Send Mumbai Red-Light Area Girl to US University!

 
$32,620
$7,380
Raised
Remaining
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:

UN Award
UN Award

Happy New Year to everyone!!

I had forgotten to mention that I got  UN Youth Courage Award last September. It was a great feeling.

It’s been an exciting year for me. Sophomore year is a challenge but I had so much fun with my suitemates, two of whom were Indians, which was great. This year I found myself become more comfortable at Bard and with American culture. I was happy and excited and got closer to my friends from last year.

The whole semester was challenging but wasn’t impossible to get through and I had my amazing friends to spend time with and to have some fun. I also participated in the biggest event on campus, “Cultural Show at Bard”. I had danced on Bollywood songs with my south Asian friends and it was so much fun. It reminded of Kranti and how we all used to turn the lights off and dance to our favorite Bollywood songs.

Do guys know Sheetal is here?? If you don’t know then you should probably Google her :P. She is quite famous for getting into a drum school in Washington, D.C. She is not just famous but also one of my closest friend from Kranti. Having her here is the best thing that could happen this semester. Having someone from back home and who is close to you it’s great. I am in D.C. with her right now. I got here when I was done with my fall semester. I visited her almost every single break this term. When we hang out we talk in our language. It is Hindi but it’s little different. It’s so much fun when no one around us understands us. I am so glad she is here but I am also sad that I am going to leaver day after tomorrow.

Yeah, I am doing a semester abroad. Do checkout semesteratsea.org it is an amazing opportunity for students to study and explore the world. I won’t believe I am going to be on a ship for four months the whole semester. We’ll be travelling to 12 different countries. No one in this whole world can understand how excited I am and my love for travelling. Yes there are 600 people who are going on this ship but this is different for me. I had never ever in my whole life had imagined this was possible. This is another dream come true for me. I had applied for Spring2013 before applying to Bard and I had also gotten in but couldn’t get my passport on time. But you know there is a saying in Hindi, “Jo bhi hota hai acheke liye hota hai.” Which basically means,”Whatever happens, happens for the good”. And it’s true at least in this case because if I had been on Semester at Sea in Spring2013 then I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to sail with my sister, Kavita. That’s right- another great news; she is sailing with me on SAS Spring2015. It couldn’t have gotten any better sailing with a person I have always talked about staying together with. And this time I also got full scholarship for the program. Seriously what else do I want? This is perfect.

I just can’t wait to start my journey. And I have also started a blog to keep everyone updated on Kavita’s adventures here’s a link to it http://travellingbarefoot.blogspot.com/ if you are interested in readingJ.

I hope exciting things are happening in your lives too.

Shweta

Ready to Sail Semester at sea
Ready to Sail Semester at sea
With Sheetal in NYC
With Sheetal in NYC

Links:

Kranti
Kranti'sbest chef Sapna cooked Biryani just for me

Hellooooo!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful summer :). Thank you for all your donations and continued support. I have had a very eventful summer. After my visit to London for a fundraising tour for Kranti, I finally went to India, and had a busy summer full of activities.

During summer I did theater workshop in Mumbai, which was very fun. I was anxious at first but then I became friends with everyone and I was the youngest there so everyone’s favorite too! I got to do crazy things in acting class- we would make weird sounds and weird body postures which was very interesting and I think these small exercises made me more comfortable about my body. I do weird things but only in front of Kranti girls because I am very close to them and comfortable with them; but here it was different we were all strangers to each other. For me to behave freely in front of strangers is a big deal but what surprised me was that I was doing these weird body postures and making weird noises with all the strangers and it was fun! At the end of the workshop we did a presentation. There is a production happening but I am here in college in New York so I won’t be able to join them. It was a play about two Indian Mughal soldiers who are obsessed with chess and they would rather die for chess then for their king. In the rehearsal of the play I had two roles in the first half I was a Maid and in the other half I was a gay maid!

I was in Delhi for few days speaking at LIFE conference organized by TGELF foundation. Which was a very good experience. I met some of the Indian students who are studying in the United States.

My Mom was very happy to see me this time too. I surprised all the girls at Kranti just arriving at Kranti’s new house at midnight. My Mom was sleeping and when I he woke up she took a moment to make sense of what’s happening and then she just hugged me very tight. I was very excited to be back because last time my visit was small this time I was in Mumbai for two months. Last year was long and very interesting for me and them. I had changed and I wasn’t sure how my relationships were going to be with everyone. It wasn’t easy. I had some arguments with my sisters and friends but it was all fine at the end. Things change, people change, relationships change, too, but it’s on you how you take that change and what you make out of it. My relationships with everyone grew stronger and I am very happy and lucky to have every single one of them, specially my mom, in my life.

I met my friends from school they were very proud of me and I was very happy to see them. Some of them I saw after 3-4 years and they were very as accepting of me as ever. They are the people who never judged because of my background they always knew where I grew up some of them also visited my house. It was so great to finally meet them after so long.

I also visited my family in Karnataka and they were very happy to see me. They told me I looked like a boy because I had cut my hair so short! They were all so excited and proud knowing that I traveled by myself and could take care of myself in the States.

But do you want know what the most wonderful time was while I was in India? When I would eat FOOOOODDDD. After eating Bard Kline (cafeteria) food for so many months, I had really been missing Indian food. I ate all the street food Pani Puri, Kulfi, Masala Dosa and chai.

Will Keep you updated on my life at Bard :).

