person tasting his curry. In 2001, the curry was also served as a ready-to-eat package with the original Bose recipe and apparently accounted for half the sales value of Nakamuraya Processed Foods in 2016.

Incidentally, Rash Behari would meet his charismatic namesake Subhash Chandra in 1943 when he handed over the reins of the Indian National Army (INA) in a public meeting in Singapore. Rash Behari told a gathered audience, as the mantle passed from one Bose to another: “I have brought you one of the most outstanding personalities of our motherland. I resign from my office as President of the Indian Independence League in East Asia. From now on Subhas Chandra Bose is your leader in the fight for independence”.”