Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Fine Balance

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Vineetha talks about life with MK Muneer, the Minister for Panchayats and Social Justice

Photo by BP Deepu

By Shevlin Sebastian 

Vineetha Muneer has received a lot of gifts from her husband MK Muneer, the Minister for Panchayats and Social Justice in the current UDF government. But the one she cherishes the most is a gold ring, with the name, 'Muneer', inscribed on it. “Muneer gave this ring to me on the day of our marriage,” says Vineetha. “It was the first gift that I received from him and is close to my heart. I wear it all the time.”

The arranged marriage took place on May 10, 1991 at Kozhikode. It was held in the midst of a hectic election campaign for the Kerala State assembly elections, which was to be held on May 23. However, on May 21, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. So, the elections were postponed to June 18.

Muneer stood, for the first time, representing the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), and won from the Kozhikode South constituency. (Incidentally, politics runs in the family. Muneer is the son of the late CH Mohammed Koya, a former chief minister of Kerala and IUML stalwart. )

Later, Vineetha accompanied Muneer when he went to attend the Assembly sessions at Thiruvananthapuram. “In the evenings, we would go out and enjoy ourselves,” she says. “That was our honeymoon.”

As a politician's wife, Vineetha sees both sides of Muneer's personality: the public and the private. In public, he is a person who smiles all the time and is willing to help anybody,” says Vineetha. “But at home, Muneer is a quiet person. Whatever tension he is going through in his career he will not show it to the family. He unwinds by listening to old songs. Muneer is also a voracious reader.”

This is not surprising since the family runs a publishing house: Olive Publications. Last year, husband and wife went to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair at Germany. “Muneer was very happy as he spent a few days browsing through the books of so many countries,” says Vineetha. “It was a rare occasion when we were together for long hours.”

In fact, one of the drawbacks of being a politician is that you don't get much time to spend with the family. Once when a family friend asked the youngest child, six-year-old Maleeha, what her father did, she said, “Bapa comes home suddenly and goes away quickly.”

But Muneer is close to Maleeha. Both father and daughter have a fondness for cats. 
Recently, the actor Appa Haja gave a black Persian cat to Muneer, who gifted it to Maleeha.

The couple have two other children. Mohammed Muflih, 22, is doing his third-year MBBS at the MES Medical College at Perinthalmanna, while Mohammed Minnah, 18, is doing his Plus Two. “Muneer keeps track of his children's studies,” says Vineetha. “When exams are taking place, he will call to inquire about how they have done.”

But on the rare occasion they are free, the family goes out: to visit relatives, see movies or eat outside. “There are many occasions when Muneer is unable to attend family programmes,” says Vineetha. “But if he is in a particular area where there are relatives, whose functions he has missed, he will go and see them. He even visits the houses of his employees.”

For Vineetha, perhaps the major drawback of being a politician's wife is the lack of privacy. On the weekends, when the Thiruvananthapuram-based couple go to Kozhikode, there are visitors in all the rooms of the house including the kitchen. They include colleagues and party workers, those who want admission to schools and colleges, a few who need medical and financial help, and some who want assistance to get their daughters married off.

The only place where one can have a bit of privacy is in the bathroom,” says Vineetha. “I have got used to it. But the people remain only till Muneer is at home. Once he leaves, everybody follows him out of the house.”

Because of Muneer's busyness, Vineetha handles all the responsibilities of running the household on her own. So she will attend parent-teacher meetings in school, take the children to hospital when they are unwell and keep track of their studies. And she also offers emotional support to her husband when he is stressed out.

There is always a tension when one is in the spotlight,” says Vineetha. “You have to be careful of what you say and how you behave. Sometimes, when Muneer comes home, he looks stressed. So I quickly switch on the TV, so that he can listen to songs. It calms him down.”

Asked for tips to have a calm marriage, Vineetha says, “There should not be any secrets or lies between the spouses. Then the husband and wife will feel free with each other. We must accept the positive and negative qualities of the spouse. If your husband has said something which has upset you, keep quiet about it. Much later, when he is in a relaxed mood, you can tell him in a friendly manner. Then there is a good chance he will accept what you are saying.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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