At Nanthancode, in Thiruvananthapuram, in the 1990s, Anoop and Anila Jacob would go to school together with their friends. While he studied in Christ Nagar, she was in Nirmala Bhavan. She remembers the uniform he wore.
“It was a white shirt, navy blue pants, maroon tie, and black shoes,” she says.
One day, when they were in Class 9, Anoop took Anila aside and told her that he loved her. “I also liked him, but I kept quiet,” she says.
They were family friends. While Anila’s father was a superintendent engineer in the Irrigation Department, Anoop’s father, T M Jacob, was the Irrigation and Water Supply Minister. “There was a close relationship between the two families,” says Anila. “Soon, our parents came to know that we had feelings for each other, but there was no negative signal. One reason could be that we belonged to the same church.”
Because of his father’s position, Anoop and Anila could not go out for dates. “But we met often at family functions,” she says. Like all ‘in love’ couples, they exchanged gifts often. “In the beginning it was cards,” says Anila. “But during the pre-degree course, Anoop gave me a Titan gold watch on my birthday. It was a precious gift for me.”
After their graduation, they tied the knot on May 23, 2002 at the St. Peter’s Orthodox Jacobite church. And after 10 years of marriage, Anila likes her husband’s simple and loving nature. “There is no show but I know that Anoop cares for me,” she says. “He has also given me a lot of freedom.” As for his drawbacks, Anoop was an introvert for many years. “He used to have a small circle of friends,” says Anila. But all this changed when T M Jacob died of liver failure on October 30, 2011, at the age of 61.
“Anoop had to take the plunge immediately and step into his father’s shoes,” says Anila. “He had to learn to be outgoing and friendly with all types of people. It was during the campaigning for the Piravom seat [which was held by his father] that he began to change.”
Incidentally, Anoop (UDF) won the March 2012 election by defeating M.J. Jacob of the LDF. But Anoop has paid a price, following this win. “He told me that he has been so busy, he has not been able to grieve over his father’s death,” says Anila.
Today, apart from being the MLA from Piravom, Anoop is also the Food & Civil Supplies Minister. As a result of the twin responsibilities, Anoop is hardly ever at home. “He will leave at 8.30 a.m. and return only by 11 p.m.,” says Anila “There is no time for the family now. I have adjusted to this because I have seen how busy my father-in-law was. But I worry about the impact on our children, T.M. Jacob, 5, and Lyrah, 3. I always tell him that whenever he is travelling, he should try and talk to the kids on the phone. They are seeing him very rarely now. On the weekends, he has to go to the constituency at Piravom.”
As a result, Anoop and Anila rarely have any time together. But, recently, on Ramzan, when Anoop had some free time, they went and saw a film, ‘Ustad Hotel’. Anila says, the first seven years were the most wonderful when Anoop was practicing in the High Court and they lived in Vytilla, Kochi, far away from the glare of the public spotlight.
Anila has found it difficult to adjust to the limelight.
“Whenever we go out, people stare at us and I do feel uncomfortable,” she says. But when times are tough, Anila remembers some of the good moments of their marriage. On their second wedding anniversary, the couple flew to Mauritius. “We went para-gliding,” says Anila. “We were up in the sky, floating like a bird, and holding hands. It was a moment of togetherness that I will always cherish.”
Asked what is needed to make a marriage successful, Anila says, “Adjustment is very important. But I also feel that we should take advice from our parents. My father-in-law was deeply involved in our lives and it had a positive impact on us. I would urge newly-married couples to see the help of their parents whenever they face any problems.”