Jhaverbhai Patel was born at his maternal uncle’s house in Nadiad, Gujarat. His actual date of birth was never officially recorded – Patel entered October 31st as his date of birth on his matriculation examination papers. He was the fourth son of Jhaverbhai and Ladba Patel, and lived in the village of Karamsad, in the Kheda district. Somabhai, Narsibhai and Vithalbhai Patel (also a future political leader) were his elder brothers. He had a younger brother, Kashibhai, and a sister, Dahiba.
Patel elped his father in the fields, and bimonthly kept a day-long fast, abstaining from food and water – a cultural observance that enabled him to develop physical tougheness. He entered school late – parental attention was focused on the eldest brothers, thus leading to a degree of neglect of Patel’s education. Patel travelled to attend schools in Nadiad, Petlad and Borsad, living self-sufficiently with other boys. He took his matriculation at the late age of 22; at this point, he was generally regarded by his elder relatives as an unambitious man destined for a commonplace job.
But Patel himself harbored a plan – he would pass the Pleader’s examination and become a lawyer. He would then set aside funds, travel to England, then train to become a barrister. During the many years it took him to save money, Vallabhbhai – now a pleader – earned a reputation as a fierce and skilled lawyer. He had also cultivated a stoic character – he lanced a painful boil without hesitation, even as the barber supposed to do it trembled. Patel spent years away from his family, pursuing his goals assiduously. Later, Patel fetched Jhaverba from her parent’s home – Patel as married to Jhaverba at a young age.
As per Indian custom at the time, the girl would remain at her mother’s house until her husband began earning – and set up his household. His wife bore him a daughter, Manibehn, in 1904, and later a son, Dahyabhai, in 1906. Patel also cared for a personal friend suffering from Bubonic plague when it swept the state. After Patel himself came down with the disease, he immediately sent away his family to safety, left his home, and moved into an isolated house in Nadiad (by other accounts, Patel spent this time in a dilapidated temple); here, he recovered slowly.
Patel took on the financial burdens of his homestead in Karamsad even while saving for England and supporting a young family. He made way for his brother Vithalbhai Patel to travel to England in place of him, on his own saved money and opportunity. The episode occurred as the tickets and pass Patel had applied for arrived in the name of “V. J. Patel,” and arrived at Vithalbhai’s home, who bore the same initials. Patel did not hesitate to make way for his elder brother’s ambition before his own, and funded his trip as well.
In 1909, Patel’s wife Jhaverba was hospitalized in Bombay to undergo a major surgical operation for cancer. Her health suddenly worsened, and despite successful emergency surgery, she died. Patel was given a note informing him of his wife’s demise as he was cross-examining a witness in court. As per others who witnessed, Patel read the note, pocketed it and continued to intensely cross-examine the witness, and won the case. He broke the news to others only after the proceedings had ended. Patel himself decided against marrying again.
He raised his children with the help of his family, and sent them to England and enrolled at the Middle Temple Inn in London. Finishing a 36-month course in 30 months, Patel topped his class despite having no previous college background. Patel settled in the city of Ahmedabad, and became one of the citys most successful barristers. Wearing European-style clothes and urbane mannerisms, he also became a skilled bridge player at the Gujarat Club. His close friends would include his neighbours Dr. Balwantray and Nandubehn Kanuga, who would remain ear to him, and a young lawyer, Ganesh Vasudev Mavlankar.
He had also made a pact with his brother Vithalbhai to support his entry into politics in Bombay, while Patel himself would remain in Ahmedabad and provide for the family. According to some of Patel’s friends, he nurtured ambitions to expand his practise and accumulate great wealth, and to provide his children with modern education. Vallabhbhai Patel was a major political and social leader of India and its struggle for independence, and is credited for achieving the political integration of independent India. In India nd across the world, he is known as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, where Sardar stands for Chief in many languages of India.
Patel organized the peasants of Kheda, Borsad, and Bardoli in Gujarat in non-violent civil disobedience against the oppressive policies imposed by the British Raj – becoming one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat. He rose to the leadership of the Indian National Congress and at the forefront of rebellions and political events – organizing the party for elections in 1934 and 1937, and leading Indians into the Quit India movement. He was imprisoned by he British government on numerous occasions, especially from 1931 to 1934, and from 1942 to 1945.
Becoming the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India, Patel organized relief and rehabilitation efforts in the riot-struck Punjab and Delhi, and led efforts to restore security. Patel took charge of the task to forge a united India from a plethora of semi-independent princely states, colonial provinces and possessions. Patel employed an iron fist in a velvet glove diplomacy – frank political negotiations backed with the option (and the use) of military action to weld a ation that could emancipate its people without the prospect of divisions or civil conflict.
His leadership obtained the peaceful and swift integration of all 565 princely states into the Republic of India. Patel’s initiatives spread democracy extensively across India, and re-organized the states to help transform India into a modern federal republic. His admirers call him the Iron Man of India. He is also remembered as the “patron saint” of India’s civil servants for his defence of them against political attack, and for being one of the earliest and key defenders of property rights and free nterprise in independent India.
On 29 March 1949, a plane carrying Patel and the Maharaja of Patiala lost radio contact, and Patel’s life was feared for all over the nation. The plane had made an emergency landing in the desert of Rajasthan upon an engine failure, and Patel and all passengers were safe, and traced by nearby villagers. When Patel returned to Delhi, members of Parliament and thousands of Congressmen gave him a raucous welcome. In Parliament, MPs gave a thunderous ovation to Patel – stopping proceedings for half an hour.
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