Kranti

Kranti empowers girls from Mumbai's red-light areas to become agents of social change.
Jun 24, 2015

Around the U.S. in 30 days!

Krantikaris beginnning the tour
Krantikaris beginnning the tour

Krantikaris have been very busy all around the world for the last five months. I've been in Washington DC learning to play drums, Shweta and Kavita have been studying on the Semester at Sea program, some have traveled across India for TedX talks, giving workshops and now we have all joined together for the Lal Batti Express tour across the U.S.!!

Five weeks ago, I remember traveling from DC to NYC to meet the Krantikaris at JFK International Airport to begin their theatre tour across the U.S. I was very excited to see them and to hug them as I had not seen all of Kranti for 8 months since I started studying drums at the Levine School of Music in DC. I couldn't sleep at all the night before Kranti arrived! When I went to the airport, I waited almost two hours and was thinking what will my reaction be? Will I cry? Will I be even more emotional? Then when I saw Shweta and Kavita, I went crazy and screamed and ran to hug them. I forgot all my worries and was filled with so much energy when I saw all the girls.

I had know idea what the play, Lal Batti Express (meaning Red Light Express, in Hindi) was about and so I was anticipating seeing the play for the first time. At the first practice, I was shocked and a bit confused at what they were doing and we all sat down and talked about what needed changing. The play is about Krantikaris' lives and their experiences and hopes for the future. Seeing the girls perform was absolutely amazing!

The girls had such a different reaction to New York City than I did when I arrived. I was shocked at all the buildings and how huge everything was but the other girls weren't - probably because we were altogether and they were exhausted from their travels! The best feeling for me was being back with all of Kranti after so long apart. The play is not all emotional and sadness, there are happy moments too. The audience contributed to the emotional part of the play. After each performance, we throw a ball around the audience and ask them to tell us what they are feeling or thinking and it really brought the audience and all of Kranti closer together.

We spent a few days in New York a city then traveled down to DC. We had a few great performances, spent Memorial Day at some monuments and also visited a few museums while we were there. The next stop was Chicago. Krantikaris felt so at home with the energy and density of the city. There was so much going on and so many people, it felt more like home than New York or DC thus far. In Chicago, we played in the world's third largest museum which was a great experience. Watching the girls in the play is very powerful; they have so much energy and emotions. When I watch them, I feel so proud of them!

One of the most amazing parts of each city were the Angels helping make our experience great and making us feel at home. People welcomed us into their homes and cooked Indian food for us, they drove us from place to place, sponsored meals and excursions as well. It had been truly uplifting to be given so much from people who only met us for the first time on this trip.

We were stranded in Chicago an extra day due to bad weather so we landed in Salt Lake City a day late which meant one less day at Yellowstone. We saw many bison, learned about the springs and geysers, saw Old Faithful erupt and went river rafting on the Yellowstone River. Some of the girls were really afraid of the water but we all went and supported each other. We screamed and laughed a lot and most of us jumped into the river at slower points - even the Krantikaris most afraid of the water jumped in. It was a really amazing experience!

San Francisco was our next stop and we were greeted by a new angel who fed us pizza dinner (we LOVE pizza!!) and we had a few performances - at Facebook and Google and some other places as well. Before this trip, we didn't know there was a physical place where Google and Facebook operated so it was really awesome to get tours there too! We never got a clear photo of the Golden Gate Bridge but we really enjoyed the windy boat ride out there and around Alcatraz!

Next stop, our last city, was LA. We were greeted at the airport by another angel who fed us, boarded us, and also let us have some much needed rest too! We loved going to Disneyland - especially Space Mountain, Haunted House and Pirates of the Caribbean. We enjoyed the down time to form new relationships and strengthen old ones.

The days have passed so quickly and none of us are thinking about the end of our time together. We are now in Sedona, AZ and will go the Grand Canyon to ride down on mules! It's been an unbelievable five weeks traveling and performing together and it will be so weird splitting apart from all Krantikaris again. Some are staying in the U.S. for different programs - Ashi and Sandhya are going to San Francisco for an English Volunteer program for the next few months. Shraddha, Rani and Sumaiya are all going to a leadership program in DC followed by summer camp in New Hampshire. Pinky is going to Outward Bound in Minneapolis. The rest of us are going back to Mumbai on Sunday.

