The Indomitable Sardar
It is difficult for me to write about the Sardar. Of the leading men*- with whom I have come into close contact, he has been nearest to me.I admire his extraordinary gifts. I cherish a deep affection for this manwhom most men fear.
1 first came into close contact with Sardar Vallabhbhai in 1928. Hewas then leading the Bardoli Satyagraha. I was then an IndependentMember of the Bombay Legislative Council. Sir Leslie Wilson, the thenGovernor told me that there was no official high-handedness at Bardoliand that the propaganda was false. I promised to go there and see things for myself. I went, saw and was conquered. I resigned on theissue.
I there met the Sardar of Bardoli—now of India—in active service.His leadership drew me to him. He had forged a technique of massresistance which reconciled me to Gandhiji’s policies which I had so farconsidered impracticable.
Then came 1930 r.nd the historic Dandi March. The universal urgefor seeking martyrdom, which Gandhiji had evoked, attracted me. I placed myself at his service, joined the Congress, offered Salt Satyagrahaand went to jail. After the Gandhi-Irwin truce, I saw the Sardarpresiding over the Karachi Congress.
During 1932-33 we were in different jails. In 1934, on release, wecame closer to each other. During the Assembly elections, I first declinedhis suggestion to stand for the Assembly. But when at the last minuteShri Nariman withdrew, he again asked me to stand for the seat. Theprestige of the Congress was at stake, he said. I agreed. This laid thefoundation of our friendship.
Then came the elections of 1936. I then saw him arranging elections,fixing up candidates, setting up ministries, controlling them, giving to• diverse centrifugal forces a harmonious direction. I saw him arranging,organizing, directing men and forces all over the country: breakingthrough hostile combinations, aligning new forces, I was with him often, almost daily when he was in Bombay, watching with admiring awe theworking of his mind.
Few know the difficulties which the Sardar had to face in setting up;. homogeneous party. He selected Shri Kher and commissioned some of us to get the latter’s consent. He piloted the activities which ended in Shri Kher’s choice as a leader. This choice was Sardar’s stroke ofGeneralship. But for it, the Bombay Congress Ministry would have beena ghastly failure.
Congress was a seething mass of ambitions all throughout thecountry. Sardar’s genius alone brought order and discipline. Often, atnight, I saw and heard him answering long distance calls from all overIndia with short, decisive suggestions, which* were devastating in theireffectiveness.
For 27 months when I was a Home Minister in the Congress Ministry,I was in the closest contact with him. There is an erroneous impressionthat he meddled in ministerial affairs. But he watched their workincessantly and only stepped in when the Ministers weakened in theireffort to become effective centers of power against the Governors. His was a vast campaign at creating power. We were often weak; many a time we knew not how to act up to the task of reducing the Governorsto mere constitutional heads. Then only the Sardar stepped in.
I was associated with some informal negotiations between theViceroy and Gandhiji through Vallabhbhai. I was in touch with thenegotiations with Rajkot which Sardar carried on; with the last stagesof ministerial existence in November 1939; with the infructuousnegotiations with the Viceroy in 1940. And in them all, I saw Sardar’spenetrating insight, his profound knowledge of human strength andweakness, his unerring grasp of the essentials in the game. And behindit all, I saw the Grand Rebel who under the leadership of Gandhiji, theMaster, was fighting British rule, not merely by words, but bymobilization of human efforts and ambitions on the field of open battleand unseen diplomacy.
The Admirable Man
I first met Sardar 25 years ago. 1 was at the time President ofthe Indian Merchants’ Chamber which was trying to bring about asettlement in the matter of the Bardoli Satyagraha. Under hisleadership, the movement had assumed formidable proportions and theBombay Government had ultimately to acknowledge its strength and come to terms with him.
The impressions I formed at my first meeting were those of a manof strong purpose and iron will. Later on, I was to see something ofthe human side of him; and in the last few years of his life, while. greatdistances still divided us, I was .privileged to enjoy his friendship.The more 1 saw of him, the more I came to admire the qualities whichhad earned him the unique position he occupied in the leadership of thecountry
Sardar Vallabhbhai’s stature seemed to grow even bigger after thelong-drawn struggle was over and Independence was attained. Thepolitical fighter ripened into a statesman. It is in the closing years ofhis life that, in spite of ill-health and advancing age, his genius forleadership was seen at its best. It is not necessary to dwell on the services he rendered in consolidating the newly-won freedom and in shaping the diverse units in the political life of India into an integralwhole. The part he played in bringing this about has been universallyacclaimed and has secured for him an abiding place in the history of thecountry.
