Who is Sonia Gandhi?

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Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky. The famous leader that I chose to write about is Sonia Gandhi. She was born on December 9th, 1946.  She was born in the small village of Orbassano which is just out side of Turin, Italy. She was born to a typical Roman Catholic family, to the parents of Paolo and Stefano. Stefano was a contractor who owned his own medium sized construction company while Paolo raised Sonia and her two sisters. When Sonia turned 18 her father moved her to Cambridge University, where he had no idea her life was a bout to change for ever.

        In 1965, just a year after arriving in England, Sonia met a young Indian student named Rajiv Gandhi (1944“1991), who was studying mechanical engineering at Cambridge University. According to Sonia Gandhi, it was love at first sight. The courtship, however, lasted three years, perhaps because Rajiv was from one of the most famous families in India, if not the world. Sonia's parents were reluctant to have her become involved in such a different culture, and Sonia herself was nervous about meeting Rajiv's famous mother, Indira Gandhi (1917“1984), who was the "first lady" of India. Indira Gandhi's father, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889“1964), became the country's first prime minister after India claimed its independence from Great Britain in 1947, and Gandhi worked closely with him until his death. In 1965 according to Bindra, Satinder. Indira Gandhi was poised to fill Nehru's shoes. Although Sonia felt as if she was not good enough to pursue her relationship with Rajiv, his mother and her became fast friends. 

        In 1968 Sonia and Rajiv were married in a simple wedding ceremony in India. Sonia had the opportunity to wear a pink sari, in which her mother in law had worn at her own ceremony. A stunned Indira Gandhi begged her older son to join the family's political ranks. Sonia Gandhi was vehemently opposed to the idea, fearing that her husband might be injured or killed, given the explosive nature of Indian politics. After several long discussions, however, the couple jointly agreed that Rajiv should quit his job with the airlines. Although Sonia Gandhi was not pleased, she was a dutiful wife and supported her husband's decision. In 1981 Rajiv ran successfully for Parliament and took over the seat vacated by his brother. He served as the representative from the Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India populated by approximately 160 million inhabitants.

        Sonia Gandhi, resigned to the fact that her husband must lead his country, became his vigilant supporter and submerged herself in the role of a prime minister's wife. She became an art historian and worked with a team at the National Gallery in New Delhi to restore Indian landscapes. She also collected and edited letters that had been sent between Indira Gandhi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, which were ultimately published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite Sonia Gandhi's successes, however, her husband Rajiv was a less-than-successful ruler. He was never able to match the popularity of his famous mother, and his administration was plagued by one problem after another, including charges of illegal arms dealings. As a result, in 1989 Rajiv Gandhi was voted out of office.

        Seeing as Sonia Gandhi is not a native-born India citizen, one of the adversities that she had to overcome was adapting to their culture. She was considered as being from a western civilization. One way that she had overcome this adversity was by living with her mother in law and following in their family's footsteps. She learned to adopt to surroundings even learned how to speak Hindu.  Sonia was also faced with being apart of the most famous family in India. She felt as if she was not qualified to be in her husband's position. She decided after being asked consistently to become the prime minister of India. She was voted in for two terms, she decided that if she was ever in the position where she had to choose the inner voice or the public voice, she would go with the inner voice. In 2004 she declined being prime minister and offered the position to a long-time friend. (Schneider, Bill. "Gandhi Has Power but Declines Post). She overcame many of the adversities she faced by being a loving devoted wife to her husband.

        In India, many of the peers who surrounded her loved her and wanted her to continue on with being the leader of India. She made such a positive impact on their nation, that she will forever be a known icon to them. She presented her self as confident, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure that their country was protected and taken care of.

        I think that her story furthers the cause for women in leadership because she became a well-liked leader and prime minister of India. This helps women who want to become leaders, keep pushing forward, and show the world that you can and make it better. She showed strength and courage moving to India, not knowing what the future had in store. She also showed strength by not backing down when both her mother in law and her husband were assassinated. She stood her ground and made sure her country knew that no matter what happened, she had their backs and that they would make it through the storms and triumphs.

