Most of us have experienced true love, once at least. Some love stories stand the test of time, while the others simply fade away… Sonia Gandhi, India’s ‘first lady’ for all practical purposes, wasn’t so lucky first time around. Her love affair with Franco Luison in the 60s lasted only four years, before Rajiv Gandhi came and swept Sonia Gandhi off her feet…
She was only a teenager when she met Franco, but she possessed real celluloid pedigree. She was gorgeous, full of life and without any inhibition. She would have been a Bollywood producer’s dream cast.
In a candid chat a few years ago with an Italian magazine, ‘GENTE’, Franco relived a past that still makes him yearn for India’s most celebrated woman political leader! But he says he is happy for her.
They first met at the seashore of Jesolo in the 60′s, when she was merely 14.
“My love affair with Antonia Maino (Sonia Gandhi’s Italian name) was a blessing…we were in love and happy everywhere”, Franco reminisced in the interview.
Sonia wanted to marry me!
Franco further revealed that their families approved of their relationship and Sonia Gandhi’s parents happily accommodated Franco every time he visited their home in Orbassano, near Turin, where they were transferred in the 60′s. He told the magazine that Sonia Gandhi wanted to marry him and spend the rest of her life together. It was an emotional bond that would have culminated into marriage had Rajiv Gandhi not laid eyes on Sonia.
“I was 26 when I met her for the first time under the shade of my beach umbrella. I was famous then! It seemed like a summer flirt, but lasted four years. I was a footballer and she would watch me at practice sessions…
“Football was not her passion, though. She did it for me. After the championship, during the summer, we used to go to Vicenza for weekends!
“I was the first love of Antonia. She wanted me to promise her to marry, but I kept postponing the idea because of my own issues. Unfortunately, fate had different plans for her,” Franco trailed off…
Sonia Gandhi left for England for higher studies and that’s where she met our very own Rajiv Gandhi.
The beginning of the end
“In 1964, she decided to go to England, although I wasn’t happy. She wrote letters and kept me in the loop. Once she came back for vacation, she was changed. She had made up her mind to marry Rajiv Gandhi, the ‘crown prince’ of India. Though it hurt me very much, our farewell wasn’t too tragic, we accepted fate and said our goodbyes..”
Franco says he is still in touch with Sonia’s family, meets them at least twice a year to exchange gifts during feasts. Nora, wife of Franco, remembers: “I was jealous of Sonia, for all his friends used to speak about her when I started our relation in the late 1964. I was afraid one day Sonia would come back and I will lose Franco!” she added.
Most of us still look at Sonia Gandhi as an outsider. We shouldn’t. When she linked up with Rajiv Gandhi, she was only a girl, with no political ambition. She is not conspiring against India, she is only contributing. India should welcome her, not detest. She leads India’s oldest political party, the Congress party. Give her some credit for that.
2015 Kashmir Despatch