Among those who led the struggle for India’s independence to a successful conclusion, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will rank, not only in the judgment of contemporaries but of posterity, as one of the foremost.Indeed, with the exception of Mahatma Gandhi and our Prime Minister,he had no superior
Of the days when it waxed and waned in fortune—it never waved,in courage and resolution—only those can speak with the authority ofexperience who took part in the fray. My only contact, and that too indirect, with this rich and gallant period of the Sardar’s life, was limitedto.,that unique effort in organized non-violent resistance, the Bardoli. satyagraha. I was, then, Secretary to the Government of India in theDepartment which dealt, among other matters, with Land Revenue.Since this was still a- “reserved” subject, the Centre had powers of, direction, superintendence, and control over the Provinces. Moreover,the no-tax campaign in Bardoli raised issues relating to% “law and order”far more important than those connected with Land Revenue. Indeed,unless memory betrays me, it was the law and order aspect that causedgreater C9ncern to the Government of India than that of Revenue.Nevertheless, at a late stage, Lord Halifax (then Lord Irwin) asked myDepartment for an appraisal of the claim on behalf of the satyagrahathat’ the -increase in assessment was excessive. Our conclusion that thecomplaint was justified—a view supported by the independent findingsof Pandit Hlrday Nath Kunzru and the late Shri Thakkar — wasaccepted by the Viceroy. The experts of the then Government of Bombaycut an unenviable figure in the Conference of Revenue Members of A council which the Viceroy convened to consider whether a radical changein Land Revenue policy was necessary. In view of the constitutionalchanges then contemplated, nothing much resulted from this Conference.Its significance lies in the impact that Bardoli made upon something soesoteric and so sacrosanct as a policy which Lord Curzon had formulatedin the first few years of the present century and which BritishAdministrators had come to regard as a model,- not only of efficiencybut of generosity to the tenant.
This was in 1929. 18 years later, when I joined the Ministry of External Affairs, India stood on the eve of freedom. In the critical daysthat followed its advent, the national government had to face, first, a .grave threat to the very stability of the new State and, when the tragic situation created by the uprooting of vast masses of peoplecaused by the partition had been brought under control, problems ofequal gravity and of equal significance for India’s future, such as thedispute with Pakistan over Kashmir; the menace of violent resistanceto accession in Hyderabad; the fitting of the autocratic princely Statesinto the political pattern of the Indian Union; the harnessing, in completeloyalty of mind and spirit, of the Services to a Popular Administrationcompletely different in outlook, approach and method, to the tasks ofgovernment from the British Raj.
As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home and State AffairsSardar Patel had to meet a large share of all and the brunt of severalelements in this formidable challenge. The resolution, the courage, thepatience and the sagacity with which he met the challenge have becomepant of contemporary tradition. If the integration or merger of former The Indian States into the Indian Union were his only achievement, SardarPatel would be sure of a luminous niche in our long and chequered history.
But he left his mark on the entire field of government. Cabinetr°sponsibility is apt to blur the contribution of individual members to the shaping and implementation of the policy. Public service, however,should not be judged only by the measure of publicity or praise that it receives.
What I learnt to admire most in Sardar Patel was his sense ofrealism. To flame he might appear, even in the short retrospect of less than a decade, a revolutionary turned conservative. But if involutional yardor is . he winds that the ship of State needs for progression, realismis equally essential as ballast. He addressed himself primarily to thetasks of consolidation. He was convinced that free India needed firmand stable foundations for social and economic progress. If dynamismseemed to cause him some concern at times, this was due not to lack ofcourage but to a sense of anxiety lest excessive speed should defeat its own purpose. He believed in progress but progress with an order.
In politics, the criteria of value are not immutable. Eachsucceeding age has its own standards. Bu*- no change can ever efface or even diminish the respect and admiration evoked by fortitude” inadversity; by courage in the face of danger; by single-mindedness andsteadfast, an unwavering endeavor in the pursuit of ideals honestly held. These are eternal virtues, an unvarying and invariable measure of humanworth and human greatness. Sardar Patel had his shortcomings;which human being has not? But his constructive achievement will outlive the memory of his failings and determine his place in history.It is that achievement which entitles him to the nation’s homage andaffection.