        Something that I found relatable in her story to a college student is that she didn't give up when the tough got going. College students are faced with many turmoil's during their time in college. We are faced with love at first sight, such as she was. We are also faced with learning a new environment such as she did twice. In her story, she never gave up her morals and continued her with heart. In college many of us feel as if we want to give up because we are burned out, but because our morals and hearts tell us to strive on, we do. We are faced with the same scenarios and triumphs that she faced and over-came.

A lesson that I took away from her story is love conquers all. I am married to someone who was raised in a complete different culture. Like Sonia, I was raised in a strict catholic home. However, when I turned 19 I married my best friend. He was raised in Palestine and was raised in a strict Muslim family. When I married him, I had to overcome the cultural barrier, and was scared that his mother and father would think less of me because I didn't follow their religion. Here we are 6 years later, and I support his and his family's decisions no matter what they are. I love him with all my heart, so being his number one fan has allowed me to support him whether I agree or disagree, such as Sonia did for Rajiv.

        Sonia Gandhi did adhere to the advice given in The Confidence Code and Lean In. In the book The Confidence Code it states that embracing adversity is something that the west could use to improve their strengths. I feel that Sonia Gandhi put this to test when she chose to adapt to the culture in India. This was an example of her embracing the adversity and rolling with it. Some of the adversity that Sonia encountered when she moved to India did not break and send her running back to Italy, it made her stronger.  In face her embracing the adversity made her Prime Minister! Not only did this help her live up to the expectations of her husband but also her mother in law, who happened to be known as the First Lady of India.

        In chapter nine of Lean In, the title of it says it all! Sonia did just that. She was the back to her husband Rajiv and supported him no matter the circumstance. Although she wasn't fond of him joining the family tradition of Politics, she continuously supported him through his triumphs and errors. She became devoted to him as a wife and as his number one fan. She adapted to a culture entirely different that what she had been accustomed to just to be married to Rajiv Gandhi. She supported every career aspect of her husbands, and never failed to show her support.

        In conclusion, Sonia Gandhi is a true example of what a female leader should be. She worked and pushed her self beyond her limits of existence. She was never seen in the media when it came to political debates while her mother in law and husband were alive, she put her self out there. She gained enough confidence and experience to succeed in what she chose to do, whether everyone loved her or not. She didn't allow any of the bumps in the road to stop her and when there was a mountain to climb, she climbed it. Reading about Sonia Gandhi has made me realize that if more women were like her and as strong minded, there would be more women in leadership and being political leaders. Sonia Gandhi is someone I wish to follow in her footsteps.


Works Cited Page

  1. Bhatty, Egbert F. "Sonia Gandhi: The Once and Future Prime Minister of India." Washington Dispatch (May 21, 2004). https://www.washingtondispatch.com/printer_9110.shtml (accessed on July 14, 2018).
  2. Bindra, Satinder. "Gandhi Dynasty Poised for Power." CNN.com: World (May 14, 2004). https://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/05/14/india.vote1155/index.html (accessed on July 10, 2018).
  3. Gandhi, Sonia. Speech, Congress Parliamentary Party meeting (New Delhi, India, May 17, 2004). rediff.com. https://in.rediff.com/election/2004/may/18sonia2.htm (accessed on July 14, 2018).
  4. Haidar, Suhasini, and Ram Ramgopal. "Singh: Poster Boy of Change." CNN.com: World (May 20, 2004). https://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/05/20/india.singh/index.html (accessed on July 11, 2018).
  5. Kay, K., & Shipman, C. (2018). The confidence code: The science and art of self-assurance--what women should know. New York, NY: HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  6. Sandberg, S., & Scovell, N. (2016). Lean in: For graduates. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
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Who Is Sonia Gandhi?. (2019, Aug 07). Retrieved November 28, 2023 , from

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