How does it feel to leave your entire life behind you and get married to someone?
Leaving your parents, family, friends, home – what do you think – is that easy for a woman?
Being a woman myself, I can straightway say – no, it isn’t. It can never be.
Now, imagine the plight of a woman, who left everything and travelled across the miles to live with her husband.
How would she feel to live in a nation where daughters-in-law are considered as the Griha-Lakshmi?
How would she feel to be a part of a land which believes in the concept of Atithi Devo Bhavah more than anything else?
She sure, would be delighted.
Every woman would be blessed to be a part of such a nation.
Yes! You read it right!
There’s this one woman who has been living in India for almost five decades now, but still couldn’t get the acceptance of a nation which is known for its warm hospitality and friendliness.
There’s this one woman who has left all that she had, to be a part of a land where love emanates from every nook and corner, but still couldn’t feel loved in the ‘proud’ nation of 1.3 billion people.
Hate is all that she’s getting.
“Why? What’s her fault?” you may ask.
Well, she has committed two serious mistakes in her life: first, she was born in Italy; and second that she got married into the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Indian National Congress, became an Indian bahu decades ago – but she is still a foreigner for many Indians.
The purpose of writing this piece is not to discuss Sonia Gandhi’s political career, or to analyse her leadership skills or her metier.
The purpose is to discuss a woman who is living in India for almost fifty years now, and is still being considered as an outsider by the Indians.
A woman whose Janmabhoomi is Italy, and Karambhoomi is India, still gets judged by her Janmabhoomi. And we are fine with that.
The purpose of writing this piece is to ascertain why? Why are we fine with that?
Why can’t we move over the fact that she was born in another country, but today she is as much an Indian as any of us is?
This piece is not an attempt to know Sonia Gandhi, a politician.
It is an attempt to know Sonia Gandhi, a woman.
Because she is not what the BJP propaganda machine made us believe that she is, or the WhatsApp messages have portrayed her to be. She is way beyond that.
Like the majority of Indians, I also don’t know Sonia Gandhi. I have never met her.
But, just a while ago, I came across this book called ‘The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi’ by Neena Gopal and read it. And I am glad that I did so – for if I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have got the time to think about every single woman out there who gets subjected to malevolence and still gathers herself to face more of it.
Neena Gopal was the last journalist to interview Rajiv Gandhi and was an eyewitness of his assassination. Although, I have read almost all the books on Rajiv Gandhi’s life and his assassination, this book really stopped me in my tracks. BJP’s propaganda has delimited Sonia Gandhi so badly, that the ‘real Sonia Gandhi’ couldn’t be brought out in the open.
And even when she has been one of the worst-hit victims of malicious beguilement all these years, never for once has she played the victim card.
Such is the stature of this woman. And I am told that she’s a very compassionate person.
The woman that we failed to know!
A life ended too soon
How does one cope up with the death of a loved one?
How does a woman survives when she receives the mutilated body of her husband – the man for whom she left everything?
How does a woman, a wife and a mother of two little children, bears the fact that she will never ever see her husband’s smile, listen to his voice, or feel his presence besides her again?
The mere thought of a woman who has lost her husband at a young age gives me a lump in my throat every time I think of it. And that’s something which can only be understood by someone who herself is a woman, a mother, or a wife.
The above excerpt from Neena Gopal’s book made me realise the agony of this woman that we know as Sonia Gandhi, and I kept on thinking about her for hours after reading this. The thoughts that kept my mind occupied were that maybe we, as a country, have been extremely cold and compassionless towards her.
I feel that the Gandhi family has sacrificed way too much for the country. Yes, it has enjoyed power, but then the very same power hasn’t come easy for this family.
Sonia Gandhi has been someone who has always maintained her calm in front of the media. Her grit is incredible. But, imagine the turmoil that she must have dealt with in all these years that she has spent in ‘our’ country.
How she went to peace with the death of her husband and still manages to live in the country that greets her with derisions and abuses all along, is out of my understanding.
First, her mother in law, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and she breathed her last in Sonia’s arms. It would have been extremely difficult for her to pit against destiny at that time. Then, her husband was assassinated and she had to live with that pain as well.
She maintained her calm, and how valiantly.
And she still does so, when BJP maligns her image all so fervently.
After Rajiv Gandhi’s death in 1991, it would have been easy for Sonia Gandhi to take her children and fly to Italy – giving them the safety they needed. But, she didn’t.
Had she been lusting for power, she could have become the Prime Minister then. But, she didn’t.
It was only in 1998, that she became the President of Congress, after seven years of her husband’s death, all because Congress was waning. Just to save the party from falling apart, she stepped in. In fact, even in 2004, when she didn’t become the Prime Minister of the country, she could have made her son the Prime Minister. But, she didn’t.