Regards,

Shweta

Kranti family had missed them a lot
Kranti family had missed them a lot
"Shatranj ke Khiladi" the paly I was part of
"Shatranj ke Khiladi" the paly I was part of
My lovely mother and her lovely daughter :P
My lovely mother and her lovely daughter :P
speaking at ShiftSeries organized by Tgelf
speaking at ShiftSeries organized by Tgelf
Visiting DC
Visiting DC

Hi Friends and Supporters,

You will NEVER guess where I am writing you from! Ready……? I’m in LONDON! As you can see, I am very excited. :) I am here speaking at a couple events, visiting a couple NGOs and also meeting some funders for Kranti. I was even on BBC radio last week! It was a wonderful wrap up to this school year.

Can you believe I just finished my freshman year at Bard?? I still can’t believe it, but it’s true! I am happy and excited for summer break, especially because I didn’t have wonderful grades this semester. I am going to have to work realllllly hard this summer on reading and writing skills so I can do better next year. But I am already excited about starting again in September, because I am finally taking psychology classes next semester, so I will be able to decide if I want to major in psychology.

All in all, it was a very special year – I learned how to take care of myself in a totally different environment than the one I grew up in. I mastered English, and I adjusted to new foods, lifestyles, and social life. It’s made me realize that no matter how different we seem on the outside, we are all human beings and have more in common than could ever be different.

There were times where I just wanted to leave Bard and go back to my family but I was very lucky because I had people to speak to during that time. They all helped me get through the year and now I am very excited to go back in September and start it all again. You know what I will miss the most for the next couple months?? Waffles!! :) Yeah, even though I hated everything I ate when I first arrived in the US, now I know I will miss the food here. I even love sushi and Mexican food now…but of course I am excited to eat my mom’s cooking back in Mumbai Meri Jaan (this means “Mumbai my life” and it is the name of a famous movie).

I leave for India tomorrow, but it is a very difficult time at Kranti. If you guys are following Kranti on FB then you would know that Kranti has been kicked out our rental house and are looking for new house in Mumbai. If you are from Mumbai you would know how expensive it is to get a house there and that’s part of the reason I am in London, to find people who will support us for funding our own home so nobody can kick us out. Our dream is to have our own house where we can be safe and nobody would be able to kick us out because we are from a “dirty” place called Kamathipura. Wish us luck. :)

Thank you all – this year that I am talking about was only possible because of all of you. I cannot thank you enough for helping me live my dream! I still can’t believe I am a little girl from a big, infamous red-light area who lives in New York and got to travel to London. :) I will keep you updated the next two months as I continue to fundraise for next year!

Hugs,
Shweta

My last day in New York
My last day in New York
A friend who works with slum children
A friend who works with slum children
My first time on the London Tube!
My first time on the London Tube!
Speaking at Connect India, London
Speaking at Connect India, London

Links:

Me & my sisters!
Me & my sisters!

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all wonderful! I am sorry for not writing – but it has been very crazy for two months. I had mid-term exams, traveled to Bangalore for a TEDx talk, visited everyone in Mumbai and am back in New York but still doing a lot of media interviews and trying to catch up on studying. It is busy but still an amazing month.

When I flew to Bangalore, Robin (Kranti staff) brought my mother by bus and told her they were going to a workshop. So I hid behind some trees as Robin and my mom walked into the hotel, and then my mom sat down. Robin took out her phone, acting like she was checking email but she started recording. I was afraid my mom would die of a heart attack, but when I popped out from behind the trees and yelled “Mummy!” she just hugged me and started crying. I think someone at Kranti had given her a hint because she was not so surprised! My speech was in English so she did not understand much, but she just smiled alllll day and so many people came and congratulated her afterwards. I am THE luckiest person in this universe to have her as my mother!!

Then we got on a bus to Mumbai, with the next plan to surprise the Kranti girls. My mother and Robin went in early, then I knocked on the door casually. The girls opened the door and started screaming and screaming and screaming! (Video below.) We hugged and laughed for a while, and then I started on my big mission in Mumbai – eating! Bani (Kranti staff and chef extraordinaire) had made fish rice for my arrival, but on my flight I had made a list of all the things I wanted to eat in Mumbai, especially street food. The six days in Mumbai flew by – eating, talking and laughing. We went to several movies, we performed our play in Mumbai’s biggest theater, and celebrated Women’s Day together. I could not believe how six days ended so fast…I am so lucky to have so many amazing people in my life.

It was hard to leave India, and I am struggling with a lot of things since coming back to Bard. I miss my family, everyone at Kranti and it is hard to fit into regular American culture sometimes, especially when people talk about TV shows I’ve never seen. There are some great changes I see in myself, like last year when I started college, I was struggling with my English and adjusting to the new environment. This semester, my English is amazing and I am thinking more about my identity and what I really want to do with my life. But classes are still hard…nothing in my Indian education ever prepared me for the amount of thinking, reading and writing required at Bard. But my problems make me more determined to improve things for my friends in Kamathipura (Mumbai’s red-light area) and my sisters at Kranti.

I know many of you are thinking I live a crazy, interesting life. I do – and it’s thanks to people like you. I can’t thank you enough for supporting me and making all of these opportunities possible. I cannot believe I am at Bard, I cannot believe I got to go home for a week, but even more, I can’t believe all the amazing people in my life. People who bring me joy, love me unconditionally (even if I fail!) and remind me how important I am. I hope you have such amazing people in your life too – please take the time to thank them today!

Love,
Shweta

Theater performance on Women
Theater performance on Women's Day

Links:

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Organization

Kranti

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
http://www.kranti-india.org

Project Leader

Robin Chaurasiya

Mumbai, Maharastra India

Where is this project located?