COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Dancer Santhi talks about her life with music composer Bijibal
By Shevlin Sebastian
In January, 2000, Santhi Mohandas received awards for Bharat Natyam, Mohiniyattom and Kuchipudi for a Youth Festival competition held at the Town Hall, Kochi. The man who presented them was music composer Bijibal. “I did not notice him then,” she says.
Santhi’s brother, Prashant, was learning to play the violin. When his teacher went abroad for an extended period, he looked for a new guide. The family knew a musician by the name of Sudheer Kumar. When they contacted him, Sudheer said that his cousin, Bijibal, played and taught the violin well.
One day, Sudheer went with Bijibal to the Mohandas home. When Santhi opened the door, Bijibal said, “Aren't you Santhi?” She was surprised by the question. “Then Bijibal said that he had met me earlier, at the prize distribution,” says Santhi. “It was then that I recalled his face.”
Bijibal started teaching Prashant at his house. Now and then he would call the Mohandas home to ask Prashant to come. “Sometimes, I would attend the calls,” says Santhi. “On the phone he sounded very friendly. He asked me about my studies and dance. After a while, he told me that he believed in coincidences. Then, finally, he said that he was interested in me. I said I had to ask my mother. I was only 19 then.”
After her father's death on August 6, 1997, Santhi’s mother, Nalini, was very protective of her. “When I told my mother she smiled, and said, ‘Let us ask the elders and check out the horoscope,’” says Santhi. “That gave me an indication that my mother was positive about Bijibal. Because of that, I began to develop feelings for him.”
Thereafter, everything went smoothly and the engagement took place on April 27, 2002. “We never went out for dates before our marriage,” says Santhi. “He would call me to go out with him, but my mother said no. So Bijibal would come home.”
However, on one occasion, he got permission from Nalini to take Santhi to the Ernakulathappan Shiva temple. “While there, I felt nervous and thought, ‘What if somebody saw us?’” says Santhi. Just then, Bijibal’s aunt, Suma, stepped forward and said hello to Bijibal. “Then Bijibal introduced me,” says Santhi. Suma said, “Oh, yes, let things go ahead. Don’t worry, I will not tell anything to anybody.”
Santhi felt embarrassed, and wanted to leave immediately. Anyway, they got onto a bus and at the Janatha stop, Bijibal got down because his bike was parked there. As the bus left, Santhi felt bad that she did not say a proper goodbye to Bijibal. “Suddenly, there he was, on his bike, at the side of the bus, waving and shouting goodbye to me,” says Santhi. “I felt red-faced as the other women passengers stared at me.”
Eventually, the couple tied the knot on June 21, 2002. And after ten years of marriage, Santhi loves the fact that Bijibal is a calm and relaxed person. “If there is some problem, and we need to solve it, he says that there is nothing to get worried about,” says Santhi. “There are so many remedies. And I feel calm, as if somebody has poured cold water over my hot head.”
Santhi also loves the fact that Bijibal is such a good violin player. “When I was pregnant, I used to tell him, ‘Vava wants to listen to some music’, and he would play for me,” says Santhi. “He can play nice keerthanams and soulful film songs.” Bijibal is also good at pencil drawing and reciting poems. “But now because of his busy career, he has no time to do all these things,” says Santhi, with a trace of regret in her voice.
But since Shanti is a professional dancer, she understands the compulsions of her husband. “Music is a passion for him,” she says. “Like him, I am also an artiste. I know how much sincerity, dedication and hard work you need to put in so that you become good at your art. So I give him full freedom.”
But sometimes, Bijibal’s absence can have an effect. “The children [Devadutt, 8, and three-year-old daughter, Daya] miss him,” says Santhi. “But more than that, I tell him, ‘You are missing their growth. It is fun to see their games, change of expressions, and joy of life.”
Meanwhile, asked the secret of a successful marriage, Santhi says, “It should be an equal relationship. One should give and receive respect. We should have trust in each other. My husband meets young singers, while I work with other dancers. So, faith is important. I know of quite a few friends whose marriages have broken up because of a lack of trust.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)