Stay tuned to see what adventures await Kranti in the future!

Kranti
Kranti's performance at #standwithpetals
Kranti after our performance at Facebook
Kranti after our performance at Facebook's office
Kranti at Pride Parade in San Francisco
Kranti at Pride Parade in San Francisco

Links:

Apr 13, 2015

My Semester at Sea!

The family that helped me board the ship from MX
The family that helped me board the ship from MX

I am writing to you aboard a ship, somewhere between Namibia and Morocco! As many of you know, this Semester I have been studying on the Semester at Sea Program, where I am travelling to 15 cities, 12 countires over 112 Days.

I want to start by apologising for this report being so delayed. We only have intermittent internet connection on the ship at a few ports. Although, before boarding the ship, I was worried about how I would stay for so long without internet, without email and calling my mother, I found that there are many advantages of not having the internet. There are no distractions from my classes, all the papers I have to write, and I can really spend time with the 600 students aboard the ship and make many great friends.

I am taking classes on Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Theater. My classes are really very interested, mostly because we learn these subjects in the context of the countries the ship is docking at, and we go and  do field trips to cultural and historical sites in these countries. I feel like I understand what I am studying really well because I am seeing these live examples in front of me, and I am learning in a way that I will never forget, because I have been to these places, met these people and have spoken with them. 

As I got the Presidential Scholarship to attend the Semester At Sea Program, I had to conduct 8 workshops for the students on the ship about Sex Work and Gender Inequality in India. I was very nervous about these workshops. The students who would come to my workshops would all be my age or older, what could I possibly teach them or share with them to keep them interested? But I have conducted half of the workshops already and they are going great! I show videos of plays we have performed at Kranti, and at every workshop we discuss a different nuance of stories from the Red Light Areas in India, like child sexual abuse, children of sex workers not getting admitted in school, or sex workers not getting health services because of the taboos associated with them. Before I started the workshops I used to think oly 2 or 3 students will show up, but actually so many students come that some of them have to sit on the aisles!

PS - I shaved my head! It seems to be quite a fad at Kranti, as 4 Revolutionaries have already shaved their head. How do I look?

Boarding the bus to go to Mexico to board the ship
Boarding the bus to go to Mexico to board the ship
With Revolutionary Kavita, also on SAS, @Mauritius
With Revolutionary Kavita, also on SAS, @Mauritius

Links:

Mar 16, 2015

I had my first life drum performance and I am a rockstar!

Snow...brrr!
Snow...brrr!

After taking drumming lessons for four months, practicing hard at one-on-one classes with my teacher, Andrew, and with my band led by my other teacher, Eric, I finally had my first public performance on 26 January, 2015! I played the rock drums to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Bonnie Raitt's "Love Letter".  I also played the Bongo to "Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow.

Before my concernt I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I had never performed before an audience before. I felt like I would forget everything I had learnt and just go blank on stage. But, when I finally went on stage, and the guitarist started the song, my hands automatically started playing and I actually had so much fun playing! The links to my videos are below, and you can see that I was actually having fun and just jamming!

The audience clapped so loud and whistled and cheered after my performance. I couldn't believe I had actually gone through all the songs and not made any mistakes. Not only that- I had actually improvised on the spot with the cymbals and done something new I hadn't done before! I don't know what happened- it just came to me naturally and I just played it.

Now, I am looking forward to my next concert at the end of March. However, I have had much fewer classes this time, as many classes got cancelled because of bad weather and snow storms, so I am nervous all over again.

That brings me to the snow- if you see my pictures you will think I loved the snow. It does look beautiful, but I have never been such cold weather before and I really found it difficult on the days the temperature went down to -14 degrees Centigrade. Even when I went trekking with Kranti in the Himalayas I had not felt so cold. 

But now, the worst is over. This week I felt like finally Spring is coming. So, to celebrate, I went to Meridian Hill Park for a picnic with my friends and to watch the Drum Circle. Drum Circle was amazing! There were almost 15 people playing different kinds of percussion instruments and the beat was so amazing I wanted to start dancing! I hope one day I have confidence enough to join the group and play with the Drum Circle. I think I will make this my aim before I leave Washington, D.C.

In the next report, look forward to videos from my second concert!

With my friends at Meridian Hill Park picnic
With my friends at Meridian Hill Park picnic

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