Someone famous once said, “Badass is what badass does.” These people deserve to be celebrated, because they were defiant, stood against evil, and as Jack Black puts it in School of Rock, “Stuck it to the man.”
Numerous Bengalis have been world-famous spiritualists, philosophers and writers. But, we will talk about them another day. Bengalis are known more for smooth intellectualism than badassery. But, these people are, well, exceptions.
12. Surya Sen – School Teacher Turned Revolutionary
A school teacher, he was badass enough to take on the British as part of the Chittagong armory raid. As part of the plan, Sen and fellow nationalists managed to loot arms of the armory in an attempt to isolate Chittagong by disconnecting communication lines.
Sen and his fellow men hoisted the national flag right in front of the British Army, and escaped with the loot. Despite being tortured to near death after being captured by the British, Sen stayed true to his nationalist ideals and went down with his head held high.
11. Bagha Jatin – Revolutionary Mastermind
Bagha Jatin (translation: tiger Jatin) was born Jatindranath Mukherjee. A revolutionary, he opposed the British with all his might.
Jatin was the orchestrator of many secret activities against the British rule.
He masterminded loots and attempts on the life of autocratic leaders of the time. He not only subdued the British with hi-revolutionary badass plans, but also proved a nightmare for many chiefs working under the British Raj as their right or left hands
10. Binoy, Badal and Dinesh – The Deadly Trio
None of these three national heroes even lived to see life after the age of 30. The three joined the Netaji formed Bengal volunteers association.
In an attempt to assassinate the cruel Col NS Simpson, (Inspector General of Prisons), the trio laid down their lives.
In the gunfight, in which they were eventually overpowered by sheer numbers, the badasses refused to give up. Eventually, when completely surrounded, they chose to take their own lives. No surrender.
9. Rash Behari Bose – Born Revolutionary
Despite having a strong background in education, where he earned medical and engineering degrees in France and Germany, Bose became an active revolutionary.
He played a secret role in the assassination attempt on Lord Hardinge. Badass as he was, Bose lived openly under the nose of the British, with little knowledge of his activities.
After playing a significant role in the Ghadar revolution, Bose yet again escaped the clutches of the British. This time he escaped to Japan, where along with Subash Chandra Bose, he formed the Indian National Army.
8. Sourav Ganguly — Dada of Comebacks
Sourav Ganguly, born to an affluent family, would have certainly not imagined the pinnacle of his badassery: A shirtless Indian cricket team captain, waving his shirt in the balcony of the mecca of Cricket – Lords.
Apart from the unforgettable images of him at the centre of the team on the balcony, the journey itself has been badass.
Sourav was unceremoniously dropped from the Indian team in 2004, and upon his comeback faced the ostracizing tactics of the coach, Greg Chappell. Dropped by Chappell again and at the wrong end of the age scale, Sourav continued to play domestic cricket and eventually made his way back into the team.
He eventually hung his gloves, in late 2008 at the pinnacle of his career, on his own terms and walked out with his head held high and his badass attitude intact.
Millions of cricket fans in India believe that Dada was the best captain Indian team ever had. It was his team that made MS Dhoni win one series after another, they say.
7. Khudiram Bose — Messenger of the Deathwish
He was bombing British Raj police stations and government official residences when he was just 16. Son of a civil servant, Khudiram happened to be a born patriot, much to the agony of his parents.
One of the youngest Indian freedom fighters, Khudiram was not even 19 when he was hanged by the British.
When captured and brought for a trial, this is what The Statesman wrote for him:
“The Railway station was crowded to see the boy. A mere boy of 18 or 19 years old, who looked quite determined. He came out of a first-class compartment and walked all the way to the phaeton, kept for him outside, like a cheerful boy who knows no anxiety…..on taking his seat the boy lustily cried ‘Vande Mataram’”
Khudiram took the complete responsibility of bombing a magistrate’s carriage to save other revolutionaries.
It was a failed mission but his badassery did lay the foundation of armed revolution against the British in 1857. It came to be known as Agni-Yuga (The Age of Fire).
Executed on the morning of 11 August, 1908, Khudiram walked to the gallows firmly. His body erect, Khudiram smiled when the scaffold was mounted on his head, he died cheerful and smiling, so the local and British newspapers reported next day.
Salutations to you, young martyr.
6. Suresh Biswas – A Savior Elsewhere
Col Suresh Biswas was nothing less than a superhero – quite literally. From saving people from a certain-death to taking the British hand-on in the Maidan area of Kolkata, Biswas was as badass as one could get. Unable to pursue a steady job after graduating, Biswas began globetrotting in his teenage years itself.
In Rangoon, he rescued a woman from a fire. Then he moved to London where he slummed out by selling newspapers by day and fighting off criminals in the night. He was so badass that he often woke up alongside women with no memory of the previous night, and still penniless in his pockets. The women obviously loved him for his badassery.