Sardar The Man Who Lead
Ths Fifteenth of December 1950 was the darkest day for India because on that day the nation lost Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of her foremostarchitects. This heavy blow coming so close on the heels of the greattragedy of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi has laid the nationprostrate. The feeling of confidence and security which this Iron Manof Action inspired in the country had become almost a habit of ournational mind for many years. The magnitude of the national loss will continue to unfold itself at every step when things get stuck up forwant of his clear-cut directive and decisive action.
Born w- farmer parents of sturdy stock on 31st October 1875Vallabhbhai had inherited in his temperament and action the qualitiestypical of rural life. It was against the background of these qualities that his early youth was built up. Even in the days of his greatesttriumphs, he never ceased taking pride in the circumstance that he wasa farmer and would always remain one. No single man has servedtheir cause as much as he has done. Sarojini Naidu in her usualirrepressible, humorous vein once said that the great Sardar understoodagriculture better than any other culture. Sardar was essentially a bornleader of peasants whatever else he might have been in later life. He had his education in an unorthodox fashion. He passed the Pleader’sExamination; and started practice early in life. His unfailing tact anduncanny judgment of men—the qualities that made him so great anddependable in later life—were assets for his legal practice too. At a comparatively late age when he was 35, he went to England and qualifiedhimself for the Bar. He had a farmer’s single-minded devotion to thejob in hand and this never failed to produce the expected results. Returning to India then as a Barrister-at-Law, he easily established asizable legal practice in Ahmedabad where he did not take long to .assume the social leadership. By his rustic humor, outspokenness andbiting sarcasm he soon became a figure to be reckoned with in the City’s
The year 1917 brought about a revolutionary change in Vallabhbhai’slife—a change -that pushed him into public life and made him the most popular national leader that he was. This was the year when* the Guruand the Disciple met. The Guru was Mahatma Gandhi and the Disciple was Vallabhbhai Patel. The relation between the two had somethingof a divine touch in it. On more than one occasion Gandhiji himself inhis characteristic humor described what a pompous man Sardar wasbefore he met him ml. what a simple man he became after they had met.The relationship j -,’tween these two great leaders was the greatest singlefactor for the success of our political struggle. Never did Sardar doanything thereafter which had not the complete approval and blessing; of the Gum. On many an occasion, he brushed aside his personalconvictions to fall in line with the advice of his Guru. He had a soldier’sdiscipline where obedience was concerned.
Gandhiji ‘s assassination was the severest blow to Sardar. He neverrecovered from this blow. Very often he used to say “What is the funin life when the saint of Sabarmati is no more”. Although completelyparalyzed by this blow Sardar made a superhuman effort during thelast two years to suppress his personal emotions and deliver himself to the task which the nation had entrusted to his care. The effort wasso much of a strain on his frail body with its numerous handicaps.
Those of this country and outside who had the good fortune ofwatching the glorious achievements of Sardar during recent years, and’ particularly after the attainment of freedom, used to be reminded of some of his earlier achievements which, though comparatively smallerand definitely less spectacular, nonetheless laid the foundation of hisunassailable position in our public and political life. His sense of publicservice rivaled with his indomitable spirit in the fight for his country’sfreedom. To him, both were complementary propositions.
The City of Ahmedabad was afflicted by the epidemic of plague in the year 1917. Many had fled the City for self-protection. Vallabhbhairefused to leave the City. He organized an anti-plague campaign andgave succor to those who stood in need of it. The high spirit of social service which he exhibited on that occasion won for him the blessingsof the poor of Ahmedabad. In subsequent tragedies to which his nativeprovince, Gujerat, was a prey, people looked to him with confidence to organize the relief measures. No single man in our big country organisedI and with unfailing success as many and as extensive rebel” measures in natural calamities as he had done. He fought for the abolition offorced labor which was then in vogue and got it removed. He organized large-scale relief measures ill the influenza epidemic of 1918.
Organization of famine relief was his special subject. No matter what part of the country was ravaged by famine, «Sardar’s great organizing ability was promptly in operation and with spectacular results. He organized famine relief in 1918 and added laurels to his crown. His resistance to evil had all the mark of his brave and ‘fearless spirit.
He successfully fought against the iniquitous tax in Borsad and chronic(hefts in railway wagons. His relief campaign in Borsad plague wonuniversal praise from all parts of the country. His unmatchedorganization of relief measures in Quetta and Bihar Earthquakesbrought relief to millions in distress. His ability to collect large fundsfor worthy causes had become almost a byword in our country.Donors of funds had complete confidence in his judgment and integrityalike. That cannot be said of many men in public life. Even the woesof his countrymen in far-off places like East Africa o?d not fail to move his kind heart. The Clove Boycott in 1937 is a case in point.
