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Soulmates: The love story of Mr and Mrs R K Dhawan

74-yr-old Gandhi family loyalist married 59-yr-old Achla last October. A trip to hospital was the trigger,he says.

It’s a secret that R K Dhawan,the Gandhi family’s trusted aide for five long decades,managed to keep for only a few months. On October 12,2011,at a quiet Arya Samaj ceremony at a friend’s home in Delhi’s Panchsheel Park,he married Achla,his companion of several years. No politicians were invited,no visible celebrations followed.

“You can call us soulmates. We have known each other so long,and I have been visiting him at home every day,” Achla,who was earlier Achla Mohan,says.

Throughout the conversation with The Sunday Express in Dhawan’s Golf Links study,she assists the veteran Congress leader by locating folders of press clippings,letters or books that he refers to from time to time.

Why did they feel the need to get married? Dhawan who is now 74,is candid in his reply. “I wanted to make her happy. At all functions,weddings and so on,I had to introduce her as a friend. There was an awkwardness about it which I thought must end.”

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And then,he recalls,was an episode from last year which came as the turning point in his relationship with Achla,and the trigger for the decision to end his bachelorhood.

Dhawan suffered a serious bout of viral fever,and had to be admitted to hospital. Achla was by his side,but when it came to signing the consent form,a niece had to step in because the hospital insisted on a blood relative. “I felt very bad that she has taken so much care of me but could not sign the form,” Dhawan said.

“My mind was made up and all the time,my family and friends were pressing me. So two days before her birthday,which was on October 14,we tied the knot.”

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For Achla,59,being Mrs R K Dhawan has not changed much. “It’s just that I live in this house instead of my own. You know how Indian society is. We just thought it was better for us to be legally married,” she said.

Dhawan and Achla have known each other since the seventies,through a circuit of close friends. She married a pilot and went to live in Canada. In 1990,she divorced,and they began seeing each other again. Achla’s daughter Raiya too is a trained pilot,and lives with them.

As the conversation turns from his personal life to his party,the Congress,Dhawan is visibly more comfortable. The man who is a familiar figure in a crisp white safari suit at all Congress dos — he was seated in row 2 as Hamid Ansari’s filed his nomination for vice-president — joined Indira Gandhi’s secretariat in 1962,when he was only 24. He was a minister briefly and,later,had two terms in the Rajya Sabha.

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Does he feel he has been rewarded enough? “I believe in destiny,and I don’t grudge anyone the destiny that they enjoy,” he says.

“What I will say is that Sonia Gandhi is running the party as democratically as Indira Gandhi did. I am a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee,and at meetings,Sonia Gandhi gives an even more free hand to everyone to speak… If they choose not to speak their minds,it is not her fault…”

But there is bitterness about the period that Dhawan describes as that of “vendetta politics” — when he faced allegations in connection with the assassination of Indira Gandhi,the JMM probe,the St Kitts affair and the Jain hawala case.

“Every time the Congress lost power and the political regime changed,I suffered. I have always been exonerated,but there is no one else dead or alive who has suffered as much as I have due to loyalty for the Gandhi family…”

First published on: 22-07-2012 at 01:46 IST
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