Indira Gandhi was out of power, after the Emergency. The atmosphere in the Gandhi family also was chaotic. Maneka led a life which was full of confusion and anxiety as she was new to the atmosphere in the house. She was not used to the excitement and the adventure, the secret meetings and the hush-hush atmosphere, was, for her, like participating in an adventure novel.
Even Sonia Gandhi who was not used to the atmosphere, was anxious for the safety of the children concerned with the effect of the tensions and chaos within the house would have on them. At that time, there had very few servants, hence Sonia was often called upon to cook and do the marketing. Sonia could attend to the household chores without a breakdown and carried out her work meticulously even in those chaotic conditions.
Maneka Anand aka Gandhi was young and enthusiastic. She was very politically active, which her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi disliked. She also didn’t like Maneka Gandhi editing the magazine Surya, which had all the gossips of the political world.
Maneka was a sort of rebel from the beginning. She never had good terms with Indira. Their relationship was insecure. She hardly spoke to Sonia, her sister-in-law.
Maneka always feared Indira Gandhi and always took the refuge behind Sanjay Ganhdi to face her. But after the death of Sanjay Gandhi, Maneka had to face Indira Gandhi face to face.
Khushwant Singh, then editor of the Hindustan Times and a close friend of Sanjay and Maneka. He wrote a column in his newspaper describing Maneka as an incarnation of Durga and as an inheritor of Sanjay’s cult figure, after five days of Sanjay’s death. This created a grave misunderstanding between Indira and Maneka.
Maneka started to work on a photographic book on Sanjay. Indira was to write the foreword. But Indira later declined it due to lack of time. This shattered Maneka.
Indira’s relationship to Maneka was hemmed in by suspicion. Maneka was twenty-three years old at the time of her husband’s death, the same age as Indira when she rebelled against her father to marry Feroze in 1941. But, forty-one years after her rebellion, Indira was unable to understand Maneka’s revolt, nor was she prepared to accept the ambiguity of Maneka’s position in the household.
The girl was young, ambitious. Since her marriage, from the tender age of seventeen, she had lived in the midst of political excitement. She was not ready to withdraw into anonymity, which was inevitable if she had to live in her mother-in-law’s house. She had seen and learned the skills of Indira. Sanjay had taught her to plan her strategies four steps ahead; so she too planned her future.
A mini revolt was planned against Indira in Lucknow by few MLAs of INC who were earlier allies of Sanjay. Maneka was invited. Despite the disapproval of Indira, she went there. As a consequence, Maneka evacuated the house with her two years old son,Varun (or was thrown out of the house, as said by many).
On Maneka’s part, her ambitions were suppressed. Her telephone connection was disconnected, her mother and brother were not allowed to enter the house and her son Varun was kept away from her.
Indira, on the other hand, accused her of rudeness and impertinence from the time of her marriage. She made an unfortunate reference to the differences between their background and culture, ordering Maneka to leave the home and go to her mother unless she was ready to change.
Sonia, on the other hand, managed the home. She took care of the household, and stayed away from politics, much to the pleasure of Indira.
Indira was very close to Sanjay. After his death, the place vacated. She needed someone to fill the vacuum. Apart from needing someone to trust totally, who would act swiftly, and keep the window of outer world open for her, she needed physical support and closeness. To fill this need, she turned to Sonia.
From the autumn of 1980s, Sonia’s relationship to Indira took a dramatic turn from that of a daughter-in-law to that of a daughter. And for comfort, she gathered her three grandchildren close to her.