COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
V. Sreenivasan talks about life with former champion athlete P.T. Usha
Photo: By K. Shijith
By Shevlin Sebastian
When the news broke out in Ponnani that V. Sreenivasan, an inspector in the Central Industrial Security Force, was going to marry the illustrious athlete P.T. Usha, the people in the town did not know what to make of it. When Sreenivasan went to the fish market or the provision store on his cycle or by foot, the shop-keepers asked him whether he would soon be coming by car. At that time, Usha owned a Standard 2000 car, which was one of the most expensive cars.
“When I would travel on the bus they would say the same thing,” says Sreenivasan. “There were many comments like that. I think they were afraid that I would change as a person.”
It was an arranged marriage. Sreenivasan had heard, through his relatives and friends that Usha was a family-oriented girl who knew how to adjust to all types of people. “There are some wives who will create unity, while others create disunity,” he says. “I needed a wife who knew how to live in a joint family.”
Their horoscopes matched and when they met there was a mutual liking. The couple got married at the Arzhakodi Devi Mandiram in Kozhikode on April 25, 1991.
And today, the duo leads a routine life in Payolli. At 5.45 a.m., Sreenivasan and Usha set out for the Usha School of Athletics at Kinaloor, Balussery, which is 36 kms away. Usha supervises the training of 17 girls, ranging in age, from 12 to 23, while Sreenivasan is busy helping her in various ways.
By noon, they return to Payolli. After lunch and an afternoon nap, they return to the school by 4 p.m. More training and supervision follows for the next three hours, Then they return home. “Thereafter, after dinner, we will review the performances of the wards, and answer e-mails,” says Sreenivasan. “Then the schedule for the next day is fixed and we will go to bed at 11 p.m.”
During the week, sometimes, both of them have meetings with doctors, regarding injuries to the athletes, sponsors, government officials and the media. “People will come to Usha for different types of recommendation,” says Sreenivasan. “There are visits by relatives and fans.”
Having seen Usha at close quarters for so long, Sreenivasan is an admirer of her character. “She is a bold person,” he says. “Once she makes a decision, on the personal or professional front, she does not budge from it.” But then Sreenivasan pauses, smiles, and says, “Except when it comes to our twenty-year-old son, Ujjwal, when she can suddenly become flexible.”
Her other strong quality is her perseverance. “Usha will never give up,” says Sreenivasan. “She will keep trying. That is how she was able to set up the PT Usha School of Athletics, despite several hurdles. Her honesty and capacity for hard work is more than 100 per cent.”
Of course, the champion athlete has drawbacks. “Usha can lose her temper quickly,” says Sreenivasan. “But she cools down just as fast. As a straight-forward person, who tells the truth, she has to endure a lot of controversies. I tell her not to be so frank. Sometimes, you have to say things in an indirect manner. Otherwise, people will get upset. But she will not change. Because of this, on many occasions, she has suffered from setbacks. If an official causes a delay, she will get angry and ask the reasons for it. So, what should have been sanctioned in a week can take up to four years.”
Asked about his experience as the husband of a celebrity, Sreenivasan says, “Usha knows how to tackle it. When we go for a public function, as soon as the organisers see Usha, they will surround her and take her to the dais. Nobody would have noticed me. Usha will walk a few steps and stop. The organisers will ask what has happened. Usha will look back, point at me, and say, 'My husband is also here'. Then they will rush to accompany me. And Usha will give me a sweet smile.”
Asked for tips for a successful marriage, Sreenivasan says, “Where there is love there will be quarrels, anger, and sadness. If these experiences are not there, then it is not a genuine marriage. It is important to communicate with each other and solve the problems. Otherwise, it will affect the children.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)