Be brave and all the rest rollows.
If you are brave you will not fear and will not do anything of which you are shamed.
You will grow up into a brave soldier in India's service."
This was one of the weigthy commands written to a lonely Brahmin girl by her father during the Indian Independence movement. There were enough letters to fill a book - "Glimpses of World History" by Jawaharlai Nehru - and they substituted for Indira Nehru Gandhi's primary education.
As the only child of the man destined to be the first prime minister of a free India, the young Indira was nurtured on the movement. From the age of four she regularly lost her father to the jail cells of the British who ruled colonial India. Her teachers were Mahatma Gandhi and poet Rabindranath Tagore, men who were demi-gods to the masses. She was primed to be her father's daughter and when the widowed Nehru led the country, Mrs. Gandhi left her husband to live with her father as first lady.
It was this legacy that made Indira Gandhi a living bond with the stormy independence struggle. With her electoral defeat this dynastic bond was broken and the almost continuous rule of modern India by the Nehru family ended, some would say in disgrace.
Indira Gandhi had imprisoned many of the closest colleagues of her father and her teachers during the emergency rule she ordered as prime minister in 1975. She sent them to the jails that had once symbolized the punishment meted out by colonial masters to the people who chose ahimsa - nonviolence - over guns in their battle for independence. The election showed that this insult from Nehru's daughter was staggering.
When she was first elected prime minister in 1966, Ghandi showed few of the signs of a political character that would later lead to her condemnation as an authoritarian ruler. Her father had died in 1964 - prime minister since independence in 1947 - and because of her grief she refused an offer to succeed him. She won it in her own right two years later after her father's successor died suddenly.
In the 11 years of her rule, however, Gandhi broke many of her almost solemn promises and set off on a course far from non-alliance or ahimsa.
While her father was respected for developing such concepts as the "panchshila" - the five points of non-alliance - Gandhi became notorious for breaking them. Not only did she splinter the Congress party built by her father, she aligned herself solidly with the Soviet Union in a 1971 pact and with the Soviet-linked Communist Party of India.
While her father raised her as the brave soldier accustomed to perhaps too many hardships, she raised her two sons as ordained princes of India. While her father and grandfather, Motilal Nehru, literally threw away a vast family fortune for the ake of independence, her younger son, Sanjay, gained notoriety for using his position to gain wealth and prestige.
But her marriage suffered from the beginning. In 1942, Indira Nehru chose to marry a Gujarati journalist named Feroze Gandhi - no relation to Mahatma Gandhi against the wishes both of her father and the Mahatma. In India such matches are unusual, and are known as "love marriages since they are not arranged by parents.
Their love and their marriage was interrupted by the demands of independence and her father. Feroze Gandhi was forced into the background, living apart from his wife, the first lady and his sons, calling on them at the prime minister's residence.
He died of a heart attack in 1960, by then a member of Parliament from the district that Mrs. Gandhi later represented.
As most of her intimate friends and family members died during her difficult years of ruling India, Gandhi turned increasingly toward her sons for personal support.
She became the tough autocratic ruler who brought India into the atomic era, and stripped the country of most civil rights.
The emergency said it all. When she accused her father's comrade Jayaprakash Narayan of leading "fascist and violent elements," India held its breath, fearing the end of democracy.
But the 59-year-old mother made the final gesture - by calling elections - that proved that she had remained true to her father.