I was a fan of Haribans Rai Bachchan, the famous popular poet of Hindi. I remember one of my schoolteacher Sahodar Pandeyji singing his ‘Deen Jaldi Jaldi dhalata Hai’ from Nisha Nimantran. I kept on buying his books from Rajpal Sons. At many a time, I found a real joy in reading his poems. The language is so simple that anyone could enjoy it. Later on a cassette of Madusala sung by Manna De became my loving possession for quite some period. But believe it, when I bought and went through the autobiography of Haribans Rai Bachchan, I found his prose better than even his poems. As an engineer, hardly any one will believe that I went through the book in three volumes at a stretch. I had not done that even for any interesting novel. Haribans Rai had married Teji. It was his second marriage after the death of her first wife Syama.
However, in the meantime Amitabh became the superhero in Hindi films. All my family- kids and wife became his fan. However, I remained fan of Senior and poet Bachchan.
Death of Teji has again raised some questions about the cordial relation between Gandhis and Bachchans that got soured. Sonia would have certainly visited Teji in hospital or participated in the last rite. Even if she had some difference of opinion with Amitabh, she would have remembered of Teji’s role in her life and paid the respect to her. Here are some stories about the relation of Teji and Sonia.
As per one report, “Teji acted as her godmother and schooled her in Indian customs when she arrived in Delhi as Rajiv Gandhi’s fiancee in 1968 and was put up at the Bachchans’. “I came to learn a lot from them. Teji aunty is my second… no, my third mother (after her own mother and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi),” she had said as per one report in a 1985 interview. ” Amit and Bunty (Ajitabh) are my brothers.” Several wedding rituals like Sonia’s mehendi ceremony were held at the Bachchan home.
Another media report said, “When Rajiv Gandhi was courting Sonia Antonio Maino, the shy young Italian girl. It was Teji who acted as a gentle mediator when her friend, the powerful Indira, was reluctant about her pilot son’s wedding to the Italian girl from a middle-class family. When the Rajiv-Sonia marriage was finally fixed in 1969, Sonia and her family had nowhere to stay in New Delhi. As per Hindu customs, a betrothed girl cannot enter her in-laws’ house before marriage. Once again, Teji came to the family’s help. Sonia and her family moved in briefly and stayed at the Bachchan’s New Delhi residence at 13, Willingdoon Crescent, all through the wedding.
Yet another report said, “The families were so close once that Tejisang at the Congress chief’s wedding and “introduced her to the Indian way of life”.
“Rajiv Gandhi’s fiancée Sonia (Maino), visiting from Italy, was put up at our house.. She was so taken with our openness that she began to look Teji as a mother and Amit and Bunty as brothers. Rajiv and Sonia were married in February, with some part of the ceremony being held at our house,” recalled the late Haribans Rai in his memoirs.
I am sure Sonia would have improved her image by just visiting Bachchans to pay her homage to Teji. Sonia claims herself an Indian. This act of her is not in line with the Indian tradition and social norms. But perhaps, Maino (Sonia) is following her Italian norms about which we hardly know.