Like many women in India, Vasanti was married quite young, at the age of fourteen, and found herself living in misery with her husband’s family. Her in-laws constantly solicited money from her parents, even denying her food so that she’d write and ask her parents for more. She had come to the marriage with gold jewelry—a wedding gift from her parents—and they took that as well. When Vasanti’s husband asked her parents to buy him a rickshaw, they had had enough, and brought her back home. Vasanti’s family faced scorn from relatives and neighbors, but her father and brother defended her all along. “My father told me not to listen to such rubbish and that he would always support me no matter what,” she remembers, “he has been my greatest strength.”
Working as an artisan at Nirmaan has been crucial for Vasanti’s independence. She started in 1981, working with SHARE’s founder Pushpika Freitas, when there were only three artisans with the organization. Now the oldest member of the cooperative, she has been able to earn enough to remain single, support herself, and provide financial support to her family as well.