Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Long-Distance Love

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Sureka talks about life with the athlete Renjith Maheswari

By Shevlin Sebastian

Sureka photo by Ajesh Madhav

At an athletics training camp, at New Delhi, in 2005, triple jumper Renjith Maheswari approached pole vaulter VS Sureka and said, with a smile, “Do you know me?”

Sureka nodded and said, “Aren't you Renjith?”

In that camp, they were the only two Malayalis present, so, naturally, they became friendly.

In 2006, both were selected to represent India in the Asian Games at Doha. While there, they used to have their meals together at the Games Village, and saw all the competitions, sitting side by side. “It was at Doha that our feelings for each other became stronger,” says Sureka. “But when Renjith missed the bronze medal by 2 centimetres [to Kim Deok-Hyeon of South Korea], he teased me by saying he got distracted by moving around with me.” Incidentally, Sureka finished fifth in her event.

Later, during an Inter-State athletics competition at Bhopal, Renjith proposed marriage. Sureka accepted and, on September 21, 2006, she called her Chennai-based parents and informed them. “My parents did not say yes, because it was a love marriage,” says Sureka. “They said that since I had grown up in Chennai it would be difficult for me to adjust to somebody who came from Kottayam. On the other hand, Renjith's parents told him that I was a city girl and would find it hard to adjust to life in a small town.”

However, both stood firm, and the engagement took place on November 8, 2007. But it took another one-and-a-half years, because of various athletic competitions, for them to tie the knot. It took place on April 15, 2009, at Kottayam.

For Sureka her unforgettable moment happened a day before the marriage.  Sureka's family had rented a house. The couple were told they could not meet or have meals with each other before tying the knot. But, at night, Renjith called Sureka on the phone. Then he came to the back of the house, and gave a packet, which contained food, to Sureka, without anybody knowing.

Unfortunately, they could not go for a honeymoon. Instead, Renjith and Sureka had to attend a training camp at Patiala. “Even though we were married, according to camp rules, we had to stay separately,” she says.

And that has been the case all these years. The couple have rarely spent time together. Renjith is usually in Bangalore, while Sureka trains in Delhi. But the good news is that all this intense training has been bearing fruit. At the National Games, held at Thiruvanathapuram recently, both won gold medals in their respective events.

But Sureka's happiest moment occurred, when Renjith won the bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She was pregnant, and was at home in Chennai. So she watched the event on TV. Just before he left his room for the competition, Renjith called up Sureka. “I said, 'Go all out and do your best',” says Sureka. “And he did. He crossed 17 metres and set a new national record, too. So, I felt very happy for him. ”

And Renjith became ecstatic when Sureka gave birth to a daughter. “In fact, Renjith was crying when he held the baby in his arms,” says Sureka. Today, Jhiya is four-and-a-half-years-old and she stays with Sureka's parents in Chennai. “My daughter misses me a lot, but she is aware that I am away because of my training,” says Sureka. “She always tells me, 'Amma get a gold medal'.”

But Sureka admits that she does suffer from guilt, at times, because she is not a hands-on mother. “But when I see how nicely my dad and mom are taking care of her, I feel glad,” she says. The one drawback is that both Renjith and Sureka are unable to be strict with their daughter, since they see her so rarely. “And my parents are equally soft with her,” says Sureka. “So, in the end, nobody is strict with Jhiya. I feel a bit worried about this, because she might get spoiled.”

When Renjith and Sureka are in Chennai together, they will have breakfast at home, before they spend the entire day outside, along with Jhiya, usually in the malls, watching films and eating outside. “We tend to reach home late,” says Sureka.

Asked to list her husband's plus points, Sureka says, “Renjith is very loving. If we have a fight, within a day he will say sorry and make up. He is very close to me and our daughter. He will call me three to four times a day to keep track of what I am doing. So I don't miss him much, because we are always talking on the phone.”

Renjith is also very religious-minded. “Every morning and evening, he spends one hour in prayer, reciting shlokas, alone in a room,” says Sureka. “And whenever he gets time he goes to pray at a nearby temple.”

As for his negative attributes, Sureka says that Renjith can get angry all of a sudden. And it may be over trivial matters. “He is also very frank and says things straight to the face,” she says. “That can upset a few people. But I don't have any problems with that. I am very much in love with Renjith, and feel very happy when I am with him.”

As for tips for a successful marriage, Sureka says, “Don't argue with your spouse. Because then both will get angry and it will lead to a fight. But the best way is to closely observe a marriage which is doing well.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)  

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