COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Usha talks about life with the politician Mulappally Ramachandran
Photo by TP Sooraj
By Shevlin Sebastian
When Usha was a young woman she never dreamt of marrying a politician. “I felt that most of them were uneducated and corrupt,” she says. So, when one of her uncles, Narayanan, brought a proposal about a full-time politician, naturally, Usha was hesitant. “But I was told that Mulappally Ramachandran was not a 'normal' politician,” says Usha. “He was an upright and educated person, who had done his MA and LLB.”
At that time, in 1984, Usha was based in Panjim, Goa, where she worked as a law officer in the Syndicate Bank. However, because her father had a mild heart attack, she returned to her home town of Kozhikode for a short visit. So, she agreed to meet Ramachandran.
They met on a sunny day in June. Being the typical politician that he was, Ramachandran was dressed in a white shirt and mundu. And one of the first things he told Usha was that he had called on her father at the hospital. Ramachandran said, “I think your daddy is out of danger.”
Usha was touched that Ramachandran took the trouble to meet her father.
Apart from being touched, Usha was also impressed. “I felt that he was a person who could take charge of me,” she says. “Ramachandran had a capacity for leadership. Many of the men I had met till then were not what I expected them to be, but he was different.”
The attraction was mutual. The marriage took place on September 13, 1984, at the Tagore Centenary Hall in Kozhikode. “The most memorable event was the presence of Chief Minister K Karunakaran,” says Usha. “He was at loggerheads with my husband. So we thought he would not come.” But five minutes before the muhurtham began, there was a message that the chief minister was coming. The roads were cleared, and Karunakaran arrived just in time to give Usha the wedding garland, that was to be exchanged with Ramachandran.
“I had promised your husband a long time ago that I would do this duty,” Karunakaran told Usha.
However, the couple had no time to go on a honeymoon. The next morning, Ramachandran had to rush off to Thiruvananthapuram because Congress President Rajiv Gandhi was arriving. “Later, Ramachandran told me that Rajiv pulled him up for leaving me behind,” says Usha.
On October 31, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Thereafter, the Lok Sabha elections were held. Ramachandran stood from Kannur and won and then had to go to Delhi. “All this happened within two months of our marriage,” says Usha.
Later, Usha got a transfer from Panjim to Mangalore and would meet her husband on weekends. And life went on.
Asked about his qualities, Usha says, “I admire his honesty, sincerity and his compassion for the marginalised sections of society. The people of his constituency always came first. Initially I would feel upset, but now I have accepted it as a politician's duty.”
Another quality is Ramachandran's desire to develop others. “There have been many people who were against him, but he has enabled them to grow, especially if he spotted a leadership quality,” says Usha. “It is something that I could not understand, but I regard it as a lovely trait.”
However, there have been times when Ramachandran has got irritated with Usha, because she has not been able to recognise the people in the constituency. “Unlike Ramachandran, I meet them once a year or so,” she says. “He knows everybody by name including his classmates and is close to them.”
Ramachandran is also close to their only child, daughter Parvathy, 21, who is doing her MA (Political science), following her BA Hons. (history) in Jesus and Mary College at New Delhi. “Ramachandran's subject is history and so is hers,” says Usha. “They have a lot in common. It is because of her that Ramachandran took us to visit countries like South Korea, Hongkong, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.”
At Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa, they saw the station where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a first-class cabin, and the jail, at Johannesburg, where he spent a lot of time. “The jail was being maintained as it was, to show how the prisoners had suffered,” says Usha. “There were small dormitories where several people were confined. We were told that the toilets at the corner of the room overflowed often. And there were separate cooking facilities for blacks, coloureds and whites. There was so much of discrimination in those days.”
Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Usha says, “There is a lot of give and take in a marriage. Don't expect everything to be a bed of roses. Learn to sacrifice for the happiness of your partner. And that joy will reflect on you also. You will get back from life what you give to it. That is the case with marriage also.”
But Usha is worried about the state of matrimony among young people. “There is too much of an ego fight among youngsters,” she says. “If you break up especially when you have children, it is such a sad sight. Where is the institution of marriage heading? We are taking the worst of western culture and adopting it.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)