Carlyle’s definition of a hero was exemplified in Sardar Patel to an amazing degree. He was, indeed, a hero at all points. Whether it was serving the cause of agriculturists or organizing relief measuresin disasters or fighting the wrongs of British Imperialism or runningthe institutions of local self-government or carrying on the responsibilitiesof the country’s administration, he evinced the same earnestness andmasterly grasp of details. In 1924 he was elected President of theAhmedabad Municipality and remained so for a continuous period of•five years until 1928. With his usual thoroughness and sense of service, he lifted the tone of the local self-government administration. Hisregime as the President brought him encomiums both from friends andcritics ‘ alike, The City of Ahmedabad had not in those days anyreputation for sanitation and good administration. The City had to becleaned up and for that many revolutionary measures had immediatelyto be taken in hand. The views of orthodoxy were a stumbling block*in the way of progress. As was his nature Vallabhbhai reckoned noobstacle or handicap too big for his efforts. He immediately set himselfto the task and accomplished it to a large extent before he laid downthe reigns of office.
Ever since his interest in the institution of local self-governmentcontinued unabated. His last public act before he breathed his last was the inspiring message to the Local Self Government Conference in Delhi which he signed on 13th December 1950. He could sign no morepapers after that. This fact will remain a great tribute to the local self-government itself.
Vallabhbhai had many triumphs to his credit but, in my view, thegreatest and the most significant was the heroic struggle of Bardoli in 1928. The no-tax movement of Bardoli known as the Bardoli Satyagraha is now an epic in the struggle of our political freedom. It was herethat the foundation of the later successes of our Satyagraha Movements was well and truly laid. It is a singular phenomenon of our politicalstruggle that unlike in other countries the peasants in India were at the forefront of all campaigns of our movement. They discoveredthemselves as’ ‘it were in the great Bardoli Movement. The ‘Bardoli spirit’ as it came to be recognized sustained us in all our later trials.It was as the General of the Bardoli Campaign that Vallabhbhai cameto be known as ‘Sardar’. Gandhiji in a public meeting once describedhim as the Sardar of Bardoli and the people of India took up the cue. Ever since he was the beloved Sardar not only of the peasants ofBardoli but the whole; of India. The spirit of non-violent resistancewhich was the dream of Gandhiji was fulfilled by Sardar in the BardoliSatyagraha. The uneducated and unsophisticated peasantry of BardoliTaluka reacted to Sardar’s lead in a manner and in a measure whichwas, indeed, a marvel.The struggle ended in complete triumph for Sardar and the peasants of Bardoli. The Bombay Government of thosedays, however, would not easily swallow the defeat they had .sustainedin Bardoli for many years thereafter. The §ardar became their enemyNo. 1. The confiscated and auctioned lands were not restored to theoriginal owners until the Congress Government came into power tenyears thereafter. Sardar neither forgave the Government nor forgot the cause of the peasants which was so dear to his heart. It was mainlydue to his sheer persistence that the Bardoli chapter was finally closedin 193S with laurels going to the peasants.
After Bardoli it was a foregone conclusion that Sardar wouldbecome the President of the Indian National Congress, the highesthonor in the gift of the nation. So did he become in 1901 when theCongress Session was held in Karachi. It was in this Session thatSardar, for the first time, spoke to the nation. It was a brief messagebut very dynamic in its contents and more so in the action that followed,Sardar had a reputation of being more eloquent in action thanin words. This reputation he continued to enjoy throughout his life. In the years that followed the country had to go through many trials and tribulations. As the executive head of the Second Civil DisobedienceMovement of 1932 Sardar had to bear the brunt of that struggle.Repeated incarcerations and the rigors of jail life broke his health butnot his spirit. It was a wonder to those who knew him well how bravelyand tenaciously he battled against his physical handicaps. .It was verilya triumph of spirit over the body. Many close friends of Sardar who knewhim in his private life had numerous occasions to notice that his bodywould wonderfully react to the state of his mind. His physical ailmentswould remain under control it, he could be in a happy state of mind.The moment the peace of mind was disturbed the physical disabilitieswould show themselves up. This phenomenon, perhaps explainable in medical theory, was known to his doctors. Normally he was a man of strong will but the situations were not wanting when his peace of mindand his usual happy mood would be seriously affected.
