KOCHI: One weekend, when Preethi was in Class 12, she saw a CD of the film, Ishtamaanu Nooru Vattam at her home in Kuwait City. And she noticed a tall and handsome actor who acted in the film. “I developed a crush,” she says. “He was so good-looking.”
A few years later, Preethi got a job as an air-hostess in Kuwait Airways. She was assigned to the Kuwait-Chennai sector. At the Chennai airport, on February 28, 2008, she spotted Shiju. He wore a yellow T-shirt and black jeans. The Chennai-based Shiju had flown in from Hyderabad, where he did regular work in Telugu films.
She approached Shiju and said, “Hi, my name is Preethi. I am a Malayali, and have seen your movies.”
After a few pleasantries, they exchanged mobile numbers.
One day later, Shiju called Preethi and said, “I like you.” She got excited. “I was thrilled to get a call from a celebrity,” says Preethi. “Clearly, he was interested in me.” For the next few days, they spoke a lot on the phone, usually late at night.
A week later, Shiju proposed marriage to Preethi. It was at that time that she discovered that Shiju is a Muslim while she is a Christian. When Preethi confided in her younger sister, Priya, the latter was apprehensive. “Priya told me to be careful, because Shiju is an actor, and because the religions are different,” says Preethi. “But I fell for his looks. After talking to him so often, I also realised that he was a ‘paavam’ guy.”
Preethi asked for some time from Shiju to make a decision. But that turned out to be very short. In three days, without seeking permission from her mother, Mariamma, a widow, who lived in Kuwait, she said yes. Later, when she told her mother about her decision, Mariamma disagreed. She decided to fly out, on December 6, 2008, to their home town of Thiruvananthapuram to find out what was happening.
But on December 4, Preethi left her grandparents’ home, without telling anybody, and met up with Shiju at Kochi. On December 8, they had a registered marriage.
A few days later, Shiju called up Mariamma and said, “Aunty, Preethi is safe with me.” Mariamma had no choice but to accept the situation.
Preethi is a lively person, who smiles and talks easily at her apartment in Kochi. After getting an English literature degree from Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram, she did a two-year course in legal studies at the George Washington University, USA. She is also an accomplished Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer. Today, she does business in polymer jewellery which she imports from the US, but her mind and heart are focused on her tall (6’2”) and handsome husband.
“Shiju is enormously patient,” says Preethi. “I have a hot temper. I will shout and scream but he will listen calmly. He is a sweet and forgiving person.”
Other qualities: “He helps me a lot in the kitchen,” says Preethi. “Shiju is very good at cooking and can make a good fish curry as well as a chicken biriyani.”
As for his drawbacks, Preethi says, “Shiju is a forgetful person. I have to tell him to do one thing more than ten times. He is also a typical artist who lives in his own world most of the time. The other day, he returned from Hyderabad, and immediately put on a CD to watch a film, which will be re-made in Telugu. I was sitting next to him but he completely forgot my presence.”
The couple have a four-year-old daughter Muskan. “Father and daughter are very close,” says Preethi. “If he is not at home, every night Muskan will call and talk to her father. She misses him a lot. They will play games on the laptop and see animation films like How to train your dragon 2.”
Incidentally, when Muskan was born on December 1, 2009, Preethi adopted a Muslim name. A nikaah took place at Shiju’s home town of Kundara, 14 kms from Kollam. “It was a grand function where all the relatives were invited,” says Preethi. “So my daughter had a rare experience. She was able to attend her parents’ wedding.”
During their free time, the family likes to see ‘first day, night show’ movies. The recent films they saw included Bangalore Days and Angry Babies. And when Preethi sees Shiju’s films, she offers a critique. Her favourite is Polytechnic, in which Shiju acts as a villain. “There is a nice comic sequence in which he chases Bhavana,” she says.
Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Preethi says, “There should be an understanding between the spouses. Try to know the pluses and minuses of your spouse. The husband should also do the same. These days marriages are 50/50 sharing.”
Preethi agrees that most problems in today’s marriages arise because the wife is also working. “A girl should have a career, but she should also take care of the responsibilities at home,” says Preethi.