Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Running on the Same Track

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Dr. Deepak Gopinath talks about life with champion athlete Preeja Sreedharan

By Shevlin Sebastian

Dr. Deepak Gopinath saw Preeja Sreedharan at a felicitation function at Palakkad following her performance at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, where she won the 10,000m gold and a silver in the 5000m.

Much later, he came across her profile on a matrimonial website and sent a query. Following an exchange of mails, it was found that their horoscopes matched. On September 27, 2012, Deepak, along with his mother and a few relatives went and met Preeja’s family. “In fact her house in the Railway Colony is behind the Kendriya Vidyalaya school in Olavakkode where I studied,” says Deepak.

The marriage took place on November 11, 2012 at Palakkad. For their honeymoon, they went to Indore where Deepak had to appear for an exam. Thereafter, they visited a few tourist sights, did the same in Delhi and Bangalore. After they returned to Kerala, they went for a holiday to Munnar and Thekkady.

Today, they are in two different locations. While Deepak is doing his specialisation in Radiation Oncology at Kozhikode Medical College, Preeja is training at the high-altitude centre at Munnar with colleague Sinimol Paulose and her husband Ajith Markose.

Every day she runs 20 kms in the morning and 10 kms in the evening,” says Deepak. “To develop endurance, Preeja runs in the hilly areas. Then she does speed work on the track. The schedule changes from day to day. Ajith is overseeing the training. Usually, Preeja runs 300 kms every week.”

Till a few months ago, they had been living together, so Deepak has a good idea of Preeja’s character.

At home, she does not behave like a star at all,” says Deepak. “Preeja does the cooking, sweeps the floors, washes the dishes as well as the clothes. In fact, once, a visitor who came to our house saw Preeja doing the housework, and assumed that she was a helper. So he said, ‘Can you call Dr. Deepak’s wife?’”

Unlike a modern girl, she is very obedient. “If I tell Preeja not to do something, she will not do it,” says Deepak. “She has a tendency to follow the patriarchal system. Whatever she wants to do, she will take my permission. If she goes to a shop and wants to buy a salwar kameez, Preeja will call and ask for my permission. She must be the only girl in these times to do this. And if I say no, she will not buy it.”

Deepak gives an example of Preeja’s down-to-earth nature. When Preeja went to take part in this month’s Kolkata Marathon, where she won the gold medal, Deepak organised a flight ticket for her return. But then the couple had a tiff. So Preeja decided she would return by train using her own money. She got a reservation, but a junior athlete who was travelling with Preeja did not get a seat. “This girl was running a fever and had body pains,” says Deepak. “So Preeja gave her berth to her, and spent the entire journey near the toilet. She put newspapers on the floor and slept there. Preeja never complained about it, but I did get upset when I came to know.”

Deepak is frank about Preeja’s negative traits. “Since she has concentrated so much on her athletics career, Preeja is a bit behind when it comes to academic qualifications, letter-writing and communications skills,” he says. “She will have to develop these attributes to be an effective chief officer superintendent [her current designation in the Railways].”

But on the athletic track, it is a different ball game. Deepak saw Preeja run for the first time, during the 5000m and 10,000m at the senior Nationals at Chennai in July, 2013. “Preeja had a look of determination,” he says. “It was nice to see how bold and confident she was.” Not surprisingly, she won gold medals in both events. But her rivals, like Kavita Raut and L. Surya, are her friends, and they go shopping together. “During the race, they will discuss on how to set the pace, in order to clock good timings,” says Deepak.  

Preeja’s immediate goal is to take part in the Asian Indoor Championships in February at Hangzhou, China. Thereafter, she will concentrate on the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, Scotland in June.

Meanwhile, when asked for tips for a successful marriage, Deepak says, “Most young people think only about themselves. When there is some problem, the attitude is how will deal with it, instead of we. When there is a fight, spouses do not know how to compromise and resolve the issue. That is why there are so many problems in new marriages.”

Deepak has more tips. “Treat the parents and relatives of your wife's family as your own. There should be mutual respect. Appreciate the plus points of your spouse. As for the minus points, the best way is to accept and adapt to it.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)   

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