COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Aysha talks about life with the veteran scriptwriter John Paul
By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo by Melton Antony
Aysha has never forgotten the night of June 14, 1976, the date of her marriage to the veteran scriptwriter John Paul. Inside their room, at John Paul's home at Kochi, her husband patiently took out the numerous pins that kept her hair bun propped up.
“This gesture brought us close immediately,” she says. “It was an act of intimacy.”
Theirs was an arranged marriage. The families knew each other. And Aysha recalls with a smile that on his first visit to her home at Thiruvankulam village, in Ernakulam district, John Paul was wearing a red shirt and green trousers. “It was an unusual colour combination,” she says. “John Paul was slim, and had long hair. But I liked him.”
Two months after the marriage, they went for a trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Like most people, they had a dip in the holy Ganges. But the couple enjoyed their sojourn at Rishikesh the most. “We went for long walks in the hills,” says Aysha. “Sometimes we would stumble on to rock formations, where ponds had been formed. We would get down and lie in the water. It was a beautiful feeling.”
When they returned, John Paul got busy with his job at the Canara Bank. “But he told me very early, that art and culture are his passions,” says Aysha. “So every day after work, he would go for cultural activities and return home at 10 p.m.”
This routine went on for a few years. Then one day, in 1983, John Paul told Aysha that he was going to quit his bank job and become a scriptwriter in Mollywood. “I immediately accepted his decision, because I wanted him to fulfill his dreams,” says Aysha.
So devoted was Aysha to John Paul that sometimes when her husband would get up at 3 a.m. to write, Aysha would also awaken and make tea for him.
Interestingly, Aysha has never read a script that John Paul has written. But she has seen most of the movies that he has been involved in.
And her favourite is Bharatan's ‘Oru Minnaminunginte Nuruguvettam’. “I liked the acting of Nedumudi Venu and Saradha who play an ageing couple,” she says. “They would fight with each other over petty things, just like John Paul and I used to do. He had taken this incident from our life. Looking back, I realize that quarrelling is a form of love.”
The fruit of their love is their daughter Jisha. But when their only child was six years old, Aysha suffered a medical crisis. One day, she vomited a large amount of blood, and carried on doing so. John Paul rushed his wife to a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. But the doctors were unable to provide an accurate diagnosis. From there they flew to Chennai, to another hospital. But this also proved fruitless. So they went to the Christian Medical College and Hospital at Vellore. “And it was only there that a correct diagnosis was made,” says Aysha. “It was a problem with the membranes in my intestines.”
Interestingly, the fact that John Paul had left the bank worked to their benefit. As a scriptwriter he earned much more and could meet the medicinal expenses of Rs 30,000 a month. In those days, a bank employee's salary was Rs 1500 a month.
Not surprisingly, Aysha was mentally shattered because of all that she underwent. “But my husband remained positive-minded throughout the ordeal and had a smile on his face,” she says. “This enabled me to get up the courage to face the problems.”
However, later, new problems developed. But this time it involved John Paul. In 2000, John Paul’s thyroid started malfunctioning and he ballooned to an unbelievable 193 kgs. “It became very difficult for him to walk,” says Aysha. “To go to the toilet, John Paul needed the help of two people. At night, he could not go to sleep. His sugar levels had soared to 300 [milligrams per deciliter, when the normal is 110]. There was a danger that he would slip into a coma. The doctor then told him that a risky nine-hour surgery had to be done to reduce the fat.”
Just before he was wheeled into the operating room, at a hospital in Kochi, an anxious Aysha kissed her husband on the cheek, in front of a crowd of relatives, friends and well-wishers. “This was the first time in public I showed physical affection,” she says. “I wanted to reassure him that he would get well. Later, John Paul told me that it gave him an emotional boost.”
The surgery went fine, and John Paul recovered. But today, he is still an imposing 140 kgs and experiences difficulty while moving around. Nevertheless, the couple looks peaceful at their home in Vennala, Kochi.
Asked for tips for a successful marriage, Aysha says, “Sometimes, young husbands will say about their wife, ‘She is not the girl that I wanted’. Has the husband ever asked his wife whether he is the spouse she wanted? So, you have to learn to adjust. You need patience, tolerance and acceptance. A marriage is not only about the sharing of bliss, but also the withstanding of tough times together.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)