In Search of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

History of Charotar is not completed if there is history attached of Sardar Vallabhai Patel to it.

In Search of Sardar Patel

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was born on October 31, 1875 in the town of Nadiad about 40 miles from Ahmedabad. He was born in the home of his maternal uncle, Doongerbhai Desai as was the custom in those days. He was the fourth oldest of the six children born to his mother, Ladba. His father, Jhaverbhai, was a farmer of modest means in Karamsad, one of the well known villages in the Charotar section of the Gujarat state. His ancestors are supposed to have originally come from Punjab.

Born Leader

Sardar Patel As a middle sibling, Vallabha got the worst of both ends. He was often bossed around by his 3 older brothers, while he was not allowed to boss siblings younger than him. He saw very early in life that the world was neither just nor fair. These early experiences seem to have a significant influence on his personality and his character. From very early days, he started championing the cause of fairness and justice.

Vallabh attended schools in Karamsad, Nadiad, and Baroda and matriculated in 1897. Although, he did not particularly excel in his studies like his older brother Vithal, Vallabh showed natural leadership. He always spoke out against injustice and the high handedness of some of the teachers, even if it meant further punishment. To the great dismay of his teachers, Vallabh seemed to command the respect of his classmates who always followed his lead.

When his wife, Zaverba died at the age of 29 leaving behind a 5 year old daughter, Maniben, and 3 year old son, Dahyabhai, the 33 year old widower refused to remarry in spite of strong pressures from his family. He probably worried about the possible ill treatment of his children by a stepmother. In turn, Maniben, too, decided to remain single and devoted her whole life in taking care of her father who had turned down many marriage proposals for the sake of his children. Until Vallabhbhai’s death on December 15, 1950, Maniben remained a wholly devoted secretary to her father.

The Lawyer

After matriculation in 1897, Vallabhbhai moved to his maternal uncle’s home in Nadiad and started studying for Pleaders examination. He passed this examination after three years of study which usually took four. After this, he joined his older brother, Vithalbhai in Borsad to start a law practice. However, his ultimate dream was to go to England and become a barrister. In Vallabhbhai’s own words:

I longed to go overseas to see the people of England who, living 7000 miles away, were able to rule us for so long…I therefore studied very earnestly for my law examination and resolved firmly to save sufficient money for a visit to England.

 

His older brother Vithalbhai was a spendthrift, but Vallabhbhai, by living frugally, scraped together sufficient money - about ten thousand rupees - for a passport and a passage to England. The travel documents came in an envelope addressed to Mr. V. J. Patel, Pleader, Borsad. As luck would have it, it was Vithalbhai who received it first, having the same initials and the same address. Vithalbhai kept on pleading with Vallabhbhai until he agreed to let Vithalbhai go to England, while he looked after the Borsad practice. That was by no means an easy decision for Vallabhbhai who had diligently saved up every single penny to fulfill his dream. His family loyalty, however, took precedence over Vallabhbhai’s own dreams.

Vithalbhai completed his English bar examination in 30 months instead of usual 36. He received first class and a first prize. The feat was duplicated four years later by his younger brother. Vallabhbhai passed his bar examination in January 1913 and sailed back to India the very same week, without waiting to travel around in England and the Continent as was customary in those days. He could not afford such a luxury. Besides, he had to think about his daughter and his son who were now 9 and 7 and who were quite unhappy in a residential school in Bombay.

After returning to India, Vallabhbhai started his law practice in Ahmedabad while his older brother Vithalbhai practiced in Bombay. Vithalbhai, by now, was elected as a member of the Bombay Legislative council, an advisory body to the governor of Bombay. It was an unspoken pact between the two brothers that Vithalbhai would get involved in politics while Vallabhbhai would look after their extended family. Vallabhbhai had a very flourishing practice very soon. His professional career was rising so fast that people thought it was only a matter of time before he would be appointed as a judge or that he was offered a knightship.  

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