COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Kanaka talks about life with the politician PC Vishnunadh
Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram
By Shevlin Sebastian
On March 12, 2005, Kanaka Hama was at Anand in Gujarat. She had come from Mumbai to take part in the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Dandi March, organised by the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Somebody introduced Kanaka and her colleagues to a group of boys, who were from Kerala. Among them was the Congress politician PC Vishnunadh.
That day, at 8 p.m., Kanaka decided to attend a cultural event, along with two of her friends. Although it was being held a kilometre away, they decided to walk the distance, since the road was well-lit. “I casually asked Vishnunadh whether he would like to come, but he said no,” says Kanaka. “So the three of us went to see the show.”
It was very crowded. After a while, when Kanaka turned she saw that Vishnunadh was standing next to her. “I immediately realized that he had come because we had gone alone,” she says. “He felt that it was his responsibility to keep an eye on us.”
Thereafter, for the next 22 days, they walked together from Ahmedabad to Dandi, a distance of 268 kms. “He came across as a simple and down-to-earth person,” says Kanaka. “We became friends.”
Following the conclusion of the walk, they went their different ways, but remained in touch. “We spoke on the phone and wrote letters to each other, and to several others,” says Kanaka. In 2006, Vishnunadh became the Chengannur MLA.
After a while, there was talk about marriage for Vishnunadh at his home. So he called up Kanaka, said he liked her, and proposed marriage. Kanaka thought over it, and said yes. It was then that Vishnunadh told his parents that he wanted to marry Kanaka. His parents resisted in the beginning. “They wanted him to marry a girl from their Nair community,” says Kanaka. As for Kanaka, when she told her parents, who live in the hilly village of Halakere in Shimoga district, they told her to think hard about it.
However, in the end, love triumphed. They got married on August 17, 2007 at the Lord Krishna temple at Guruvayur temple. “It was a simple marriage,” says Kanaka. “We just exchanged garlands and went around a lamp seven times.”
On that day, there were 108 marriages taking place, so there was a big crowd. Soon after the wedding, the couple were walking back to the hotel. Vishnunadh was holding Kanaka's hand. The photographer requested that they walk without holding hands. Vishnunadh said, “I did not hold this hand, to leave it.”
Kanaka was deeply touched by that remark. “I will never forget it,” she says, as her eyes well up, on a recent July morning, at the Pampatheeram Ayurvedic Resort at Chengannur. It has been a busy time for her. With the support of Vishnunadh, she has been holding an international literary festival along with PAMPA (People for Performing Arts and More). In fact, she is the director of the festival.
“For the past three days he has been full-time at the venue,” she says. “And it is difficult for him to do this, because he is a politician. Vishnunadh has ensured that all the departments worked properly. There is a lot of coordination required. He has been a rock.”
She remembers once when Vishnunadh had gone to Delhi, their daughter, Annapurneshwari Devi, who was born on July 24, 2012, began to suffer from severe diarrhoea. It was around 7.30 p.m. There was nobody at home. “I was crying and called him and told him that I did not know what to do,” says Kanaka. “But within ten minutes, several colleagues of Vishnunadh arrived at the house. They took us to the Chengannur hospital. All the doctors had been informed. And my daughter got the best care. Next day, he cut short his trip and came back. He wanted to give me moral support.”
Kanaka continues to speak glowingly about her husband. “Vishnunadh is tolerant, patient, compassionate and inclusive,” she says. “He does not discriminate between rich and poor. There are so many people who come to our house with their problems. And he tries to solve them. I know that he cannot solve them all, but he tries to do as much as possible.”
Meanwhile, when asked about her most memorable experience, Kanaka says, “Soon after my marriage, I attended an Assembly session at Thiruvananthapuram,” she says. The debate was about the self-financing college bill. There was an animated discussion. At that time MA Baby was the Education Minister.
“Vishnunadh spoke with a lot of passion,” says Kanaka. “He said corrections were needed, because it was unconstitutional. When Baby Sir stood up to speak, he said that because Vishnunadh's wife was present in the visitors’ gallery, he was showing so much of enthusiasm. Soon, all the ruling and opposition MLAs looked at me. Later, they teased Vishnunadh about it.”
Incidentally, Kanaka is a well-known poet in Karnataka. She has authored three volumes of poetry: 'Holebagilu', 'Papanashini' and 'Arabi Kadalu'. She has also translated Hindi poet Javed Akhtar’s Urdu poetry into Kannada.
Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Kanaka says, “Both spouses should make an effort to understand each other, because they are coming from different backgrounds. You have to be patient. When one spouse gets angry, the other should remain cool. Husband and wife can show respect by giving space to each other.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)