At the NSS College in Pandalam, KS Jayasree listened raptly to V. Muraleedharan, a senior leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), as he spoke to a group of students. “It is education that will help you become a better person,” said Muraleedharan. “And you will be able to contribute lifelong to society. Activism should not be an escape from your responsibility as a student.”
As a member of the ABVP herself, Jayasree would see Muraleedharan in various forums. Soon, they were introduced to each other. Much later, senior ABVP leaders approached Jayasree and said that Muraleedharan wanted to marry her. “By this time I had known Muraleedharan for 10 years, but never for a moment did I look upon him as a life partner,” says Jayasree. “I had no plans to get married. I was keen to be involved in social activities only.”
When Jayasree told her parents, they told her to think hard before making a decision. “My parents knew that I would not accept anything less than a relationship between equals,” says Jayasree. So, she thought hard and finally said yes.
The marriage took place on September 12, 1998, at the Guruvayur Temple. It was the first time she was entering the Sri Krishna temple. “I got the feeling that I had reached there through God’s design,” says Jayasree.
And today, the couple are going as strong as ever. Asked to list her husband’s plus points, Jayasree says, “Muraleedharan is always cool under pressure. In 15 years of marriage, he has never lost his temper with me. If I criticise him, he will think calmly about it and, sometimes, he will agree to what I have said. He is a positive-minded person, who is dedicated to his work as state president of the BJP. And because of party work, he is constantly travelling. Sometimes, I see him after a gap of 10 or 12 days.”
But unlike most women, Jayashree has adopted an understanding attitude towards these absences. “I feel that every person has a desire to live life in a particular way,” she says. “This is the way Muraleedharan wants to lead his life. He is happiest when he does this work. So I don’t ponder about the little time that he spends with me.”
Meanwhile, Jayasree, who has a doctorate in Sanskrit, has kept herself busy. She is a lecturer of Sanskrit at the Sree Narayana Guru College at Chelannur. Jayasree has also set up a forum called Streechetana. “We look after the needs of women, children and the people,” she says.
Dealing with people all the time has one side effect: a loss of privacy. “When we are at home, Muraleedharan gets calls all the time,” says Jayasree. “As a politician, it is not possible to differentiate between the private and public space.”
And when they go out for dinner, people will approach him often. “Some will say that they saw him somewhere,” says Jayasree. “Others will say they are distant relatives. One or two will say, ‘I liked your comment on TV.’ A third person will say, ‘I have taken part in a protest which you had organised’.”
All this can be a heady experience for Jayasree, but there are drawbacks, too. “Because he is so busy, Muraleedharan can become forgetful regarding family matters,” she says. “But whenever I point this out to him he immediately accepts his error.”
Another drawback is that they cannot plan anything in advance. Inevitably, at the last moment, there will be changes in the schedule.
Recently, the couple were going from Kozhikode to the Mookambika Temple at Kollur, Karnataka. On the way, Muraleedharan was informed, by phone, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on his way to Nagercoil, was having a stopover at Thiruvananthapuram.
Then there was a discussion on the phone on how long Modi would be there.
Finally, Muraleedharan was informed that Modi was not coming out of the aircraft. Hence, he would not be seeing anybody. “So, we were able to carry on with our journey,” says Jayasree.
“But the entire discussion took an hour. And all along, I was expecting an U-turn at any time. Nothing is certain when your husband is a politician.”
Interestingly, the couple have no children. And this is a conscious decision that they took soon after their marriage. “We want to be the parents of society,” says Jayasree.
“Some of us have a destiny to look after those who have difficulties. So, parenthood would be difficult to do at the same time. But we do feel a pressure from society.” Nevertheless, the couple have remained firm in their resolve.
Lastly, when asked for tips for a successful marriage, Jayasree says, “Have a good understanding of your husband. Everybody has plus and minus points. We should accept the minus points. Then there will be no conflict. If you become friends with your husband, there is a good chance that the marriage will be a success. A sense of equality and mutual respect also helps.”