It was more as an obligation to the nation than by choice that,Sardar was persuaded to join the Central Cabinet and became its first Home Member and Deputy Prime Minister after the freedom of the country was achieved. He had joined the Congress-League Cabinet a Jew months earlier perhaps due to the same considerations. What partthe mature statesmanship and practical wisdom of Sardar played in shaping the destinies of this great land and advancing its freedom, veryfew people know. Some of these facts may become records of historyand yet there will be some more which, due to their delicate nature,may never see the light of the day. As a minister in charge of Homeand States Ministries, he gave abundant proof of his wonderful graspcX administration. Sardar of Bardoli peasants now became the Sardarof India’s administrators. His handling of the intricate administrativeproblems was masterly and showed that he was a born adrnfiJistiT for. Many an enemy and doubtful friends thought and even hoped that Indiawould no£ be able to maintain law and order and her national disciplinewould collapse in the very first trial. Indeed, we were on the brink of a precipice. -Undaunted by the dangers inherent in the situation, Sardaracted with ruthless precision and accurate foresight. The saner elements in the country rallied around him and eventually, he was able to produce results that must have staggered the imagination both of hisfriends and critics. He showed that he richly deserved the epithet—India’s Iron Man of Action.
The problem of five hundred and odd States with a variety ofadministrations and traditions not very helpful to the unification ofthe country would have baffled anybody with a less stout heart. It was,however, customary with Sardar that deeper the dangers the greater were the despatch with which he worked and more often than not hewould emerge triumphantly. So was the case of this problem of States. He liquidated the problem in as many months as years that theadministration would have given him for the job. Bismarck of Germanygrappled with a lesser problem and that too with the threat of invinciblePrussian armies in the background. Sardar accomplished a decidedlygreater feat and yet did it without rancor and bad blood. The PrincelyOrder of India, even after its total eclipse, remained loyal to him andto the Republic and on his part, he remained a loyal and sincere friendof the Princes. This one single achievement of his would entitle himto the highest place of honor in the history of our nation. His swiftaction in Hyderabad and his loyal support to the Prime Minister on theKashmir issue are eloquent testimony to his far-sighted statesmanship.
What was really the secret of Sardar’s phenomenal success in administrative efficiency? This question must have occurred to many.The answers are bound to vary. In my view, this success is largelyattributable to his capacity to choose the right man for the job andthen to implicitly trust him. This has yielded very rich dividends.Sardar had an uncanny instinct in placing people in their proper niches.He loved his lieutenants with the tenderness of a father and would standby them in all circumstances. His lieutenants in their turn served hire. with steadfast loyalty and deep devotion.
If Sardar was great in his mighty achievements for the nation, he was greater still in his human qualities. His rough and stern exteriorcovered a very tender and sensitive heart. He had an exhaustless fundof wit and humor and would enjoy a joke as He would like to crackone. He was kind to his lieutenants and followers almost to a*’ fault. He would look after (hem, he would enquire of their well-being and dideverything which kind father does to his son. I have come across very few political leaders who have shown as much consideration to their humble followers as this great man has done. Once he trusted a man. he never doubted him. Trust begets trust and this was thesecret of the relationship between Sardar and those who followed him.The void that he has left in our public life is impossible to be filled. The nation has to get itself accustomed to that void. It is,( perhaps, once in several generations that such a man is born. It was India’sgreatest good fortune that people like Gandhiji, Sardar ar.d Jawaharlalbelonged to the same generation which was responsible for liberatingthis country. Many people have come and gone but we shall never see the like of Sardar again.
It is impossible to ignore the part played by Maniben.the faithful daughter of the Sardar. She followed Sardar as the shadow follows substance. She had no existence of her own apart fromher father’s. She has inherited many good qualities. her father.It is no exaggeration if I say that by her careful nursing and tenderlove she must have added at least ten years to his life. This is hercontribution to the nation. Her selfless devotion and complete self- effacement in the service of her father make a poem of human virtue.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a great patriot and a statesman of rare abilities.
He was an outstanding figure in the political life of the country andby the manifold services rendered by him, he has left an imperishablename in the history of this country. He was an intrepid fighter andas a trusted and devoted lieutenant of Mahatma Gandhi, he was always”hi the’ vanguard of our political struggle for independence. It is hardlynecessary to recount the important part played by him from the beginningof his political career with Kaira Satyagraha in 1918 to the historicBardoli campaign during which he displayed his genius for organizationand his sense of discipline to the greatest advantage. It was inacknowledgment of the efficiency with which he had conducted themovement that Gandhiji acclaimed him as “Sardar”, the beloved name by which he came to be known to the nation during all the subsequentphases of our struggle.
