Tuesday, November 05, 2013

'He Can Face Any Difficulty'

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Preethy talks about life with Vellappally Natesan, the president of the Shree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam

Photo by Mithun Vinod 

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Vellappally Natesan came to see Preethy, he wore a violet shirt and a mundu that scraped the floor. “Some of my relatives wondered whether he was suffering from elephantiasis and had covered his legs,” says Preethy. “After all he was from the Cherthala area, where elephantiasis was prevalent.”

Anyway, that turned out to be false. Preethy's father liked Natesan and gave the go-ahead for the marriage. At that time, Preethy was doing her pre-degree in Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram. And at 17, she was 13 years younger than Natesan. “In those times, we just obeyed our father,” she says. The marriage took place on July 13, 1967. And when Preethy went to Natesan's house at Kanichukulangara, for the first time, her mother-in-law brought a cup of milk which she was supposed to drink.

I am allergic to milk,” says Preethy, at her son Tushar's flat at Kochi. “If I drank it I would have vomited. So I said no. Thankfully, my mother-in-law did not take offence. In fact, she gave me her blessings. In today's world, my refusal would have caused an earthquake between two families. But my mother-in-law realised that I was innocent.”

A month after her marriage, rumours swirled in the town that Natesan had killed a CPI(M) worker by the name of Divakaran. “I felt a deep pain,” she says. “I did not know whether to believe this or not. His friends came and told me he is not a person who will kill anybody. Natesan was feeling bad about how to explain that such an event did not take place.”

Three days later, there was a call from the Sub-Inspector from the Muhamma police station. “Divakaran is in front of me,” said the police officer. “He had gone to Kottayam for some work and had not told anybody.” Thus, the controversy came to an end.

At that time, Natesan was president of the Devaswom Board at the Devi Kanichikulangara temple. There were two warring factions, with one group who had allied with Natesan. “It was a battlefield in those times,” says Preethy.

Some time later, when Natesan banned a ritual which involved the drinking of toddy at the temple, he angered a group of people. Not long after, in 1976, there was an assassination attempt.

Natesan, who had a business in arrack, had gone to the Excise Department at Cherthala to get some work done. On the way, he was waylaid by four men. “They were members of a quotation gang,” says Preethy. One raised a knife and Natesan blocked the blow with his hand. A second man also raised a dagger, but as he brought it down, towards Natesan’s neck, it got stuck on a banana branch. Natesan immediately stepped back. So, they threw an acid bulb at him and ran away.

Most of the liquid fell on his chest and arms,” says Preethy. “Just two drops fell on his face.” He had to do plastic surgery for four months, at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, but the scars are still visible. “That is why he usually wears full-sleeve shirts,” says Preethy.

A year later, on October 10, 1977, tragedy struck the family. Their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Vineeth, drowned in a pond behind their house in Kanichukulangara. “It was a pond which did not have much water,” says Preethy. “But because of heavy overnight rain, the pond became flooded. There was a goat tied near the edge. When my son went to catch it, he lost his balance and fell into the water. Unfortunately, nobody saw this. He was a quiet and well-behaved boy. God gave us this child and took him away too soon.”

Asked about Natesan’s qualities as a father to son Tushar and daughter, Vandana, Preethy says, “Because of his busy career as the president of the SNDP (Shree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam), Natesan was not present at home often. But he would take them out for outings, whenever he had the chance. He would never scold or punish them. Natesan was more like a friend, and they felt comfortable to talk to him. When I would be strict with the children, they would complain to their father.”

For Preethy she is proud that her husband set up a micro finance credit system that has benefited lakhs of poor Ezhavas, and transformed their life. “He also came up with the idea of family units, prayer meetings and even pre-marriage counselling,” says Preethy.

What she likes the most about him is his fearlessness. “Natesan can face any difficulty in life,” she says. “He has always told me that when a problem arises, we should immediately think about the worst thing that can happen. In the end, if the worst does not take place, then whatever happens is a plus. His strength comes from his deep faith in Devi Kanichukulangara.”

When asked about his negative traits, Preethy says, “When he gets angry, he tells what is on his mind. But, thereafter, he forgets what he has said. But those who have been at the receiving end never do so and become his enemies.” Not so, Preethy, who is a friend of her husband, and admires him, even after 46 years of marriage.

On the qualities needed for a successful marriage, she says, “At times, you should be willing to lose to your spouse,” she says. “There should be no ego tussles. Both husband and wife should be equal and stand together to make the family move forward. They should be like Shiva and Parvathy.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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