Sari from 'millions of years ago'

A Gandhi at a Bachchan wedding reception 'explodes a time capsule'

Indira Gandhi in a purple sari at the 1966 White House banquet hosted by the then US President, Lyndon B. Johnson, and his wife. (Below) Priyanka, wearing the same sari, and Robert Vadra at the wedding reception of Naina, daughter of Ajitabh Bachchan (second from right), and actor Kunal Kapoor last week

New Delhi, April 14: Memories of a fragrant past seemed to flood into many minds last weekend when a Gandhi came to a Bachchan wedding after a generation.

As over a thousand guests at Saturday's marriage reception at a Delhi farmhouse filed past newly wed actor Kunal Kapoor and bride Naina, daughter of Ajitabh Bachchan, all eyes appeared fixed on Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra.

Amitabh, Jaya, Abhishek, Aishwarya and the rest of the Bachchans were there, as were friends from their Allahabad days, the Suri family from Punjab (to which Amitabh's mother Teji belonged), Delhi Page 3 regulars and politicians.

But Priyanka was the cynosure as she and Robert hugged Ajitabh and Naina. And to most old-timers, the occasion seemed redolent with the spirit of the two late matriarchs who had cemented the two families' bond before it weakened some three decades ago.

Many noticed Priyanka's sari - it was the purple one her grandmother had worn to a White House state banquet hosted by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife during Indira Gandhi's 1966 US visit.

The only accessories Priyanka wore were pearl earrings and her grandmother's trademark man's watch, which Indira had inherited from Jawaharlal Nehru and passed on to her granddaughter.

Priyanka had shared a special bond with Naina's grandmother Teji, who she acknowledges taught her to speak Hindi.

After Indira's assassination on October 31, 1984, Teji had shown the presence of mind to pick Rahul and Priyanka up from St Columba's and the Convent of Jesus & Mary School. Rajiv Gandhi had been away in Bengal and Sonia had taken Indira to hospital.

The Bachchan-Gandhi friendship stretched seven decades and three generations since the day Sarojini Naidu introduced poet Harivanshrai and Teji to Nehru and Indira. The strains appeared only after Amitabh abruptly left politics in 1987 amid the Bofors scandal.

After Rajiv's assassination in May 1991, Amitabh and Jaya drifted farther away from the Gandhis.

Common friends say that Amitabh and his children Abhishek and Shweta sometimes appeared embarrassed about the break-up but their hopes of a reconciliation vanished when Teji died in December 2007.

But while Amitabh's relations with Sonia and her children have seen many lows in recent years, his younger brother Ajitabh has maintained cordial ties with 10 Janpath.

It was his consistent support and affection that Priyanka was reciprocating by turning up at Saturday's event. The Gandhis had missed the weddings of both Abhishek and Shweta, a source claiming to be equally close to the two families said.

Three areas had been marked out at the reception venue, including a VIP area where Jaya and Amitabh were ensconced with friends such as Anupam and Kirron Kher.

This seemed to limit the interactions between Amitabh's side of the family and the Vadras. When they came face to face, they exchanged polite smiles.

Priyanka, who posed for pictures with several of the guests, left early with her husband. The younger Bachchans and their friends - Abhishek, Aishwarya, Shweta, Hrithik Roshan and Kunal - hit the dance floor.

Hours later, Amitabh's blog spoke cryptically of "memories" without naming names.

"Nothing moves the mind greater than the memories of those that were a part of your life in constancy some 'millions of years ago'... tonight as I met with them, it was a time capsule that had suddenly exploded before your eyes... each and every little detail of those days and years and situations and banter and fun... all came back like it had never gone away at all....

"Consumed by this invasion on my senses and surrounded by well-wishers who mob for that one handshake, picture or an autograph... it suddenly makes one alone and pensive... it is a wedding atmosphere, there are thousands of guests and rituals and bonhomie being conducted, yet somewhere in all the 'rush of life' there pounds a heart that does not wish to reconcile with the images that unfold before....

"I come away... deftly...

"And remain in those thoughts...




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