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The Rediff Special / Promila Kalhan

Priyanka's wedding is the first happy event in the Nehru family for many years

Priyanka and Robert Rajiv's assassination broke Sonia's heart. She has spent the past five years since that event working for the good of the underprivileged besides talented children through the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Priyanka's marriage this Tuesday is the first happy event in the Gandhi family after many years. If everyone is tightlipped about the way it will be celebrated, the reason is not far to seek. The security problems are very real.

The facts about Rajiv's assassination have yet to be revealed. The Verma Commission report has indicted many people for failing to provide adequate security to Rajiv. But the conspiracy aspect being gone into by the Jain Commission has yet to be completed. Not everyone has co-operated with the Commission even though a Congress government was in power until recently.

Priyanka has been noticed attending some of the Jain Commission hearings. It is in recent months that the Commission has made significant progress. Work on the Commission's report has begun. The interest shown by Priyanka and her mother in the investigation into Rajiv's assassination has been responsible for this.

Will the Priyanka-Robert Vadhera marriage be a quiet affair? It will. But Robert, soft-spoken and generally polite, told a journalist that he and Priyanka might keep an open house for the press before the wedding and answer any questions. He has so far, however, refused interviews to the press though his friends and relatives have not been so discreet.

Priyanka has been visiting Robert both in his South Delhi house and office and takes interest in his jewellery export business. After passing out from British School in Delhi, Robert decided to go into business rather than to college. He started his own concern, Artex, soon after going on to help his father's brass business. A couple of years ago he and Priyanka were spotted at a fashion show and also at a discotheque. Robert's passion is dancing.

He is a warm, outgoing person and his hallmark is sincerity. Pleasant looking rather than handsome, Robert is affable. Easy to get on with and considerate. His family too is informed and Priyanka finds it easy to mix with them, taking a hand in the kitchen to make a special dish. Informality is perhaps what attracts her to them.

Sonia, soon after she married, also took a hand in the kitchen turning out both Italian and Indian dishes, something special like gajar-ka-halwa. Interest in cooking runs in the family. Sonia's marriage to Rajiv was simple more out of choice than necessity. Priyanka's will be simple out of necessity though behind the scenes, it is understood, various pre-wedding functions are already taking place at 10 Janpath. Only they are not being publicised.

The couple has known each other for around six years. Coming from one of the country's best known families, Priyanka evidently did not find it necessary to pick somebody from the world of politics or glamour. Her grandmother Indira Gandhi did the some. Her marriage to Feroze Gandhi was controversial and because of it, was celebrated less simply than the marriage of Rajiv or Sanjay.

Indira Gandhi and Feroz Gandhi Indira Gandhi explained the situation thus to an interviewer: 'The whole nation was against this wedding because Feroze was of a different religion. He was a Parsi. This was the reason we had to have a bigger wedding than I otherwise would have had. This was the only point on which I gave in. We had thought that we would have a very quiet affair and not invite anybody. But Mahatma Gandhi rightly pointed out that under any other circumstances be himself would want that; but with a wedding as controversial as this people would think that my father didn't want to do anything for my husband and me, and this, he said, would not be fair to my father or to us. So that's why we had a wedding -- I won't say in a 'grand manner' because compared to Indian weddings it was still very, very simple, but nevertheless a lot of people turned up from all over India.'

Jawaharlal Nehru's marriage to Kamala Kaul was an elaborate affair, as was the custom in those days. A veritable township of tents sprang up inside the walled city of Delhi to accommodate the barat of a few hundred people from Allahabad.

The month of February is associated with weddings in the Gandhi family. Sonia and Rajiv were married on February 25. Jawaharlal and Kamala were married on February 8. However, Indira was married to Feroze in March.

At least one close friend of Priyanka, Amitabh Bachchan's daughter Shweta, is also to marry in February. She will marry Nikhil Nanda, grandson of Raj Kapoor and H P Nanda of Escorts, on Sunday, February 16.

Where will Priyanka and Robert live after they have tied the knot? The Government of India has allotted a bungalow in Lodhi Estate, suitable from the point of security. Their plans to live in a Mehrauli farmhouse have, at least for the time being, been shelved. Neither Priyanka nor Robert fancy living in a joint family right now. What the future holds, time will show.

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