However, it was with the proclamation of Indian Independence in August 1947 that a new phase in Sardar’s epoch-making services to the country began. His outstanding contribution to India’s unity lies in the integration of 500 and the odd Princely States within the Indian Union. With far-seeing statesmanship tempered by a sense of realism, heworked out a bloodless revolution and re-drew the map of India, whichmay be regarded as his lasting claim to greatness and to the gratitudeof his countrymen. He befriended the farmers and the workers and in times of distress and natural calamities, he carried succor and relief to the stricken humanity.
With the commercial community, I am happy to say, SardarVallabhbhai Patel maintained the closest relations both before and afterachieving freedom, and had always proved a great source of inspirationto them from time to time. He evinced great interest in the economicdevelopment of the country and appreciated the patriotic role played’ by private enterprise in promoting the national well-being of the country.He was keenly aware of the heavy odds against which the nationalist a private enterprise of the country had to struggle to build up theeconomy of the country. His optimism was irrepressible and in timesof stress and strain, he was a tower of strength to all those whoapproached him for assistance and guidance.
As one who played an important part in the making of policies,he displayed all along with his supreme sense of realism and never allowedhimself to be swayed by ideological considerations. In view of themagnitude of the economic problems awaiting a solution, in order to makeIndia strong and great and in order to enable the country to producemost of the things she needed, it was, according to him, imperative toset aside all such controversies and harness national energies in constructive directions. The greatest tribute that we can pay to ‘ hismemory is to steadfastly follow the path” laid down by this great patriot,statesman, and apostle of reality and thus prove worthy of the legacyhe has left behind for us.
The Gentle Hindu
It is commonplace to draw the political contrast between Nehruand Patel who after the transfer of power are likely to provide Indiawith a virtual duumvirate, but the variations in personality andappearance are hardly less striking. Dressed in his dhoti, Patel conjuresup the vision of a Roman Emperor in his toga. There are, in fact,Roman qualities about this man—administrative talent, the capacity to take and sustain strong decisions, and a certain serenity which invariablyaccompanies real strength of character.
He lacks Nehru’s world reputation and world outlook, and he hasdeliberately confined himself to the tasks that involve surveillance ofdomestic politics. Here his powers and responsibilities are as wide as they well can be; they include control over all Government Information,Internal Security, the Police and, last but not least, the vital problem”of relations with the Indian States. The completion of his Accession the policy should bring into the Indian Dominion more citizens than will belost to it through the creation of Pakistan, for (excluding the twentymillions in Hyderabad and Kashmir) there are some ninety millionStates’ subjects involved which is considerably more than the populationof Pakistan: he also holds in his hands nearly all Congress patronage.This is a formidable concentration of personal power under any regime.In spite of all these pre-occupations, Patel has a shrewd grasp of India’sstrategic position in the world at large.
Off duty, as he was to-day, he is indeed the embodiment of thegentle Hindu, full of benevolence and smiles. He was interested to hear my first-hand account of the passing of the Independence Bill inLondon, and in ‘ the course of the conversation the general subject of speechmaking cropped up. He and Maniben laughed when I asked whetherhe enjoyed making speeches, Maniben reminding me that her father was a great orator in Gujarati.
Throughout most of the meal Maniben, who is on the inside of all the Sardar’s official and top-secret activities, remained the silent acolyte.Dressed in the. the austere simplicity of her Khadi sari, and wearing at her waist a giant bunch of keys, she gave the impression of an efficient and’wholly absorbed comptroller of the domestic household.
Nearly all the Indian leaders are surrounded by women members of the family, whether as wives, sisters or daughters, who exercise an extremelypowerful influence on their careers. I had come out to India under thenaive impression that Indian women were completely submerged andhad no say or interest in matters of State. This is certainly not thecase at the summit of affairs. Miss Fatima Jinnah, Mrs. VijayalakshmiPandit, Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, and Mrs. Kripalani are formidablepersonalities whose ambitions and interests measure up to those of theirrespective menfolk. Not all of them would be content to remain soquietly in the background as Maniben, but it is doubtful whether theinfluence of any of them in their respective households exceeds hers with her father.