Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sharing the Same Goal

COLUMN: Spouse'sTurn

Aneeshya talks about life with the Indian hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh 

By Shevlin Sebastian

By 2 p.m., on October 2, neighbours, friends and relatives begin to troop into the house of hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, at Erumeli, near Kochi. Soon, print, as well as TV journalists, arrived. They have come to watch the telecast of the Asian Games final between India and Pakistan at Incheon, South Korea, along with the family. At home is Sreejesh's wife, Aneeshya, 26, their four-month-old daughter, Anusree, and Sreejesh's parents.

The telecast begins. Soon, there are cheers and groans. It is a closely-fought match. At the end of regulation time, the score is 1-1. During the tie-breaker, Sreejesh saves the first, while the second one is a goal. For the third penalty, the Pakistan forward Muhammad Umar Butta sets out from the 23 metre-line and heads towards the goal. A confident Sreejesh, in a bright red jersey, and thick blue pads, runs out to block Umar.

And it is at this moment that Anusree lets out a loud wail. So Aneeshya has to run towards the bedroom. As a result, she could not see the action unfolding on the screen. “But when I heard the claps, cheers and shouts, I knew Sreejesh had saved the shot,” she says. “I felt my heart beat so fast. He had become the hero of the team.” And of the village and country, also.

As you approach Erumeli, you can see numerous placards and posters on walls and trees congratulating him. But for Aneeshya the most moving felicitation took place when she accompanied Sreejesh to the St. Joseph's Higher Secondary school at Kizhakambalam, where he had been a student.

The students were between the ages of 5 to 12,” says Aneeshya. “They were saying, 'Chetta, Chetta', and asking Sreejesh for autographs. All the children had big smiles. I could see from their eyes that they all wanted to be like Sreejesh. They were thinking, 'If Sreejesh chettan can do it, then we can'. So his presence was an inspiring one.”

Sreejesh has also been an inspiration for Aneeshya. They met for the first time at the GV Raja Sports School in Thiruvananthapuram where they were students in Class nine. While Aneeshya was good at sprints and the long jump, Sreejesh was concentrating on hockey.

We began speaking to each four months after classes began,” says Aneeshya. “Sreejesh would often go for national camps. When he returned I would share my notes with him. Slowly, we developed an affection for each other, although we never expressed it.”

After she finished her Class 10 exams, Aneeshya decided to concentrate on her studies and joined the Sree Narayana Vilasam Higher Secondary School in Idukki district. For three years, they did not see each other. 

Instead, they communicated through letters, since there were no mobile phones in those days. “Both of us would motivate each other,” says Aneeshya. “I would tell him to do well in his goalkeeping and he would say the same thing about my studies. At that time, our primary aim was to get a job.”

One day, they arranged to meet at the Thodupuzha bus stand. “When we met we realised that we loved each other,” says Aneeshya. Since they belonged to the same caste, both sets of parents did not raise any objections. “My father felt that since the relationship had continued for such a long time, there must be a genuine love on both sides,” says Aneeshya.

The couple got married on May 12, 2013, at the Maha Vishnu Temple at Kizhakambalam. By this time, Aneeshya had qualified as an Ayurveda doctor.

When asked to list her husband's qualities, Aneeshya says, “He is a dedicated professional. Whenever he plays, he does it with focus and determination. He always gives attention to me, because we spend so little time together. Ever since we got married, he had to go for long training camps to take part in the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.”

Aneeshya has not seen Sreejesh in training, but has watched him play in a tournament in Chennai in September, 2013. “On the field, his eyes are always focused on the player who has the ball,” she says. “I was looking at him and thinking, 'Is he under tension?' When there was a lull in the play, he would quickly look at me.”

However, like most top-class performers, Sreejesh has a short temper. “I have realised that the best way to get him to relax is to let him be alone for a while,” says Aneeshya.

When Sreejesh is at home, they go to see films at the Lulu Mall, and have lunch or dinner outside. Sometimes, they visit friends and relatives. But Sreejesh does not stay away from training, even while on a break. “He goes to the local gym in the early mornings,” says Aneeshya.

Finally, when asked to give tips for a good marriage, Aneeshya says, “If you love somebody, and if that person is not able to do certain things, you will not take it in a negative way. If the husband is feeling stressed out, there is a reason for it, and the wife must try to understand it. One should also share everything with your spouse: moments of joy as well as sadness.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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