A young woman, who ran away from her in-laws' house for its lack of toilet, returned Wednesday -- to the same house with an ultra-modern toilet and a reward of Rs.2 lakh from Sulabh International. With her were two other women who too had similarly walked out from their in-laws' houses.
Priyanka Bharti was mobbed as she arrived decked up like a bride for her 'gauna' ceremony to her Vishnupur Khurd village in a sports utility vehicle (SUV).
Amidst blowing of conch shells and 'aarti', tears rolled down her cheeks as she was ushered in by her in-laws and shown the new toilet and bathroom.
Later, she along with the two other 'runaway brides' - Priyanka Kumari from Siddharthanagar and Jyoti from Sant Kabeernagar - and Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of sanitation NGO Sulabh International, took centre stage in an enclosure.
Priyanka narrated to the gathered villagers, numbering around 500, how she took the "extreme and difficult" step of walking out of her husband's home because she was asked to defecate in the open.
"It was not possible for me to do so and so I ran away," she told the crowd amid applause.
A Class 12 student from Maharajganj, 365 km from Lucknow, said the lack of a toilet in the house was "a big challenge" for her at the "sasural".
She said she mustered enough courage to run away on the third night after her 'gauna' -- the traditional induction of a bride married in childhood into her in-laws' house.
Talking to IANS, Priyanka said ever since she ran away from Vishunpur Khurd April 13 demanding that her in-laws build a toilet to get their 'bahu' back, her life changed as she attracted national and international attention.
"I'm happy that by the construction of a new toilet with all modern facilities, I'm back with my husband and can live happily," she said, as photographers jostled to take her picture with her in-laws.
Bindeshwar Pathak felicitated each of the three brides with the bank draft of Rs.2 lakh, a shawl, a saree and a rose-sandalwood garland, and said that from now on, they would "try in their own humble ways to educate women around them the need of hygiene and sanitation."
Priyanka's husband, Amarjeet, whom she married in 2007, said he appreciated what his wife did.
"All through these years I saw my sisters, my mother go out in the field every morning but it never occurred to me how shameful it was, until my wife stressed on it by running away," he told IANS.
Pathak, while appreciating the efforts of the three women announced a reward of Rs.25 lakh for the Vishnupur Khurd village for being the promoters of communal harmony and taking lead in the battle against poor sanitation in the villages.
He said Sulabh would now undertake a new rural-centric drive "Sulabh-Gaon Ki Or."
"The award will act as an inspiration," Pathak said. He recounted that though his ancestral house in Bihar stood over several acres, it lacked a toilet, making lives of the woman folk in his family miserable.
"By revolting against non-availability of a toilet, this woman has done a revolutionary act in India where more than 660 million people still defecate in the open, leading to serious diseases," he said.