Mahatma reported Sardar Patel : Like an Arab Horse!

Mahatma reported Sardar Patel : Like an Arab Horse!

Sardar Patel completely identified himself with Gandhiji by taking to his ways. Even when he happened to be very fond of tea, he gave it up much to the surprise of Mahadev Desai, whom he told:

How could I take tea here with Bapu? I have made up my mind to eat what he eats: have given up rice, decided to eat boiled spinach and take milk and bread twice a day.

And the Sardar’s day would begin with Gandhiji at a quarter to four every morning with prayers, when Bapu would make poor Vallabhbhai say Sanskrit Shlokas! His knowledge of the language being practically nil, his pronunciation could not but often be atrocious. That did not deter the Sardar. At 57 he started learning Sanskrit, of which the Mahatma reported:

Vallabhbhai is racing like an Arab Horse! The Sanskrit book seldom leaves his hands. Never could I have entertained such a hope from him!

Every Sunday, Gandhiji used to receive his mail from the ashram. The Sardar had named it “Homeward Mail Day.” It was assigned to him by Bapu to make envelopes from brown wrappers. And Gandhiji could not help admiring Vallabhbhai’s skill at cutting them to the right size straight with a pair of scissors without first marking any outlines. One day a number of issues of a journal, Knowledge, came printed on a large sheet of paper. The Sardar cut them and sewed them into a book, and told Bapu:

It may be worth reading! But what shall we do when our knowledge increases?

And, referring to the one entitled “Don’t Burn a Light”, he made everyone laugh with his remark: “Yes, this must have been written under a lamp light!”

Sardar Patel possessed such humour from his school days at Nadiad in Gujarat, or may be even earlier. Once one of his teachers stood for the municipal elections. His wealthy opponent unwisely declare that if he were defeated, he would get his moustache shaved off! In sheer fun Vallabhbhai accepted the challenge, determined to save his poor teacher’s honour and prestige. Though himself a schoolboy, he put his friends on the job and helped his teacher win. And he did not lose the opportunity of leading a procession of some 50 boys-and a barber too! To the defeated candidate’s house to demand of him “to carry out his part of bargain”

Even when his firmness reflected a different characteristic of his, Sardar Patel’s humbleness and magnanimity are confirmed by his close associates. He never stood on personal prestige. There are numerous instances of his willingness to apologise if he was in the wrong. Far from rendering him weak and ineffective, such a quality rather build his strength by earning for him the abiding loyalty of his co-workers. On his part, he put implicit faith in them, would bear with them in both fair and foul weather, and even look after them, and their families too, as if like a father, when at his command they courted imprisonment.

In 1927 when Gujarat had terrible floods, Vallabhbhai’s volunteers carried out his orders at considerable risk to their life, when some of them swam across deep water to reach marooned villages with essential supplies. His “alertness and organising ability” won praise from official quarters. Gandhiji wrote:

Vallabhbhai is a seasoned soldier and he has no other occupation than that of service. He has got an efficient agency of workers under him.

Even the Viceroy acknowledge:

From what I have seen and heard I am satisfied that, if the volunteers of the Gujarat Provincial Congress committee had not arrived in the flood- affected areas in time, the loss of life, instead of being negligible, would have been very heavy…

The Government wanted to confer titles on Vallabhbhai and his colleagues, which he politely refused by saying”

Their delight is in doing service to the people, and they are not anxious for publicity or fame.

Sardar Shatabdi Smarak Granth : Jashwant Shekhadivala - Speech Balraj Krishna