Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Married to a full-time politician

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Vani talks about life with P. Rajeev, Rajya Sabha member

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Vani Kesari received a marriage proposal from P. Rajeev she assumed that he was a journalist, since he was the resident editor of the Deshabhimani newspaper. It was only later she realised that he was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

During their first meeting in April, 2004, Rajeev said that he led a busy life and travelled a lot. “He told me the time which he could spend with the family would be limited,” she says.

Impressed by his candidness, Vani said yes and the couple got married on June 12, 2004. It was a party marriage, which meant that there were no religious rituals. “Rajeev told me that he did not believe in God but was okay if I did,” says Vani. They exchanged garlands and rings in the presence of several dignitaries.

Later, they went for a brief honeymoon in Bangalore where Rajeev went to attend a meeting. In the evenings, they would go for shopping and walks in the parks.

After eight years, what Rajeev said turned out to be true. The time that this elected member of the Rajya Sabha spends with the family, which includes daughters Hridhya, 7, and Haritha, 5, is, indeed, very limited. On any given day, he leaves at 8 or 9 a.m., and returns at 9.30 p.m., or later.

At night, their daughters will keep looking through the drawing-room window at the gate of their house, near the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). “They usually meet him if he comes by 10 p.m.,” says Vani. “They are very attached to him. So, they feel disappointed when he does not come before they go to sleep.”

But Rajeev is keen to make his children happy. So, every morning, he dresses them in their uniforms and sometimes helps Hridhya and Haritha in their studies.

For Vani, the most memorable experience was when she gave birth to Hridhya at a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. “My daughter was born on Rajeev's birthday, June 1,” she says. “It is a rare instance of a father and daughter sharing the same birthday.”

Meanwhile, Vani has begun to realise that being the wife of a politician is not an easy experience. Recently, she had gone to attend a function at CUSAT, where she is an assistant professor of law. A man said, “You are wearing an expensive saree! Well, your husband is in a good position, so he can buy them at an exorbitant rate.”

Vani replied, “Sir, would you not buy a good saree for your wife?”

Vani pauses, and says, “There is a notion among a section of the public that if your husband is in public service, he is corrupt. The politician is a much-needed person, as far as individual problems are concerned, but in the public eye, he is always seen as a dishonest person. That is why youngsters, with a good educational background, are reluctant to enter politics.”

When Vani told Rajeev about the incident, he did not react. “My husband takes the ups and downs of life with a sense of detachment,” says Vani. “All politicians are aware that some members of the public look down upon them. Undoubtedly, it is a painful experience.”

For Rajeev, work is his solace. “He is also a voracious reader,” says Vani. “One of his favourite authors is [Marxist historian] Eric Hobsbawm. He has also written books and is always penning articles.”

One disappointment for Rajeev is that Vani does not know to read Malayalam. She grew up in Chennai, the youngest, of three daughters, of a Merchant Navy captain. “Rajeev had asked me to learn Malayalam, since it is our mother-tongue,” she says.

Meanwhile, Vani has got used to another aspect of a politician's life: the lack of privacy. By 5.30 a.m., people gather outside the house in order to meet Rajeev. “They come for medical or financial help, or to invite him to attend certain functions,” she says. “Sometimes, they share their personal and professional problems with him. And my husband tries to offer solutions.”

Asked for tips for a successful marriage, Vani says, “Mutual trust and respect are important. People marry because they want companionship. So, spouses should be friends with each other. Both husband and wife comes from different backgrounds, hence, adjustments are necessary, if the marriage is to succeed.” 

About P. Rajeev

P. Rajeev was elected to Rajya Sabha on April 27, 2009. He is a native of Meladoor in Thrissur District. He graduated in Economics from St. Paul's College, Kalamassery and did his LLB from Government Law College in Ernakulam. Rajeev also holds a diploma in Chemical Engineering from the Government Polytechnic, Kalamassery. He was a practicing lawyer at the High Court of Kerala before becoming a full-time politician. Today, he is a state committee member of the CPI (M). 

Rajeev has published a few books: 'Aagolavalkkarna kalathe campus', 'Vivadhangalile Vedhiyanagal', '1957 Charithravum Varthamnavum (editor)', and 'Purakku Mel Chanja Maram' (with other contributors).

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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