A Steadfast Presence - The New Indian Express

A Steadfast Presence

Published: 12th May 2014 09:27 AM

Last Updated: 12th May 2014 10:47 AM

Mr. and Mrs. T. Simon, the uncle and aunt of former State Transport Minister Mathew T Thomas, were looking for a bride from the teaching field for their nephew. They felt that since Mathew was a career politician, he will hardly get time to look after the family. So, if the wife is a teacher, she will have more time and lots of holidays.

When the word spread about this proposal, Annie Abraham and Lily Titus, teachers in the Christian College, at Chengannur, told their colleague, Achamma Alex.

But Achamma had four conditions that needed to be fulfilled before she could get married. “My husband has to be a teetotaller, a believer in God, a man who is not corrupt and will not bargain for dowry,” she says.

And when Achamma met Mathew, at a relative’s house, at Kumbanad, in June, 1988, she realised that he fulfilled all the four conditions. “As we talked, I felt that we had similar temperaments and would be able to get along,” says Achamma.

She was about to say yes, when her father, VJ Alexander, a member of the Janata Party, told her that being a wife of a politician required a lot of sacrifices on the personal front. “He said that I should think hard about it,” says Achamma. However, after much reflection, she eventually said yes.

The marriage took place on September 10, 1988, at the St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church at Tiruvalla. “There was a huge crowd, so we could only give one piece of cake and a cup of tea,” says Achamma.

Many eminent politicians came to the wedding including Baby John, KM Mani and the then chief minister EK Nayanar. “Nayanar Sir told me I should always be by the side of my husband,” says Achamma.

Which she has done for the past 25 years. But it took some time for Achamma to adjust to life as a politician’s spouse. “When we got married, the first thing Mathew told me was that I should never wear gaudy sarees,” says Achamma. “He said that he is representing the people [Mathew is a three-time MLA of Tiruvalla] and had to be careful in the way I dressed.”

In the early years, they travelled on a LML Vespa scooter. “When I would get on, Mathew would tell me that I should never hold on to him, since people were watching us all the time,” says Achamma. “In a way we lost our freedom of expression.”

But the media did not lose their freedom of expression. Asked whether she would get upset if her husband was attacked in newspapers or TV channels, Achamma says, “Firstly, I know it is just a game. Secondly, I am confident about Mathew’s upright character. We hear a lot of scandals about a lot of politicians, but you will never hear anything about my husband. There is nothing in our home that belongs to other people. It has all been bought with our hard-earned money.”

Achamma believes that a politician and a teacher should never have moral lapses. “Because people look up to them,” she says. “If you have vices, then I don’t think you are the right person to become a leader.”

But Mathew, the State President of the Janatha Dal, seems to be the right leader. He has an unblemished reputation, and spends long hours at work.

Achamma confirms that Mathew is not a domestic-oriented person. “In fact, he is a servant of the people of Tiruvalla,” she says. “And so are we.”

This devotion to society is rare. “I know of many public servants who give more importance to their families,” says Achamma. “Some of them take leave for one or two months to help their children prepare for their class 10 and Plus Two exams.”

However, whenever he gets the opportunity, Mathew does spend time with Achamma and their two daughters, Achu Anna, who is doing her B. Ed., and Ammu Thankam, a Class 12 student. They go for films or take a stroll through the town. Incidentally, Mathew’s parents also live with them.

Because of Mathew’s focus on serving the people, the responsibility of running the household has fallen squarely on Achamma’s shoulders. “When the children fell ill, when they were younger, I had to take them to the hospital,” she says. “And I have to be the hands-on parent to them. There have been moments when I felt a bit panicky. So I would pray to God to give me strength, wisdom and the ability to tackle the issues at home.”

And also at work. Presently, Achamma is the principal of the Christian College at Chengannur. And every now and then she gives advice to her students regarding life and marriage.

“I always tell them that marriage is not a child’s game,” says Achamma. “In fact, it is a serious affair. And they should never expect everything to be green and red. Sometimes, it can be grey and black. What I am trying to tell them is that they should expect wonderful as well as worse things. If they realise this, they will be able to start a marriage on the right foot. Secondly, they should always pray to God. He is the only one who will be able to guide them when times are bad.”

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