Indira Gandhi’s assassination was a baptism by fire for my generation. When I was researching, everyone I spoke to remembered what they were doing when Indira Gandhi died,” Sagarika Ghose told SheThePeople.TV’s founder Shaili Chopra about her new book on India’s only woman Prime Minister.

“It is important for women to put their views out there as women are under attack,” she said. 

Indira Gandhi’s remained unhappy most of her life

Indira Gandhi was India’s first personality cult. She was a woman who loved what she didn’t like.  She professed to love free press and democracy, but she didn’t like them, said Sagarika.

She was conflicted, lonely and unhappy. Sagarika said she was surprised to find out that her relationship with her father was not a close one. Indira was born when the eldest child was expected to be a male

Indira was the scion of the Nehru family. Her father expected her to be fit, brilliant, horse ride, ski and do yoga. His expectations were high, and she was constantly failing him

On the other hand, she was also her mother’s fiercest protector. Her mother was different from the rest of the accomplished family, and not as sophisticated. 

She was defiant and a protector of the underdog, and that resonated throughout her political career.

After failing out of Oxford, Indira married a man her father hated. She was unhappy throughout her life personally. Her relationships with her family were fractious — with her sons, father and her husband.

Indira’s features strike true today

“At some point, I was obsessed. I read 80 books on her,” Sagarika said.

There are so may features about women that strike a chord today, she says. For example, it is still so difficult to be an ambitious woman. Ambitious women are harshly judged.

Indira couldn’t show that she was an alpha female. She was not nurturing, or feminine but had to play that role. She was a lone soldier

So did Ghose end up being in awe of or feeling disgusted towards Indira Gandhi?

“I didn’t approve of her politics. She destroyed Congress and democratic institutions and created family-based succession. But as a person, I got more and more attracted to her. I had to make the distinction between politics and the person who was multi-layered and paradoxical,” she said.

She was a woman of grace and charm, but caged in a fortress. She was trapped by her own suspicions of people and her inability to trust and love people.

What are Sagarika Ghose’s stories?

“I have been writing for 30 years. And the best thing is to just do it. Get on the computer and put words on the page and let that process take over. The act of doing is the creative process,” she said. 

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