Indian history is filled with names of stalwarts of the freedom struggle to the politicians who built the modern Indian nation. Names’ ranging from Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel to Kalam has dominated the narratives of building and consolidating the modern nation in fields ranging from politics to science. Among the many bureaucrats and officers who had worked tirelessly behind the scenes in this process, many do not get the credit or acknowledgement they deserve. One of the biggest names among them is V P Menon. Scarcely quoted but highly regarded as the man who helped shape India as we know it, Menon worked in many designations in the pre and post Independence governments.
Starting out as a typist for the home department in 1914, he went on to hold positions of reforms commissioner and the constitutional advisor to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. Menon was the principal typist of the Montagu-Chelmsford report and worked tirelessly in the reforms office, the branch which guided India along the path of self governance. The ‘Menon Plan’ which put forward the concept of a unified, federal India in which the centre controlled the defence, foreign affairs and communications of the princely states and left all the other powers to the royal houses was presented to three different viceroys until it was finally accepted in June 1947. Regarded as the right hand man of Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel, his knowledge and understanding of the constitution and the nation was used effectively in the integration of the princely states to India.
In the memoir of one of the most influential figures in the nation building, Narayani Basu, Menon’s great granddaughter, sheds light on the personal and professional life of this visionary bureaucrat. It explores the man behind the public figure, his unconventional personal life, private conflicts and other events which made him channel his energy into public service. It moves through the memory of a visionary bureaucrat who gave women and the large population of illiterates the right to vote and who was at the helm of constitutional change in the country, whose contribution was sadly lost in the pages of history and deserves to be remembered.