And even then, the nation fails to understand that she is not a power-hungry woman. She had many opportunities to gain the power that we accuse her of yearning for. But, she never took them.
Why are we so blind that we can’t see the basic goodness that resides in this woman?
I agree that she may have her flaws. We all have them. But, judging her on any and everything is nothing but sheer nastiness.
From caricatures and trolls, to memes and what not, Sonia Gandhi’s image has been smeared to such an extent that you will easily find fabricated stories about her being spread under BJP’s fake propaganda.
And the silence of this family has given BJP the boost it needs to damage their reputation further.
The Gandhi family still remains silent. And, the BJP continues to vilify its image.
We, Indians, are nothing but whited sepulchres. We have different touchstones for ourselves, and we have different touchstones for others.
Almost every other Indian dreams of going abroad, or may be settling there. We talk so highly of our country, but deep down within us, we are so influenced by the West that we would do all that’s possible to go and live there.
So, if it isn’t hypocrisy, then what is?
We want to live abroad, it is an inseparable aspiration of millions of Indians.
But, what happens when someone comes to our country with the same dreams? Do we treat them the way we want to be treated? No.
Priyanka Chopra goes to the US and we become so proud of her achievements. But, when someone from another country comes to our country, we malign her?
The moment any person of Indian origin makes news of attaining a respectable position abroad, we all become so euphoric – be it Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai or the Sikh ministers who were included by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his Cabinet. Proud we must feel!
But what happens when people come to our country, and we cast aspersions on them?
For how long will Sonia Gandhi be criticised for being born in Italy. And what for? Should every Indian abroad be criticised for being born in India?
There are many who mock this lady, alleging that she was a waitress. I do not know whether she was or she wasn’t. All I know is that there is no shame in working hard. Many Indian students who go abroad for higher studies, or even to get settled there, work in hotels, bars, restaurants as waiters, clean utensils, shovel snow, mop floors and do much more – just to make a living.
Even Bollywood heartthrob, Akshay Kumar worked as a waiter and chef in Thailand, while studying martial arts there. And he is not ashamed of this fact. In fact, he talks about it proudly. And, he must. After all, he has earned success after years of hard work!
Not just the Bollywood industry, but we all feel proud of this man and his achievements. It feels great when you see such real-world examples of people who have gone from rags to riches.
But, Sonia Gandhi couldn’t be one such example. Simply because she isn’t Indian.
We can proudly accept an ‘Indian’ chai wala as our country’s PM and feel proud of the fact that he used to sell tea, but we can’t accept a woman from another country and mock her at every step of her life.
Aren’t we Indians misogynists?
Even after being subjected to such filthy language where people address her as an Italian bar girl, waitress, a bar dancer, a poisonous devil, a village girl, and what not – she has never derided anyone.
And my observations are that it’s not just the critics or people who are in the opposition parties that malign her. There are journalists as well who take no qualms in smearing Sonia Gandhi. Imagine – well read, highly educated people sink so low in today’s time – that’s progressive India for you!
I recently came across an article written by Minhaz Merchant, the renowned biographer of Rajiv Gandhi, and I was stunned to see how Sonia Gandhi was addressed as ‘the Italian-born widow’ of late Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi in that article.
And, that’s not it.
Every time this lady gets admitted to the hospital, there are many amongst the BJP supporters who tweet and wish death for her.
What have we become? Wishing death for someone? What happened to our traditions of ‘doing good’ for others? Have we lost all sense of compassion that we were once known for?
Today, we gush at the mere thought of dragging a woman through the mud, especially someone who is in power. Even after keeping Congress united for about two decades now, and giving the party two consecutive wins in the General Elections of 2004 and 2009 under her leadership, all that we Indians are hooked on to is the fact that Sonia was born in Italy.
Seriously? That’s all left for us to see and grasp?
I want to ask – is every woman’s identity restricted to the place of her birth? No. Then, why this bigotry?
Her mother-in-law was assassinated.
Her husband was assassinated.
And, today her character is being assassinated.
We rejoiced then. We are rejoicing this now.
I somehow feel bad for her. I feel bad for every woman who is trivialized by not only men, but other women as well, just to satiate their hunger for revile.
Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali, Parvati – India is a land where all these goddesses and many more are worshipped with unconditional faith. And, it is an irony that the biggest denigrators of women here in India are the preachers of Hindutva only.
How does their conscience allow them to do that? Don’t they feel that they are being iniquitous?
We pay homage to Durga, the invincible. Still, every single day, we imperceptibly destroy women.
We vilify them. We abuse them. We humiliate them.
And, the next morning, with the same mouth, we sing hymns in the praises of our goddesses, again, and how easily!