A brief timeline of Sonia Gandhi’s life:
1946 – Born Sonia Maino in a small industrial Northern Italian town. Her father was “a builder, a stern self mad man who had fought alongside the Wehrmacht against the Russians on the eastern front and who remained an unrepentant Fascist until his death. A leather bound collection of Mussolini’s speeches sat proudly in his front room.” (Patrick French’s 1998 New Yorker piece. Subscription required, unfortunately)
1965 – Sonia goes to England to learn English. One day, she’s eating lunch at a restaurant when a 20 year old Cambridge student, Rajiv Gandhi, sees her. Rajiv is son of Indira Gandhi (India’s third Prime Minister), grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru (india’s first Prime Minister), and no relation to Mahatma Gandhi (the last name is just a fortunate accident for an Indian political family).
1968 – Sonia and Rajiv get married. She’s 22. They are attractive:
Sonia moves to India. Rajiv avoids politics and goes to work as a pilot for Indian Airlines.
1980 – Sonia’s brother-in-law, Sanjay Gandhi, dies in a plane crash. Afterwards, Rajiv gives in to his mother’s wishes and enters politics.
1984 – Sonia’s mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, is assassinated by one of her own bodyguards. That night, Rajiv, a college dropout without any ministerial experience, is sworn in as the new Prime Minister of India.
1991 – Rajiv is assassinated 50 kilometers outside of Chennai by a Tamil Tiger terrorist. Sonia retreats into isolation.
1998 – Sonia reenters public life to campaign for the Congress party, which was expected to lose most of its seats. Sonia visits 138 constituencies in 34 days. Congress gains 28 seats. Sonia becomes president of the party.
2004 – Congress outperforms in national elections. The party gains enough support to build a government. As president of the coalition leading party, traditionally Sonia would become Prime Minister. Political opponents make an issue of her foreign birth. Supporters gather outside of her house, demanding she accept the post. “One man stood on the roof of a car noisily wielding a sword and a pistol and threatened to shoot himself in the head if she declined.” Sonia avoids the controversy, appointing Manmohan Singh to the job.
By my calculations, that’s about 1,000 years of living in her 66 years of life (so far). If she keeps this up, Sonia might steal the World’s Craziest Life title from Robert de La Rochefoucauld.