V.P.Menon was the son of a school headmaster in Kerala. Menon had begun as a clerk in the Indian Civil Service, but working assiduously hard, Menon rose through the ranks to become the highest serving Indian officer in British India. In 1946, he was appointed Political Reforms Commissioner to the British Viceroy.
Menon was the political advisor of the last Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten. When the interim Government had collapsed due to the rivalry between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, Menon had proposed to Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian leaders, the plan to partition India into two independent nations - India and Pakistan.
After the independence of India, Menon became the secretary of the Ministry of the States, headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with whom he had developed a bond of trust. Patel respected Menon's political genius and work ethic, while Menon obtained the respect for his work that a civil servant needs from his political superior.
Menon worked closely with Patel over the integration of over 500 princely states into the union of India, managing the diplomacy between the States Ministry and the various Indian princes, acting as Patel's envoy and striking deals with reluctant princes and rulers. Patel respected Menon's ingenuity in diplomacy, and often did not question if Menon exceeded any instructions.
Menon also worked with Patel over the military action against the hostile states of Junagadh and Hyderabad, as well as advising Nehru and Patel on relations with Pakistan and the Kashmir conflict. The Cabinet had dispatched Menon to obtain the accession of Kashmir into India in 1947.
The partnership between Patel and Menon was of a rare kind. Almost every Indian politician was allergic to civil servants, owing to their participation in the British Raj. Many Congressmen had demanded strippping the service of its privileges or disbanding it all together, owing to the role of British-era officers in imprisoning Congress leaders. Nehru himself was reluctant to listen to the civil servants who worked under him.
Thus, after Patel's death in 1950, Menon himself retired from the newly formed Indian Administrative Service. He authored a book on the political integration of India, The Story of the Integration of Indian States and on the partition of India, Transfer of Power.