Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Struck by Lightning

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Suresh Parambath talks about life with the best-selling writer Anita Nair

Photo by Nagesh Polali

By Shevlin Sebastian

Suresh Parambath met the writer Anita Nair when she was only 16 years old. “It seemed as if lightning had struck me,” he says. “I was attracted to her instantly. Anita was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. She was a city girl (Chennai), while I was a small-town guy from Kozhikode.”

The meeting took place at Shornur. Suresh had gone to see his sister Prema. Anita and Prema became friends when the former came to see her grandmother who lived nearby.

Thereafter, Suresh and Anita began writing to each other. Sometimes, they wrote poems too. Suresh remembers a couple of lines he had written: ‘Fourteen freckles on a frilly French nose/And curls and more curls to frame it all.’

Suresh went a couple of times to Chennai to see her. Anita did the same when Suresh re-located to Thiruvananthapuram for a job. Soon, it was clear to both that they liked each other. And with their parents’ blessings, they got married on May 28, 1986 at Shornur. Unfortunately, they had no money to go for a honeymoon, because both had just begun careers – Anita as a freelance writer and Suresh in advertising.

Not surprisingly, after 28 years of marriage, Suresh is still crazy over Anita. “She is very beautiful,” he says. “Anita has wonderful eyes. They are big and emotive. That may be because she is a trained Bharatnatyan dancer. Anita is also interested in Kathakali, in which strong feelings are expressed through the eyes. I like her hair, too.”

Suresh is equally enamoured of Anita’s character. “She is a remarkable person,” he says. “I am not talking about the writing part. She is a caring person. The grandchildren of our maid, Rajeshwari Amma, are being educated by Anita. There are others who have finished college, thanks to Anita's help.”

She is also a good mother. They have one son, Maitreya, who is doing his first-year post graduation in English. “He looks up to her,” says Suresh.

But like all creative people, Anita has her moods. “She can snap at me at times,” says Suresh. “But that happens in all marriages. Since 16, she has been on a wonderful journey of evolution. I have seen her blossom from a young girl into this great writer the world applauds.”

Yes, indeed, Anita is that rare phenomenon: a well-known writer whose books sell well. “In Bangalore, people run after her when we go out in public,” says Suresh. “They ask, ‘Are you Anita Nair?’ When she says yes, they will want an autograph or a picture taken.”

Sometimes, Suresh is also introduced, “The people nod politely but they are just not interested in knowing anything about me,” says Suresh with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Anita has a fan following abroad, mostly in Europe and Italy, where she is a household name. Suresh remembers a trip he made with Anita to a small Italian town, Vittorio Veneto, a few years ago. A reception had been hosted by the mayor for the Indian author. “We got lost and were running behind schedule,” says Suresh “The Mayor said he would send two police cars.”

Soon the police cars, with sirens blowing, escorted the couple. “When we reached the town hall, the mayor himself was waiting outside to receive Anita,” says Suresh. “There were about 200 people present, which, I assume, was the whole of the town. This was just after the release of ‘Ladies Coupe’. What I remember was that the event was conducted in Italian and Anita was the only person who spoke in English. And Anita’s Italian translator Francesco Diano did the translation. After the event, the Mayor took us to a tavern where we drank some wine.”

When asked why Anita’s books do well in Italy, Suresh says, “The family is central to life there, just like in India. And that is why Italians can relate to the characters in Anita’s novels.”

Anita has been prolific – 14 books till now – thanks to her daily writing habit. She wakes up at 5.30 a.m., and does a round of walking or swimming at their gated community in Hennore, a village, 18 kms from Bangalore. Thereafter, she starts work. During this time, Anita lives in a world of her own. “Nowadays I can detect easily when she is in a creative mood and I quickly give her the space she needs,” says Suresh.

What sets apart Anita is her passion and dedication. Writing clearly is the No. 1 priority. “I don’t have any problems with that,” says Suresh. “There was a time when I also had a great deal of passion and worked 18 hours a day, travelling and making TV commercials for J Walter Thompson, where I was Associate Vice-President and Senior Creative Director,” he says. “So I can understand what Anita is going through.”

Today, Suresh has slowed down and runs a consultancy firm called PaidPiper of Brands. And, in conversation, he comes across as a rare male; one who is a feminist at heart.

I don't think a woman's place should be in the kitchen,” he says. “They should be able to go out and do what they want. Why should they be sequestered in the house only? If you look at us, my name is Suresh Parambath, while Anita has kept her maiden surname. I agree with this. A lot of men expect their wife to adopt their surnames. A woman should never lose her identity. Why should she be somebody else's half?” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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