A poetic lilt to their prosaic love - The New Indian Express

A poetic lilt to their prosaic love

Published: 27th November 2012 10:59 AM

Last Updated: 27th November 2012 10:59 AM

It is their common love for the written word that wrote their destiny. As Shanthi, a professor of Visual Communication at St Xavier’s College, Tirunelveli, reflects on her marriage with Lena Kumar in 1990, she asserts: “Statements against inter-caste marriages are made by politicians to promote caste fanaticism.” Her own life is a glorious example that supports her point.

Shanthi (41), a Christian Nadar, and Lena Kumar, a Hindu Yadava, were neighbours in Tirunelveli. Their common love for literature brought them closer and eventually they fell in love. “My wife likes the works of popular writers like Sujatha and Balakumaran, while I like novels of T Janakiraman and Pudhumai Pithan that are based on social issues,” says Lena Kumar, who runs a Tamil publication house called Yadhu Mahi in Tirunelveli.

He had moved from Mumbai in 1989 to pursue a career in films. After he fell in love, he found a job as a medical representative for a monthly salary of Rs 400. When the families came to know of their relationship, they reacted differently. While Lena Kumar was subtly warned, Shanthi’s family pulled her out of college and  packed her off to her sister’s house in Chennai. He followed her to Chennai and after a search, found the house following Shanthi’s brother-in-law as he returned from his office one evening.

He approached an association run by Tharasu, a now defunct Tamil weekly magazine, which was formed to help lovers like him. The association’s Tambaram functionary, Rishi, took down the details.

“Then I went to Shanti’s sister’s house. Though the sister and her husband picked up a quarrel with me, I promised them that I would marry Shanti after she completes her studies,” Kumar recalls.

“But I managed to pass on the phone number of Rishi to Shanti and told her to call him in case of an  emergency,” says Kumar. So, when when her family members put pressure on Shanti to marry a man of their choice, she left home and got in touch with Rishi, who picked her up in a car and put her up with his parents. Rishi also alerted Kumar, who came to Chennai and married Shanti in the presence of the magazine’s editor, Shyam, on June 25, 1990, and then went back to Tirunelveli.

“Our parents deserted us. We struggled for the next few years,” says Shanthi. But Kumar made her continue her studies. She did her PhD on ‘Impact of visual media on rural women’ and later got a job in the college. Kumar also started a  publication house. “My wife also received an award from the government for publishing a book ‘Melapalayam Muslimkal’,” says Kumar. Now, the families have accepted the marriage and the couple has two children — Shibi Lakshman (19) and Yazhihi (16).

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