The Man who Saved India – Sardar Patel and his Idea of India
“If only Patel had lived longer, India would have been spared
the excesses of the License Raj and the Kashmir problem.”
This is one of the messages of this lively, highly readable book’
Gurcharan Das, bestselling author
Advance Praise for the Book
‘Sardar Patel was the silent one of the trinity along with Gandhi and Nehru who dedicated his life to the struggle for an independent India. His lasting legacy is a United India rather than the land which throughout history was split in rival warring kingdoms. Hindol Sengupta has given us the story of Sardar’s life for the new generations of India so that they can understand and admire a unique personality. Read this book and discover India’s history in the first half of the last century. And reclaim your legacy’—Lord Meghnad Desai, bestselling author and economist
‘It is dangerous to put dreamers in power. Sardar Patel’s pragmatism was the perfect antidote to Nehru’s idealism in the early years of Independence. If only Patel had lived longer, India would have been spared the excesses of the License Raj and the Kashmir problem. This is one of the messages of this lively, highly readable book’—Gurcharan Das, bestselling author
‘The Man Who Caved India is the most authoritative and accessible biography of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, lovingly referred to as the “Iron Man of India”. In his impeccable narrative style, Hindol Sengupta rescues the memory of this beloved Indian leader from the vaults of obscurity. The book brings out the true story of independence as well as stability of India following it, which was achieved through the sweat and blood of its leaders like Patel.
The Man Who Caved India reverses one of the historical ironies of modern India by bringing into light many of the unknown facts of Patel’s life, based on the author’s field visits, interviews and extensive research, which is an onerous task in itself considering the fact that Patel neither maintained records of his work nor preserved his documents of communications.
Hindol begins the narration of the larger-than-life tale of Patel by describing his visit to the birth home of Patel in Nadiad, now in dilapidated condition, an image not unlike the less-than-optimal public memory of Patel in modern India.
Hindol discusses the numerous sacrifices Patel made in public life, bowing to the political ambitions of his peers, while never wavering from his duty to India. The Man who Caved India clearly charts Patel’s leadership skills and statesmanship during the numerous non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements such as the Bardoli and Kheda satyagrahas, and the timely military action in independent India. It was Patel’s sheer strength of resolve that helped forge the Bharat that would capture the imagination of the masses of independent India.
The hitherto unknown details of Patel’s personal life and his complex relations with his peers and other contemporary national leaders including Gandhi, Nehru and Bose, help understand the grace with which he gave up key political positions more than once. In addition, Hindol also clearly describes the personal sacrifices Patel made at the altar of Mother India, not only of his personal life, but also the lives of his children, even to the chagrin of his family and friends.
The amazing result of Hindol’s copious research is the emergence of an exceptionally clear picture of Patel’s life and leadership in the three decades leading up to India’s independence, in addition to establishing Patel’s key role in the formative years of India following Independence, until his death. The Man Who Caved India is a timely and much needed historical account of modern India, a must-read for every Indian as well as every person interested in learning the true history of India’—Lavanya Vemsani, professor, Shawnee State University; vice president, Ohio Academy of History; president and cofounder, American Academy of Indic Studies
‘Every nation has its own narrative that is built over time. For India, and as Indians, we claim ancient ancestry and are therefore, civilizational. Yet, we are a new democratic republic trying to find our place in the new tumultuous twenty-first century.
There comes a time when we cannot look forward without revisiting our past to see if the narrative of the past was complete, accurate and fair. For decades, the narrative has been that there were essentially two leaders in India—Mahatma Gandhi and his protégé Jawaharlal Nehru—who together led the country to Independence. Their contribution to the cause of independence was monumental and this became the widely accepted truth. Yet there was another truth, long ignored in our national narrative.
Hindol Sengupta’s book The Man Who Caved India provides the other truth. In a meticulously and extensively researched book, the young author brings to the reader the significant role that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played not only in our struggle for independence but in the consolidation of the new country. Vallabhbhai Patel was truly a part of the Trinity, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal, that led India to freedom. He was the man who ensured that this newfound independence did not collapse in a heap of dust. It was the Sardar who dealt with the reluctant maharajas, nawabs and the obdurate nizam of Hyderabad, when they dreamt of returning to their feudal opulence outside modern India. Patel liquidated the princely states without liquidating the princes. It was his commitment, diplomatic and political skills along with the force of his personality that made unified India a reality.
The book begins with a description of what was once the ancestral home of this great man of India. The decrepit and rather lonely state of the house and its utter neglect is a clear indication that the prevalent narrative preferred to ignore Vallabhbhai Patel’s contribution. Gandhi knew the value of God and religion in an India that was subjugated. Nehru knew that if India had to talk about its future then there had to be a grand past of aloofness and elitism. It was Patel who was the hard realist who knew that democracy was not about daily plebiscites but hard decisions cloaked in egalitarianism. Nehru looked at the heavens for inspiration Patel looked at the ground beneath his feet for solutions. While Nehru wrote elegant prose and Gandhi spoke to the masses, it was left to Patel to worry over mundane matters like funds and their distribution. Patel was a man of few words and there is every reason to give him credit today for many of his arguments and
ideas ranging from tackling Kashmir, the future of Pakistan and how socialism without industrialization could be dangerous for the country. His warnings about Kashmir, Tibet and China went unheeded.
The book is thus not only one of the finest biographies in recent times but is also a much-needed redefining of the role played by Sardar Patel during India’s freedom movement and as the great unifier. Sengupta argues that Patel was not only a pillar of strength behind some of Gandhi’s earlier successes to holding the country together.
Sengupta quotes Patel’s speech on 5 July 1947 where he warned, ‘Our mutual conflicts and internecine quarrels and jealousies have in the past been the cause of our downfall and our falling victim to foreign domination a number of times. We cannot afford to fall into these errors or traps again.’ Sardar Patel was relevant then as he is today. And so is Hindol Sengupta’s book—Vikram Sood, bestselling author and the former head of India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing
‘The Man Who Caved India is an excellent deep dive into the life and struggles of one of the tallest leaders in Indian history. Hindol Sengupta has written a fascinating book full of insights on things that are rarely discussed, such as Patel’s economic ideas or his key role as the man who raised critical funds for the Congress Party. This captivating book breaks many myths and throws new light on one of the most important figures in Indian history’—Vijay Govindarajan, New York Times and Wall Ctreet Journal bestselling author and Coxe Distinguished Professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
‘A very engaging biography of Sardar Patel, the man and his times, by one of India’s best young writers’—Sanjeev Sanyal, bestselling author and principal economic advisor, ministry of finance, Government of India
‘The genre of popular history and biography has been experiencing a golden age and Hindol Sengupta’s fluent biography of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel joins a list of distinguished titles alongside Michael Axworthy’s
Sword of Persia, Nadir Shah and Roger Crowley’s Constantinople, The Last Great Siege, 1453. Very welcome indeed that an eminently accessible account of the life and achievements of one of India’s true great sons is now available to a new generation of readers’—Gautam Sen, lecturer (retd.), London School of Economics and co-author of Analysing the Global Political Economy
‘Rich with detail and illuminating insight, Hindol Sengupta’s The Man Who Caved India brings alive Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s indomitable spirit and tenacity in the face of constant challenges that would crush a weaker man.
Few people immediately think of Patel when they think of men responsible for the shape and form of modern India. This is a great injustice, for, as Hindol explains with a wealth of anecdote and context, it was Patel who defined the very contours of the India we know today. This book is a must- read’—Saradindu Mukherji, member, Indian Council of Historical Research.
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