New Delhi, May 23 : Sonia Gandhi was there and so was Sheila Dikshit but there was no politics on the agenda — and neither did anyone seek to inject politics into the evening’s event.
The occasion was the release of the book “The Unseen Indira Gandhi” (Konark), penned by Dr K.P. Mathur, who was the former prime minister’s personal physician for 16 years till her untimely death on October 31, 1984.
Now 92, Mathur managed to get Sonia Gandhi to grace the event on Monday for her late mother-in-law, a fact that was not announced by the organisers and took most of the audience at the India International Centre by surprise.
Sonia was relaxed, came early and mingled easily with the guests over tea and pakoras before the event began. With even the security men around her relaxed, many people took advantage of the occasion and their proximity to one of India’s most guarded leaders to take selfies with her, exertions which she mildly protested at but then gave in.
But no one talked politics.
Wearing a maroon saree and blouse, Sonia was content to sit in the audience and got up only to receive a copy of the book from the author, who was part and parcel of the Gandhi household and knew the family, including her children, Rahul and Priyanka, intimately.
In fact, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wrote a foreword to the book, describing Mathur as a “storehouse of fascinating tales for my brother and me” who became “more a member of our extended family than just a part of my grandmother’s entourage”. She was not present at the event.
The audience broke into repeated applause when the former Delhi chief minister spoke of Indira Gandhi as one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century who brought India prestige and standing in the international arena.
Also present in the audience were those who were close to the Gandhi household at some point or other, including former ministers Jairam Ramesh, Mani Shankar Aiyar and former journalist Suman Dubey, who was a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi. Dr Karan Singh, MP, who has been close to the family for decades, was among those on the dais.
Interestingly, no one from the ruling establishment could be seen.