Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Married to a Communist

COLUMN: Spouse’s Turn

Vinodini talks about life with the former Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Vinodini Rajagopalan was in Class 8, she remembers seeing her future husband, the former Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. “He was wearing a cream shirt and mundu,” says Vinodini. The 23-year-old Balakrishnan had come to see Vinodini's father, M.V. Rajagoplan, a CPI(M) leader from Thalaserry. Both the families lived in the same area. However, when Vinodini grew up, she went to do a Teacher's Training Course in Bangalore. It was during this time that a proposal came to Rajagopalan from the Balakrishnan family. So Vinodini returned and got married to Balakrishnan on April 27, 1980 at a ceremony at the Old Town Hall at Thalaserry.

Following the function, the couple returned home and had lunch. Thereafter, Balakrishnan left. “My relatives were present in the house, but Balakrishnan went to attend a meeting of the DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India) at Thalaserry, accompanied by leaders like MA Baby and CP John,” says Vinodini. “So, there was no question of a honeymoon.”

However, three months later, the couple travelled together by train to attend a DYFI meeting at Kottayam. “That was the first time we spent some time together,” she says.

But 32 years later, Vinodini has only good things to say about her husband. “I can only talk from my own experience,” she says. “At home, Balakrishnan is pleasant and loving. He rarely loses his temper. But it is true that when he loses it, it can be severe. One of the reasons we fight very little is because he is rarely at home.”

What helped Vinodini to handle the absence was her earlier experience. “My father was a politician [a MLA from Thalaserry] and I understand that life,” she says. “Politicians can spare very little time for the family. So, I don't demand anything from my husband, nor do I ask that he take me out anywhere.”

And for the first 16 years, while Vinodini lived with her sons, Benoy and Bineesh at Thalaserry, Balakrishnan lived in Thiruvananthapuram, with a brief stint in Kannur. “When he was in Kannur, as the Zilla Secretary, he stayed at the party office during the week and came home only on the weekends.”

As a result, the sons pined for the father. “They missed him a lot,” says Vinodini. “But as a father, Balakrishnan was more like a friend, rather than a parent. In fact, I was the strict one in the family.”

However, in 1996, the family relocated to Thiruvananthapuram, and they finally began to live together as a family.

Because of Balakrishnan's constant absence, Vinodini had to shoulder the responsibility of running the household. “I had to look after the children's studies, ensure that their schooling went smoothly, and handle all the other problems,” she says. “I still buy all the clothes for my husband, including his handkerchiefs, cuff links, and shirts. Balakrishnan did not know anything about the house then, nor does he know anything now. In fact, finding the girls for my sons' marriage was also done by me.”
And both the sons gave their parents an extraordinary experience. Their wives gave birth on the same day in the same year: July 25, 2011. Bineesh's wife, Rineeta, gave birth to a daughter, Bhadra, at 7 a.m. in Thiruvananthapuram, while Benoy's wife, Akhila, had a son, Aryan, at noon in Thrissur. “Yes, it was amazing and one of the big moments of our lives,” says Vinodini.

Balakrishnan has had big moments in his career, but there have been times of severe tension, because of controversies. So what happens when her husband is going through a stressful time and comes home? “I don't ask him the reasons,” says Vinodini. “I have no idea about politics. I just keep quiet and tell him all the household news. I feel that if I ask him about the problems that will deepen the stress and the worry.”

Meanwhile, moving around in society herself, Vinodini is worried at the high rate of divorce among young people these days. “Part of the blame has to be placed on the parents of the girls,” she says. “They should not interfere in their daughter's lives. Let her solve the marital problems on her own. And the daughter should not be encouraged to leave the marriage. Because one day the parents will die and the girl will be left all alone.”

About Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is deputy opposition leader of the Kerala Assembly. He held the same post from 2001-6. During the rule by the LDF government (2006-11), he was the home and tourism minister. Today, he is a politburo member of the CPI(M). Balakrishnan was the MLA, from Thalaserry, in 1982, 1987, 2001, and 2006. During the Emergency (1975-77), Balakrishnan was imprisoned for 16 months. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)