For the past few weeks, Rohit (name changed) had been planning to run away from home and finally took the step on his wedding day. Though the decision brought embarrassment to his family, he was left with no other option if he had to get the love of his life. And to his rescue came "Love Commandos" who also provided him a safe refuge.
Like for Rohit, Delhi-based Love Commandos, comes to the aid of such couples who are either forced into marriage by their families or oppose their "love marriage".
"My parents fixed my marriage within two days and I wasn't ready because I am in love with someone else. They didn't even listen to me. So the only option I was left with was to run away," Rohit, a BPO employee, told IANS, adding that he got in touch with Love Commandos a few days prior to his wedding.
Formerly "Peace Commandos" that supported young couples in celebrating Valentine's Day "fearlessly", they transformed into Love Commandos in 2010 after founder Sanjoy Sachdev helped free a young man falsely implicated of rape .
"The poor man was implicated by the father of the girl he loved. This is when I decided to help couples in despair and started two helplines where they could seek help," Sachdev, a former journalist, told IANS.
So far, the organisation has helped around 38,000 couples start a new chapter in their lives. Such distraught couples, who in most cases have eloped without their families' consent, are provided with a roof above their heads at "undisclosed" shelter homes run by Love Commandos.
In addition to these shelter homes spread across seven locations in the national capital, the organisation also operates 300 make-shift shelters across the country. These shelters are run by those couples who once took refuge with the organisation and today live independently.
"We not only provide them with shelter, we also prepare them for the future where in all possibility, they would be living as a nuclear family," Sachdev added.
This is the reason why couples who take refuge at these homes are expected to follow certain "home rules."
"You will find it surprising that we have a few rules in these houses that prepare these couples for a better future. The home chores are divided, and the women only cook. The men are expected to help by washing utensils, cleaning the house and cutting vegetables," said Sachdev.
"This, we believe, would make their future life easy where the women wouldn't be expected to do the entire household work. In many cases, women might work because they won't have any family support. So we try to help them settle work distribution for a better married life," he added.
Apart from this, no one is allowed to use the internet or mobile phones for "security reasons".
So, how is the credibility of the couples ascertained?
"When someone calls on our helpline, we ask for their age and address proof. We have nearly 15 lakh volunteers working across India who do a background check to find out if they are genuinely facing problems," Sachdev explained.
He added that the couples are only approached after all the background check is completed and deemed authentic.
"This is our way of giving a voice to the youth, and an attempt to make a new India where the youth can follow its heart while also using its mind," he said.
The organisation can be contacted on 09313784375 and 09313550006 and also emailed at email@example.com.
Rohit summed up the feelings of couple who go through traumatic times.
"Nobody wants to go against their family wishes but at times, you have no choice because you know that you are doing the right thing by not compromising with the love of your life.
"But in tough times like this, how much can a person rely on his friends? How long can a person hide or run away? There is always a danger of getting caught in legal battles. Many couples give up because they don't have a support system. But an organisation like this helps you to prepare for better future. Love is not a crime, it is something that gives you strength. So one has to fight for it," Rohit added.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shweta Sharma can be contacted a email@example.com)