Ms. Sonia Gandhi upon learning enough English, became a waitress in Varsity Restaurant in Cambridge town. She first met Rajiv when he came to the restaurant in 1965. Rajiv was a student in the University, but could not cope with the academic rigour for long. So he had to depart in 1966 for London where he was briefly in Imperial College of Engineering as a student. Sonia too moved to London, and according my information, got a job with an outfit run by Salman Thassir, a debonair Pakistani based in Lahore, and who has a export-import company headquartered in Dubai but who spends most of his time in London. This fits the profile of a ISI functionary.
Obviously, Sonia made enough money in this job to loan Rajiv funds in London, who was living beyond his allowances [Indira herself had expressed anguish to me on this score in late 1965 when I was a young Harvard professor of economics. She had invited me to a private tea at the Guest House in Brandeis University where she was staying].
Rajiv’s letters to Sanjay filed in Delhi High Court by P.N. Lekhi [see Annexure-9] clearly indicate that he was in financial debt to Sonia because he requested Sanjay also in UK then, and who obviously had more access to money, to pay off the debt.
However, Rajiv was not the only friend Sonia was seeing those days. Madhavrao Scindia and a German by name Stiegler are worth mentioning as other good friends of Sonia. Madhavrao’s friendship continued even after Sonia’s marriage to Rajiv. Scindia in 1982 was involved in a traffic accident near IIT, Delhi main gate while driving a car at 2 AM. Sonia was the only other passenger. Both were badly injured. A student of IIT who was burning midnight oil was out for a cup of coffee. He picked them up from the car, hailed an auto rickshaw and sent an injured Sonia to Mrs Indira Gandhi’s house since she insisted in not going to a hospital. Madhavrao had broken a leg and in too much pain to make any demand. He was taken to hospital by the Delhi Police who had arrived a little after Sonia had left the scene.
In later years, Madhavrao had become privately critical of Sonia, and told some close friends about his apprehensions about her. It is a pity that he died in mysterious circumstances in an as yet uninvestigated aircrash of his private plane in the year 2001. Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shiela Dikshit were to be on that flight too, but were asked to stay behind at the last moment.
The circumstance under which Rajiv hastily married Sonia in a Church in Orbassano is controversial, but that was his personal matter which has no public significance. What however is of public significance is that Indira Gandhi who was initially dead set against the marriage for reasons known to her, relented to hold a registry marriage with Hindu ceremonial trappings in New Delhi only after the pro-Soviet T.N. Kaul prevailed upon her to accept the marriage in “the larger interest of cementing Indo-Soviet Friendship”. Kaul would not have intervened unless the Soviet Union had not asked him to.