It’s a dream come true, Kranti’s U.S. tour. When Robin (Kranti’s co-founder) told me about her idea of doing a tour around the states with all the Krantikaris, I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I seriously didn’t believe we could do something like that, but then I forgot it's Robin - she can pull off anything of course, even if that means no sleep for months.
All the Krantikaris had been working on a play, Lal Batti Express (which in English means Red Light Express) for months, and now it was time to bring it alive on U.S. platforms. I still remember sitting with Robin near the U.S. consulate and waiting to get all the visas. We had all our flights the next morning and were still missing few visas - we had no idea of how it was all going to work out, but I had faith, because this same thing happened to me two years back when I was first flying to U.S. I got my U.S. student visa 1 ½hours before my flight! In the end it worked out for the Krantikaris too, and the next day Lal Batti Express boarded the plane and took off for NYC.
I had been in NYC many times by myself, and this time everyone was there: my mom, my sisters, and the whole Kranti family. It was whole different experience seeing New York City with everyone and I loved it.
After NYC we travelled to DC, then Chicago. We LOVED deep dish pizza in Chicago (but NYC is still my favorite place ;) ). In these cities we performed our play and also went sightseeing. After Chicago we went to Yellowstone, where we got to go river rafting and saw hot springs - it is truly magical to see the things that exist on this planet. I am scared of water, but I dared to go river rafting because A) there is no option of not going at Kranti and B) Dar Ke Agge Jeet hai - facing fears only makes you stronger. After Yellowstone we went to San Francisco, and finally to LA. All these cities were great and I loved them.
The best part of going to all these cities is that we got to perform on very different platforms. In NYC we performed at GEMS, which works with trafficked girls in NYC. We got to share our stories with the people who had similar stories, and we felt very connected. In DC we performed in a juvenile jail where all the girls were our age. In Chicago we performed at the famous Field Museum on an open platform. People stopped by and saw our play, some laughed but kept going and had a wonderful experience. In San Francisco we performed at Google, can you imagine that? Google was something I had not even thought of, and it has its own Indian restaurant... I mean seriously, who has an Indian restaurant in their U.S. office?! The food was delicious. And you know where we performed next? Facebook! Those were the days I did not believe anything was real. In LA we performed at CBS studios; we also performed in a Hindu temple and it was beautiful.
My life on the Lal Batti Express was very exciting, it was an amazing experience for me and all the Krantikaris. Thank you sooooo much to everyone who donated to make this possible. We learned so much about the world and ourselves, and we got to teach others about our lives... all thanks to you!
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!