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The Rediff Special/Shobha Warrier
February 07, 2005
Dr Ramamurthy, the founder of the Malar hospitals, one of Chennai's prominent heart hospitals, would be glued to the television whenever a cricket match was on. So crazy was he about the game that he would forget everything else. None of his three daughters shared his passion.
The most they did was peep and ask their father the score before dashing off to do something else.
Now Madhi Malar, his 24-year-old daughter, surfs the Internet to read more about cricket. Dr Ramamurthy would have been pleasantly surprised to see the change, but alas, he passed away last year.
The change in Madhi's outlook was brought about by a cricketer from Sri Lanka named Muthiah Muralitharan. Madhi and Murali are all set to marry on March 21.
"Had he been alive, he would have been the happiest person on earth. I am sure he would have called the entire press in Chennai and talked about this wedding. He would have been so proud to have a cricketer, and that too someone like Murali as his son-in-law," says Dr Nitya Ramamurthy, fondly remembering her late husband.
Madhi, the younger of Dr Ramamurthy and Dr Nitya's twin daughters, is a post-graduate in business management. She currently takes care of the administrative aspects at the Malar hospital, as a director. Her twin Dr Radhi is married to a doctor. Her younger sister Divya is engaged to a doctor, who is in London for further studies.
The man responsible for arranging this match is Tamil actor Chandrasekhar.
"Dr Ramamurthy was a close friend for more than 25 years," says Chandrasekhar. "Our friendship dates back to the days Dr Ramamurthy and Dr Nitya were studying in medical college. My brother-in-law was their classmate. That was the beginning of our friendship. Later Nitya attended to my wife's delivery, and we had twins. They too had twins as their first borns -- Madhi and Radhi!"
It was through Shanmugham, an executive at the Sun television network, that Chandrasekhar met Murali.
"We found that Murali's mother was my fan," adds Chandrasekhar. "The news that his mother had not missed a single film of mine cemented our friendship further. Once, as we were talking, Murali's mother mentioned her desire to get her son married."
That was shortly after Dr Ramamurthy passed away.
"As Dr Ramamurthy's friend, I considered it my responsibility to take care of his daughter. So I recommended Madhi to Shanmugham as a prospective match for Murali," continues Chandrasekhar.
But Murali was not keen on marrying so soon; he said he wanted to play more matches, and concentrate on his career.
"We told him you can play as many matches as you want. Why don't you meet this girl? She is a Tamizh and from Tamizh Nadu. He thought for a while and gave us permission to go ahead."
Murali's mother had full faith in Chandrasekhar. "She asked me, 'When are you bringing a girl for my son?'."
The horoscopes matched. Murali flew to Chennai to meet Madhi. In the presence of Chandrasekhar, his wife Shanmugham and Dr Nitya, Murali met Madhi. That was in November.
Madhi, who had not watched a single cricket match or read about cricketers, started doing her homework on cricket when she was told that a Sri Lankan cricketer was coming to meet her.
"I am a voracious reader," she says. "I read whatever I can get hold of: fiction, spiritual books, psychology. Psychology is one of my favourite subjects. I enjoy analysing the human mind. But not cricket."
After chatting for an hour, Murali and Madhi decided to spend their life together.
"It was only after we spoke and liked each other that I started reading more about Murali. Till then my knowledge of Murali was just that he was a cricketer from Sri Lanka. We spoke for an hour. He told me how long he planned to play and be in the team, about his travels, etc. Then he asked me whether I, who was managing the hospital, could make some compromises and be with him."
Madhi's reply came instantly: she told him she was willing to make sacrifices and compromises.
"I liked Murali a lot," she says. "What I really liked about him was he was always smiling. When somebody smiles at you like that, you feel so relaxed and comfortable. It was very important for me to feel comfortable. I knew he was a celebrated cricketer, but I had to feel comfortable with such a person. He was such a simple and down to earth person that I liked him immediately. I also told him what I expect from a husband. He spoke very honestly about himself, which was very important for me as I am going to live with him."
When Madhi told Murali she had absolutely no interest in cricket, "he was very happy."
"I think he was happy because we could talk something other than cricket. But I am reading a lot about cricket, Murali and other players these days; searching all the web sites. I am still learning."
What does Murali like about this giggly 24 year old?
"He said I was the kind of homely girl he was looking for as his wife. He also said I carried myself well, and was easy to talk to. Of course, I don't talk much about cricket!"(giggles)
Madhi is sure she will have no problem settling down in Sri Lanka after marriage.
"I have prepared myself mentally. I am on top of the world to have such a person as my husband," she adds, giggling endlessly.
Once Murali and Madhi approved of each other, Murali's mother made a trip to Chennai to meet Madhi. Chandrasekhar and his wife were there to greet her. Murali's mother liked Madhi very much.
"I feel so happy that everything has turned out well," says Chandrasekhar. "Nitya is like my sister so I thought it is my responsibility and my wife's to take care of Madhi. It has been a year since my friend passed away. Madhi is so happy with Murali that she said, 'Thank you uncle! I am happy'."
Dr Nitya had never ever imagined that they would have a celebrity as part of their family.
"We are very happy Murali is going to be our son-in-law. I am also very happy for Madhi. What we liked about Murali was that he was a very simple person, very down to earth and jovial. Anyone who meets him will like him; he is that nice to people. He never gave us the feeling that he was a celebrity. When we talked to him, we felt extremely comfortable."
"I will miss her," says Dr Nitya, "but I have a very good team that will help me run this hospital. Murali is keen she helps me. He says she can do the macro management from there (Sri Lanka)."
The wedding, Dr Nitya assures us, will be a typical Tamil affair. "He will be inviting all his cricketer friends," she says.
The most excited among Madhi's relatives and friends are the kids who have already made her promise to get Murali's autograph after the wedding.
If there is a cricket match between India and Sri Lanka, will Madhi be in a dilemma about which side to support?
"Of course, I will support my husband! I have no dilemma on that front!" declares Madhi.
Dr Nitya echoes the same sentiment.
"Family comes first. Murali is family now. Naturally, we will support him."
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Headline photo: AFP/Getty Images
Headline image: Imran Shaikh