India's Man of Steel. He gave up his practise in order to fight for the freedom of the country. He was sent to prision. As the Deputy Prime Minister of free India, he became the architect of the integrity of India by mer- ging of hundreds of princely states with the Indian Union.
A Family of Heroes
Vallabhbhai was born in Nadiad. It was a small village in Gujarat. His father was Jhaverbhai Patel, and his mother Ladbai. Jhaverbhai was a poor farmer. He was a strong and sturdy man. His country and freedom were as dear to him as his own life. In 1857 the people of India fought for their freedom. Jhaverbhai, who was then a young man, fought bravely at that time. Vithalbhai, Vallabhbhai's elder brother, was also a well-known patriot. He was the Chairman of the Indian Legislative Council.
Once, when he was a small boy,Vallahbhai suffered from a boil in the armpit. There was a man in the village who used to cure boils by touching them with hot iron. The boy went to him. The man heated the iron rod till it grew red. But he hesitated, seeing at the boy's tender years.
"What are you waiting for? The iron will grow cold. Hurry up, brand the boil," said the boy angrily.
The man was even more frightened. The boy picked up the glowing rod and burnt the boil. Those who watched him were shocked and screamed. But there was not even a trace of pain in the boy's face.
The Courageous Student
This amazing boy was born on the 31st of October 1875. (This is the date generally accepted.) The elders were filled with pride and joy at the fearlessness of the little boy; the younger ones loved and admired him. No companion of his ever disobeyed him. By nature he rebelled against injustice. He showed a genuine interest in the welfare of his companions, constantly Enquirer about their needs and problems helped them as best he could, and promoted friendship and unity.
Vallabhbhai's early education was in Karamsad. Then he joined a school in Petlad. After two years he joined a high school in a town called Nadiad. A teacher of this school used to sell the books,which the pupils needed. He used to force all the pupils to buy books only from him. If any boy bought books from others, the teacher used to tease him.Vallabhbhai thought that this was wrong. He spoke to his companions, and saw to it that not a single pupil attended the classes. For a whole week the school could not work. The teacher had to correct himself.
When he was in Petlad he used to cook for himself. Every week he used to carry provisions from home, walking the entire distance. He could have gone by train, but he did not have the money to buy a ticket.
During his school days, one day a teacher made a mistake in working a sum. Vallabh- bhai pointed out the error. The teacher was very angry and said, "All right, you be the teacher." The boy replied, "Very well, sir." He worked the sum correctly, and sat down in the teacher's chair!
Vallabhbhai first chose Sanskrit. Then he changed to Gujarati. Sanskrit was dearer to the teacher who taught Gujarati than his own subject. When Vallabhbhai entered his class, the teacher wanted to taunt him, and said, "Welcome, great man!" Poor man, he did not know that the boy would one day become a very great man.
He asked the boy, in anger, "Why did you give up Sanskrit and choose Gujarati?"
Vallabhbhai answered, "If every one chooses Sanskrit, you will have no work."
The teacher was in a rage. He complained to the headmaster. Vallabhbhai narrated to the headmaster all that had happened. The headmaster said, "I have not seen such a bold pupil." This made the teacher even more bitter. Vallabhbhai, too, did not wish to remain in that school. He went back. He studied at home and passed the examination.