COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Janet talks about life with the volleyball player Tom Joseph
By Shevlin Sebastian
One day, Janet and her friends, all pre-degree students, were on the way to classes in the town of Thottilpalam in Kozhikode district. Suddenly, they saw a group of volleyball players. “All of them were tall,” says Janet. “But the tallest [at 6’3”] was Tom Joseph. I recognised him because I had seen his photo in the newspapers.” Tom was wearing a bright red T-shirt over a blue Adidas track pant.
Two years later, there was a marriage proposal for Janet. It was from Tom’s family. She agreed to meet him. So he came, in July, 2003.
“Tom asked me about my studies,” says Janet. “At that time, I was doing my degree at the Government College in Mokeri. He told me that if I wanted to study further, he would support me. As for me, I did not ask any questions since I did not have any idea of volleyball. I had never seen a match.” Nevertheless, they both liked each other.
The marriage took place more than a year later, on October 23, 2004. The wait was partly because Janet had to finish her degree exams, while Tom took part in the South Asian Games at Islamabad.
As for the wedding day, Janet remembers two things. One was the presence of champion long jumper Anju Bobby George and her husband Bobby. “The other memory that remains vivid for me was that I was feeling so hungry,” says Janet. “I had my breakfast at 6.30 a.m., and the lunch at 3.30 p.m. There were so many introductions and photos to be taken, thanks to the presence of fans, well-wishers, relatives and friends. So we could not take a break for food.”
Following the marriage, they went to Dubai for a honeymoon. For Janet it was her first visit abroad. She was taken aback by the sight of the desert and the food habits of the Arabs. In the end, she told Tom that there is no place more beautiful than Kerala. But when Tom took her to Salalah in Oman, she had to admit that it was similar to Kerala.
Meanwhile, after 11 years of marriage, Janet is a fan of Tom. “He is simple and humble,” she says. “Tom behaves in the same way with everybody. He has friends who are labourers, rubber tappers and unemployed youths. Tom has never forgotten his roots. He has a deep love for our native place.”
Tom is also a family man. “No matter how busy he is, Tom has always shown the same love and dedication which he has for volleyball towards me and the family,” says Janet.
The family includes eight-year-old Riya, and Stuart, who is three. “The third one is on the way,” says Janet, with a smile.
Meanwhile, when asked about his drawbacks, Janet says, “If I tell a serious matter to him, he always reacts in a cool manner. He will say, ‘Don’t worry. Things will work out’. I feel that not everything should be taken in a relaxed way. Sometimes, urgent action is required.”
Another drawback is his reticence. “I keep talking a lot, but Tom says little,” says Janet. “This is the case when he is with his friends also. He is a very good listener.”
But on the court Tom is very expressive. “He is always encouraging his teammates,” says Janet. “Tom can be aggressive. His smashes are very good. I get surprised when I watch him play, because he is a different person on the court.”
But Janet is not surprised that it has not been an easy life. Since Tom is away most of the time playing or in training, at Coimbatore, she has to run the house on her own. “Sometimes, I feel stressed,” she says. “My children miss Tom a lot. Riya says that because her father is not at home, they cannot go out and play in the park. Or go for an outing or see a film. So when Tom comes home, we go out often.”
Meanwhile, when asked about her happiest moment, Janet says, “The day [August 13, 2014] when it was announced that Tom had won the Arjuna Award, after a ten-year wait.”
But through all these years, Tom was not at all disheartened. “When I have a setback, it remains in my mind for months together and I feel depressed,” says Janet. “But for Tom it is different. As soon as he goes to sleep, he awakens the next morning feeling completely refreshed and positive-minded. He is like a new person. So, the denial of the award to him did not affect him too much.”
Janet says that the support shown by the media was the big difference. “If the media had not highlighted the issue, Tom may have never won the award,” she says.
Finally, when asked for tips for a successful marriage, Janet says, “You must understand each other well. Accept the plus, as well as the minus points of the spouse. There should be love for each other. Pray to God for guidance. Without God’s help, it is difficult to have a successful marriage.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)