A legendary story with a tragic end, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi’s love story reminds me of American Writer Erich Segal’s ‘Love Story’. A lot in common, both the story had a heartbreaking end though it appeared more or less like a fairytale.
Image Courtesy: Major Ahluwalia via Wikipedia
Here we share some of the glorious moments of the Fairytale Love Story which could have lasted till today, but abruptly ended in just 23 years.
Rajiv Gandhi Paid a Huge Sum in a Cambridge Restaurant Just To Introduce Himself to Sonia
Rajiv Gandhi first saw Sonia Gandhi (then Antonia Maino) in a Greek Restaurant at the Cambridge University. No sooner he saw Sonia than he was attracted to her. Tahir Jahangir was accompanying Gandhi then. The Pakistani national later described how mesmerized was Rajiv when he saw Sonia.
It was lunch time and Rajiv Gandhi was sitting on Table Number 11 with his friends. The very first time he saw her, Rajiv was so smitten by Sonia’s beauty that he immediately got hold of a paper napkin and penned down a poetry for her.
He then requested the Greek owner Charles Antoni to go to the lady personally, present her with the best bottle of wine the varsity had, and later present her with the paper napkin, in which he had written his poem.
Antoni obliged with Rajiv Gandhi’s demand and Rajiv Gandhi paid him a huge tip. Sonia and Rajiv soon became friends, and it didn’t take much time for their friendship to transform into a serious relationship.
This episode happened in 1965, a year later, after Sonia Gandhi had moved to England to study English at the Lennox Cook School Of Languages. Rajiv Gandhi during that time was studying engineering in Trinity College of Cambridge.
This Greek restaurant owner was also invited to Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi’s wedding. Later, when Simi Grewal interviewed Charles for a documentary on Rajiv Gandhi, he said that, he had never seen anybody so much in love like Rajiv Gandhi, further adding the fact that he came across such love stories only in books.
After Rajiv Gandhi became the PM of India, Charles flew to the New Delhi airport where he was detained as he didn’t have any visa. When he said he came to congratulate Rajiv, the security officials made fun of him. However, he was allowed to call one number, and within half an hour dozens of official ambassadors came, and he was happily escorted to the PM’s residence. The Gandhis it seems took very good care of him throughout his visit.
Charles was the one who distributed chocolates when Sonia led UPA Government came to power in 2004. He died in 2010, but even while he was ailing (and became blind), he was ready to hear news about Sonia and her children.
Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali Was The First Movie They Saw Together
Life in Cambridge was not hectic but fun. Rajiv Gandhi stayed at 28 Derwent Close where he shared an apartment with Pakistani national Mehmood, T.N. Kaul’s son Deep Kaul, Arun Singh and Anderson – who now has a very successful publishing house in London and Amsterdam. Together they contributed to purchase a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle. Sonia stayed nearby and the two regularly watched films together at Three Cinemas in Cambridge. However, the first movie they saw together was Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.
Sonia Gandhi Met Indira Gandhi in London. She Invited Sonia to India
In 1965, when Indira Gandhi visited London to attend the Nehru Exhibition, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi were already in a relationship. It was during this time Rajiv Gandhi introduced Sonia to his mother. Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia had already made up their mind to marry each other. However, Indira Gandhi wanted Sonia to first visit India and then take the final call.
In 1967, Rajiv Gandhi Came Back to India, and so did Sonia Gandhi
Without completing his Engineering degree, Rajiv Gandhi returned to India from England in the year 1967.He decided to become a pilot and started taking lessons in flying. He turned his passion into profession. No wonder, he was more than happy to earn Rs. 5000 as a Pilot and earn a living out of his hobby. In the same year, Sonia Gandhi completed her 21st Birthday in December, and reached India in early January 1968.
Sonia’s Father Didn’t Approve of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi’s Marriage
It was not that Sonia’s father Mr. Stefano Maino didn’t like Rajiv Gandhi. However, the fact that Sonia would have to live in a distant land with a distinct culture made him apprehensive. Another reason was his future son-in-law was a Prime Minister’s son. It seems that Mr. Maino had already visualized the cons of marrying his daughter into a political family.
Sonia Gandhi Stayed at the Bachchan House before Marrying Rajiv Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi turned 21 in December 1967, and the very next month (which happened to be January 1968), she came to New Delhi. Since, she was not married to Rajiv, Sonia was accommodated with the Bachchan’s at their house in Willingdon Crescent in New Delhi. She however, spent most of the time during the day at the Gandhi house at 1, Safdarjang Road. Indira Gandhi and Amitabh Bachchan’s mother Teji Bachchan were close friends.
The D-Day Was 25th February 1968
After nearly two weeks of Sonia’s arrival in New Delhi, Indira Gandhi realized that there was no need to wait for more time as the two indeed were in a serious relationship. Moreover, waiting further would only mean giving a chance to blabbermouths to spread gossips. Soon, the two got engaged in January end, and the wedding was fixed for February 25th 1968. It was a simple civil marriage. The Mehendi ceremony took place at the Bachchan’s house while the marriage venue was the PM’s back garden. The reception was held at the Hyderabad House on 26th February. Stefano Maino, Sonia’s father didn’t attend his daughter’s wedding. But, her mother, sister and maternal uncle were present.
For Rajiv, Sonia Gandhi was the Most Beautiful Woman
Rajiv Gandhi was quite vocal about his feelings for his wife Sonia Gandhi. When in the company of friends, he was quite demonstrative about his affection towards Sonia. He was often heard admiring her, saying, Sonia is the most beautiful woman I ever know. Yes, he was quite vocal about his feelings. No wonder, she was the only woman in his life.
Part 2 will follow soon which will highlight about the next level of this beautiful love story
Source and Reference
Indiraji: Through My Eyes by Usha Bhagat, Penguin Viking India