'Iron Man' might remind you of Stan Lee's comic book superhero who was immortalised on the silver screen by Robert Downey Jr. in the film series based on the Marvel hero. But there's a real hero closer home—Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the 'Iron Man of India'.
India's first home minister and deputy prime minister, Patel was instrumental in uniting India, for which he was called India's Bismarck (he was a German statesman who played a key role in the unification of Germany.) Patel's birthday on October 31st is also celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Divas (National Unity Day).
Here's a look at some interesting aspects of his life:
For all the talk about his 141st birth anniversary, there are no official birth records for Patel. October 31 is the date he wrote on his matriculation examination paper.
Though he is called 'Iron Man of India' for his relentless efforts to unite over 500 princely states, he is said to have been tough since childhood. Stories suggest he would work tirelessly in the fields with his father, who was a farmer. He would also observe fasts in spite of all the hard work. Another account claims that he survived plague at a young age and a heart attack years later.
Not just in action, Patel was a true Gandhian at heart, too. Inspired by Gandhi, Patel chose social service over his career as a lawyer. Moreover, he withdrew from the presidency of the Indian National Congress as per Gandhi's advice, paving way for Jawaharlal Nehru to become India's first prime minister. Patel is, supposedly, the last person to share a private conversation with Gandhi before he was assassinated.
Patel played a pivotal role in founding the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), as opposed to Indian Civil Service Code (ICS), which favoured the Britishers.
It is said that Patel came to know about the death of his wife while he was attending a case in court. He continued with the proceedings and went home only after the court was adjourned.
Patel is said to be the first political party leader to support the partition of India.
In The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor, the character Vidur Hastinapuri is similar to Patel. Sardar, a 1993-biopic featured Paresh Rawal as Patel. Saeed Jaffrey played Patel in the film Gandhi in 1982, and Arun Patekar did it in Kamal Hassan's Hey Ram. A documentary, too, was made in memory of Patel in 1976 by Kantilal Rathod. Ideas of Nation: Vallabhbhai Patel, Patel a Life, The Life and Times of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel are some of the books on him.