Biswas’s journey was yet to take him further, and he eventually found settlement in Brazil. In Brazil, he lectured and joined the defence forces. He played a key role in warding off Brazilian naval attacks in the Battle of Niteroi, which made him a cult figure in Brazilian folklore.
5. Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri — Major Saab
Born to a traditional Bengali family in 1908, Chaudhuri was from an early age a practitioner of you-didn’t-just-do-that! His stubbornness led him to be enrolled into the British Indian Army in February 1928. By 1937, Chaudhuri had risen to the rank of Captain, purely on the basis of his unshakeable resolve and courage.
The British Empire recognized this man’s badass dealing-of-things during his services in the African deserts and awarded him with the Order of the British Empire, in 1940. His accomplishments and gallantry continued in the field of service for which he became Major by 1945.
Chaudhuri was later put in charge of the Kashmir battle operations, Operation Polo in Hyderabad and various other military positions which he served with his usual uncompromising badass attitude. His awesomeness was recognized with India’s second highest civilian order, Padma Vibhushan.
4. Subroto Mukherjee — Man with Wings
Subroto Mukherjee is known as the “Father of the Indian Air force” and rightly so. He was one of the first recruits of the Indian Air Force and the first designated Chief of Staff. Despite his predecessors belonging to the highly-educated backgrounds, Mukherjee, owing to his badass attitude, aimed for the sky. From an early age that he had a military aptitude was clear.
Mukherjee’s induction into the Royal Air Force in 1932 was down to his badassery, owing to which he along with 5 others formed part of the first group of Indians to be taken in by the Royal Air Force. On the same day the Indian Air Force Act was passed, and thus was born the Indian Air Force.
In 1939, he became the first Indian to be promoted to Squadron Leader, and went on to become the first Air Marshall of the Indian Air Force. Mukherjee, for all his distinguished service, was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Oh, and by the way, he also played for MohunBagan. The Subroto cup came to be known so in his honour. He later became the first Air Marshall of the Indian Air Force.
3. Sushmita Banerjee — The Untold Malala
Sushmita Banerjee, is probably the untold Malala. Her story is one of struggle and eventual triumph. Banerjee married an Afghan man in Kolkata in secret. The year was 1988. Fearing the wrath of her conservative parents she fled the country with her husband and later discovered he had a wife in Afghanistan already. Her plight became worse when her husband left her to return to Kolkata and she couldn’t.
Banerjee paid witness to the atrocities inflicted by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Aided by her strong will, Banerjee opened up a medical clinic to help women. Gradually the clinic started to draw women, and Banerjee, the unwanted attention of the militia. In an attempt to mitigate her badassery the Taliban attacked her and beat her to near death.
After repeated attempts to escape, and a fatwa on her, Banerjee managed to escape after killing three militants with an AK-47 rifle. After her return to India she wrote many books and essays on the plight of women in Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Her return proved fateful, and she was executed by militants in 2013.
2. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar — The Reformer
Born in a poor family, Ishwar Chandra studied under street lights in his childhood and went on to become the head of Sanskrit Department at Fort William College when he was just 21. Ten years later, he was the principal of Sanskrit College.
Most of us don’t even know what we want to do with our lives at this age. But, that wasn’t so much of badassery. After all, we even had Sarthak Aggarval ending up in St. Stephen’s waiting list after scoring a freaking 99.6% in CBSE board exams.
What Ishwar Chandra did for the Hindu women in Bengal was unprecedented. Yes, there were alternative systems (BrahmoSamaj, for example.) But, Ishwar Chandra decided to just mend the broken, orthodox Hindu society.
That was rebellious.
Why? Well, back in those days, the upper castes, the powerful and rich (after the British, of course) had the luxury of getting married as many times as they liked. It didn’t matter if they were dying. These people could marry teenage, and even prepubescent girls. Each year, a good many of these girls became widows. Their lives were living hells. Many would just die toiling hard, others resorted to prostitution.A hell of our own making and not enforced by the British.
Vidyasagar was the guy who first proposed and pushed Widow Remarriage act in 1856 in India.
1. Netaji — The Best Prime Minister India Never Had
Subhash Chandra Bose, or Netaji as he was addressed to by Indian soldiers in Germany, had a tumultuous life that he fought against till the day of his passing. Initially a follower of Gandhi, Netaji fled the country after being put under house arrest by the British who felt threatened by him.
Such was Netaji’s spirit, that he fled to Germany where he planned to form an army and defeat the British with force rather than nonviolence. His badassery is evident in the fact that is charisma alone was enough to inspire Indian soldiers in forming the revamped Indian National Army.
The British were wary of his wide appeal and preferred to deal with the nonviolent politicians at home. Bose even presided on the 1st free provisional Government of India in Andaman. Even after his suspected death in a plane crash in 1945, his badassery forced the doubters and haters to believe that he would return and fulfilwhat was his destiny – freedom for India.