Governor ESL Narasimhan’s wife Vimala is the anchor that helps him remain rooted to family and work in peace despite all the pressure he has had to face

As the wife of the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, she may seem to be living the high life at Raj Bhavan, but Vimala Narasimhan will have you believe she is actually a simple homemaker at heart. A chat with The Hindu MetroPlus reveals that it is precisely this simplicity that is the source of strength that lets Governor ESL Narasimhan work in peace. That is the way it has always been, even the Governor assures. Lady Vimala’s journey from middle-class Chennai to the Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad is marked by a focus on domestic harmony, respect for family values and a love for privacy; traits that have supported Narasimhan’s career through the vicissitudes of life. “When I came to Hyderabad I decided to learn two things: how to speak Telugu and train in Carnatic vocals,” she reveals.

That’s not surprsing to hear from a person who used to adapting to circumstances and staying busy within the bounds of the role of traditional homemaker, whether she was in Chennai, Delhi Moscow, Delhi , Chattisgarh or now Andhra Pradesh.

The story of the Narasimhans begins with a typical old-fashioned arranged marriage. She recalls, “Left to myself I would have gone on studying. When I was told I had to take half a day off from college because they (her future parents-in-law) were coming to see me, I protested. I was doing my degree then.” However she was soon married off to Ekkadu Srinivasan Lakshminarasimhan. Thereafter she found her interest in studies supported by his parents and she went on to complete MA (History) and B.Ed. She also got busy with various family responsibilities and two sons.

It’s no wonder that she holds her in-laws, especially her late father in law, in high regard. She remembers fondly, “I lost my father very early in life, so my father-in-law was more like a father, and he was wonderful – principled and disciplined but also caring and sensitive. When my younger son was in Std. V, I expressed a desire to begin working. It was my father-in-law who supported me and convinced my mother-in-law that it was ok.” She taught young school goers till she left Delhi, ensuring she had enough time for other responsibilities.

Delhi is where the Narasimhans saw the best side of his career. The bright IPS officer from the AP cadre reached stratospheric heights as an officer in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) there. However by virtue of his job, they had to maintain a low profile unlike other IPS officers. “Officers who were far junior to my husband’s rank had a retinue of orderlies and drivers doing tasks at home, but not we,” she says without a trace of regret.

The Governor elaborates, “A posting in IB was, and is always meant to be, an extremely low profile job but it suited us just fine because we both love our privacy. Also we have always lived a simple life. For instance we never had a cook even when we had guests. She is a very good cook — she used to make buckets of ice cream that we devoured; we never bought ice cream those days.”

Vimala adds, “I never complained because I understood his situation. I knew how powerful he was, but our personal life was simple and we were happy.”

Their compatibility is a result of working on the relationship. Vimala reveals, “We are both completely different; in tastes, in approaches to problems, and the way we organise our things. So we have lots of differences and arguments, but when he gets angry, I let him be. It doesn’t mean I give up, so if I think he is wrong I will definitely tell him, but maybe a little later, after he has cooled down.” Evidently her cool demeanour masks a steely resolve.

The Governor gives tips on marital harmony: “There are three aspects to a happy marriage — trust one another; respect the other’s opinion and value each other.”

Time for family was at a premium for the man who went on to become Director, IB. The Governor reveals how he has managed to strike a work-life balance. “We have to enjoy the simple things in life. I always made it a point to have a long walk after dinner with her; that’s my time for her, no matter what. All the ice cream and chat walas in our neighbourhood in Delhi know us from these walks. We enjoyed that phase when nobody recognised us, we could sit on the park benches or pavement without bothering about anything.

Another habit I had was to open the garage door for her car in the mornings. And I used to walk my two sons to the bus stop — we’d leave half an hour early so that we could chat there. We three really enjoyed that.”

One memory still brings tears to Lady Vimala’s eyes — the death of Narasimhan’s brother. She recalls, “My brother-in-law, an IAS officer, was killed in an extremist attack. His parents were shattered. Though they moved to Delhi to be with us, they were miserable. My sons just couldn’t bear to see their grandparents crying. But time heals gradually.”

About her sons who are now married and working abroad, Vimala says, “They are doing well. I have told my sons to treat their wife’s family like their own. ‘Don’t call her parents ‘uncle, aunty’; address them the way she addresses them,’ I told them clearly. This is how we both are and that’s how it should be for them.”

Her personal interests are fairly traditional – classical music (she plays the veena and is now learning to sing Carnatic music), rangoli, light reading and cooking.

“I am probably one of the few people who knows what traditional dishes to cook after a fast on particular days like Ekadasi, such habits are dying out,” she rues.

The Governor sums up: “It’s been a good journey. We never dreamt of being in this position, God has blessed us with a good life.” Vimala’s opinion on this: “This kind of growth in life is possible only because of our elders’ blessings.”

Humble words there.

Keywords: ESL Narasimhan