Our artisans have incredible stories of struggles and survival. Here is another powerful one - meet Yogesh and Anita. Since becoming JOYN artisans, we have all had the privilege of hearing their incredible story of the struggle and hardship they’ve overcome. Years ago, Anita and Yogesh fell in love, but Anita’s parents refused for her to marry Yogesh, since he is from a lower caste.
We’ve chosen to write about Yogesh and Anita as a celebration of love, that we at JOYN intend to reflect on all through February. But as it turned out, this is more than a love story. It is a cascade of one struggle after another, and of one victory after another.
Yogesh and Anita met when he found work in her village in Rajasthan. She was still studying then. When mobile phones became cheap enough for many to afford them, Yogesh saved money to buy two mobile phones with an “unlimited local calls” deal. They would talk for hours everyday and became madly in love. They were well aware that her family would not agree to their match.
They began to meet in secret and when she learned one day that she was pregnant, they ran away together without informing their families. Yogesh says he thought it would be like they saw in Bollywood movies - go to a temple, get married before their gods and live happily every after.
Instead, her family filed a case of rape and abduction on him, put him in jail and took her back to her village. They forced her to undergo an abortion and she lost the baby that the couple had wanted to keep. She was later married off to somebody her parents approved of, against her wishes.
After 6 months, both Yogesh and Anita were presented in court where she reasserted that she had not been abducted but went with him by her own free will. He was cleared of the charges and sent back home. At home, separated from her and his dreams, he fell into the habit of drinking alcohol. His addiction got worse and he began to take drugs as well. Yogesh and Anita did not talk for many years.
Anita was back at home with her “un-wanted” marriage. She says she didn’t get along with her husband at all. The marriage was quite difficult. She says she sometimes wonders if fates knew that Yogesh and she were meant to be together and if that was why her then-husband was killed in an accident in a mine where he worked. After his death, her husband’s family wanted her to marry their younger son (her husband’s younger brother) and her own family was happy with this development. She was devastated.
This is when she called Yogesh on the same phone number that he had first bought for both of them. He answered! They hadn’t spoken in years. She was able to talk to him and this time, having learned from their experiences, Yogesh registered them properly in court to be married legally before he went to run away with her this time! They were legally married and when they did not hear from her family or the family of her deceased husband for a month, they felt this may be their ever after.
But then again, only a month later, the police came and this time, to arrest Anita. Her deceased husband’s family had filed a case against her, claiming that she had run away with money and jewelry and she spent 3 days in prison while the interrogation was conducted. When it was discovered that she had left with Yogesh with absolutely nothing, she was absolved of this charge. There was still more resistance from her biological family. Eventually, Yogesh and Anita were reunited, but only after her family completely disowned her.
It was after a few months of living together when his struggles with drug addiction came to light. “I knew he consumed alcohol but had I known about his drug addiction, I would have not married him”, she declares! It had gotten so bad that he had sold everything in the house, including all utensils to get his daily drug needs. Their friend, Surendher who is part of the JOYN and DGC community, encouraged Yogesh to go through rehab.
Yogesh signed up for rehab at Nijaat in Dehradun in 2014 and after that, he started at JOYN as a block-printer. Then in October of 2014, Yogesh begged Anita to come and be with him and she became a JOYN stitcher. They have found a small place in Rajpur where they are in a loving community and are back to building their lives together. They are hoping to start their family to have a baby soon.
Yogesh says he has learned to release control of his life to God. He says he loves being at JOYN because here, he was welcomed in-spite of his struggles. He doubts that he could have found work anywhere else without having to hide his addiction and he says that would have been a constant pressure on his heart to lie and hide things. Here and now, he says, he can live with honesty, integrity and be guilt-free.
We love that these two beautiful people came to be part of the JOYN community and we believe that Yogesh and Anita can now finally sail on calm seas of life and love. At JOYN, we believe that all things can be restored. We see it happening in front of us every day.