This is the fourth in the family that this column has had the tragic duty to record. First, it was Jawaharlal Nehru. He died of old age and a broken heart, betrayed by the Chinese, his dreams and visions of an ideal state crumbled, but at least he died of natural causes. Then Sanjay Gandhi, in an accident that could have been easily avoided, leaving behind a young wife, a new-born son, a doting mother who had pinned her hopes on his succeeding her. But that was an accident caused by the rashness of youth.
The other two deaths have been assassinations, dastardly deeds performed by trusted men. Mrs.Gandhi, so young, and so desperately trying, given another chance, to make good.
Finally, the Nehru-Gandhi era has ended. There will be no more prime ministers from this family. And though the family had a lot of critics and wanted the era to end one generation back, and possibly two, not its worst would have wanted it to end in this manner. From Jawaharlal Nehru's ideal society, India has turned into a mob of blood-thirsty avengers. Our prestige in the international world, which Rajiv Gandhi was planning to restore once he resumed as prime minister, has sunk to its lowest depth yet.
But worse than that, it is in our own eyes that we have fallen. If would be difficult for us to go on calling ourselves as a mature democratic country, which settles its diffierences through debates and ballot boxes.
This election was going to be bloody and violent. Everybody seemed to have agreed in this, but nobody knew it, would be so violent, or that the reperussions of this violence would be felt so widely.
The country will recover from this, there is no doubt about that. India will not die. America has gone through some violent passages in its history, inclunding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and it has risen to be the greatest in the world, the real home of the free and the brave. But on a personal level we have lost everything. And at this moment we have lost our soul.
And what may I say about Rajiv Gandhi. That he should have continued as a pilot, which he was for most of his life. That he should have listened to his wife and remained the private, reserved family man that he was not a political man, he became one. And though he inherited his family's glory and reputation, along with that he also inherited its tragic fate.
The possibility was always there that he would have a violent death. Therefore the security around him was so tight. Some people said that this security kept him away from the people, and this contributed to his government's degeat in 1989. So of late he had become more accessible, driving himself in jeeps through country roads, and death struck.
Eventually, it is a personal tragedy. Rajiv Gandhi wanted to have a second chance to prove himself, to leave his mark in history. And this has been denied to him.