Before Elizabeth married Arkaparambil Kurien Antony, she was besotted with film stars Shashi Kapoor and Dev Anand. “The man in my life must match up,” she would say. But when the rather non-charismatic Antony came along, her hopes were dashed. Not only did he not compare to Hindi film heroes, Antony was a politician to boot. “The last thing on my mind was to marry a politician. I wanted a normal marriage with a normal person,” she Elizabeth.
She was disappointed on another count: her desire to lead a comfortable life. “A house of my own, a car and enough money in the bank” is how she puts it. But Antony’s condition for marriage was “no house, no car and simple living”.
For someone who made both ends meet by selling LIC policies, riches and rituals had no meaning. Antony talks of how difficult it was to make both ends meet after his father’s death. Things improved only after he enrolled as an LIC agent: “Were it not for that job, we would have starved. It also helped finance my education.”
It was because of this that the couple opted for a registered marriage, arranged by Oommen Chandy, ex-Kerala Chief Minister. Chandy’s wife and Elizabeth were colleagues in a bank, a job Elizabeth still holds. For years after their wedding, they lived in a rented house, moving from time to time. When it got too much, Elizabeth took a bank loan and bought a house. Whatever little she had collected by way of jewellery, Antony asked her to give away to her sister as a wedding gift. “But I kept what I liked,” she confesses.
Nicknamed Thankachan, Antony grew up listening to Carnatic music. Always short of cash, he could not afford books. “It was good old All India Radio which came to my rescue,” he says. Even today, it is music that puts him to sleep.
Having spent a major part of his life in Delhi, Thangachil alias Antony dreads lonely evenings. “I have no one to talk to or share my thoughts with. Delhi is business-like. There are many colleagues, but no friends. Delhi’s callousness pushed me into marriage,” he recalls. Elizabeth, however, proved a lucky mascot. Within a month of their marriage, Antony was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Now, Elizabeth looks after the family, and Antony’s needs in particular. “I shop for him — clothes, chappals and even his shaving kit,” she says. The only thing Antony has ever bought her, she says, was her wedding sari. “I bought a mangalsutra and a wedding ring from my own savings,” she says.
Antony still cherishes his bond with the LIC, even after a successful career in politics. Take him to an LIC office and he gets goose-bumps; introduce him to an agent and the camaraderie is evident. “I feel an affinity with them,” he admits.