Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cut Down In His Prime

Rema talks about her late husband, the politician TP Chandrasekharan

By Shevlin Sebastian

KK Rema was in Class 10 when she saw TP Chandrasekharan for the first time. He had come to their home in Naduvannur in Kozhikode district with Rema's elder sister Prema. Both of them were members of the Students Federation of India (SFI). A year later, in 1989, when Rema secured admission to the pre-degree course at the Guruvayurappan College in Kozhikode, she also joined the SFI. Politics ran in the family. Her father, K K Madhavan was a former area committee secretary of the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) as well as the president of the Naduvannur panchayat.

Rema and Chandrasekharan would meet each other at rallies and protests. By this time, Chandrasekharan had become a state committee member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).

Initially, I was not attracted to Chandretten,” says Rema. “He seemed like a tough person. I never felt free when I was with him.”

But they became close when they met at a woman's camp in Kottayam organised by the DYFI. Sometime later, KP Chandran, (DYFI Zilla Committee member at Kozhikode), told Rema that Chandrasekharan wanted to marry her. Rema asked for some time. Later, the CPM party members spoke to Rema's parents. “They, along with my sisters, were happy about it,” says Rema. “But my relatives were apprehensive since Chandretten did not have a job.”

Anyway, the marriage took place at the Vadakara Town Hall on October 16, 1994. There was a significant age-difference between the couple. While Chadrasekharan was 33, Rema was 23.

It was a simple wedding: just an exchange of garlands. Thereafter, guests were given a piece of cake and a cup of tea. They did not have a chance to go for a honeymoon, because, on November 25, the Koothuparamba firing took place. Five DYFI activists died due to police firing because of their protest against former CPI(M) leader MV Raghavan. “So Chandretten had to go underground,” says Rema. “But much later he took me to Ooty and Kodaikanal.”

Asked about her husband's qualities, Rema says, “It was only after my marriage that I felt so free and happy. He gave me respect and freedom. I did not have to ask his permission to do anything. Chandretten was so caring.”

Six months after their marriage, Rema was alone at home, when she began to have severe stomach pains. It was late at night. Chandrasekharan had gone to another town, 10 kms away, for a function. There was no phone at home. So Rema went to the neighbour’s house and called him. Chandrasekahan said he would come immediately. But because it was so late, he could not get a vehicle. So he walked the entire distance so that he could be with Rema. “I have never forgotten that incident,” she says.

Whenever Chandrasekharan would be at home, he helped in the kitchen. “He could make tasty chicken, fish, squid and crab curries,” says Rema. “During Vishu and Onam, he would do all the cooking. Chandretten was also good at making milk payasam, which he would distribute to the children near our house.”

Perhaps his only drawback was that he had a short temper. “He would get angry suddenly,” says Rema. “But we made up quickly.”

The couple's most thrilling moment occurred when their son, Nandu, was born on January 13, 1996. “Chandretten told me he wanted children as soon as we got married,” says Rema. “That was why he was so happy. I remember when I stepped out of the room at the Kozhikode Medical College, since there were many people present, he could not show his excitement. So, he pressed my hand very hard.”

The years began to go past. In 2009, Chandrasekharan decided to float his own political outfit, the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP), because he felt that the CPM had moved away from its ideology. But Rema was apprehensive. “I felt a certainty within me that the CPM would harm him,” says Rema. She expressed her worries to Chandrasekharan, but he was determined to go ahead. “Once he makes a decision he goes ahead, irrespective of the consequences,” says Rema. It seemed to be the right move, because, in 2010, the RMP won the panchayat elections in Onchiyam and neighbouring villages.

But it all came crashing down on May 4, 2012. At 7 p.m., Rema called Chandrasekharan, 52, who was at the place called Vallikad. “I spoke to him about getting the keys of a bank safety locker,” says Rema. “Chandretten then told me he would be late.”

At 11 p.m., Chandrasekharan's close friend Jaffer called and asked for the number of the motorbike. “Immediately I suspected that something was wrong,” says Rema. “I called Chandretten, but got an engaged tone. I called many times but could not get through. I felt that he was involved in an accident. I never imagined that he would be murdered. There were no fights with the CPM at that time. Everything was peaceful. So the murder came as a shock.”

The brutal killing shocked Kerala. Chandrasekharan had been accosted by a group of men, and had received more than 50 stab wounds. He died instantly. The verdict of the murder case will be pronounced on January 22. Today, Rema works at the Vadakara Co-operative Bank, while Nandu is a first-year mechanical engineering student at the TKM College of Engineering at Kollam. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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