Photo Courtesy: Marija Uzunova
“Chalo!” I yell. “Let’s go!”
I’m waiting at the bottom of the second turn of the hill as Priyanka and Gauri zoom past me. The back end of their kurtas flutter behind them, resembling the capes I saw in cartoons and action movies. At Kriya, we try our hardest to encourage our participants, also known as “Kriya Ambassadors,” to try their best in everything they do. Whether it’s in the gym, the water, or on a bicycle, we’re always trying to find effective ways of motivating the girls to put their best foot forward. But going downhill is easy; the rest of the 12.5 kilometers (the farthest cycle any of our Ambassadors have ever done) will be a much bigger challenge for Priyanka and Gauri.
The sun burns our backs as we make our way past the small villages and large, yellow fields driedby the sun and burned by the farmers. Within forty-five minutes, we’ve reached Badas, our turning point. After a quick water break at Gauri’s home, we head back to campus. As Gauri begins to climb a hill just before Asade village, her scarf gets caught in the gears of her bike and she falls. She gets up quickly and calmly and immediately begins to work the scarf out of her chains. Meanwhile, I’ve stopped dead in my tracks, worrying about whether or not she’s been injured, how we’ll get her back to campus, if we can provide any sort of first aid. She looks at me and smiles. She laughs, “Next time, I won’t wear this. It is too difficult to wear on the cycle.” Later, we arrive at the bottom of the hill.
The real challenge begins now: we’re tired, it’s still hot, and we now have another two kilometers to complete uphill. Priyanka and Gauri give me looks of disbelief when I tell them that I want them to go up in fifteen minutes or less. They begin begrudgingly and as we reach the halfway point, Gauri gets off of her bike and puts her face in her hands. She tells me, “No. I can’t do it.” I grab her shoulders and as gently as I can, I tell her, “Gauri, I’m not asking you to do something easy. I’m asking you to do something I know that you are capable of.”
She looks up and her frown levels out into a determined smile. “Chalo,” she says. She hops back on the cycle and takes off; the back of her kurta trailing behind her.
Passion, strength, drive. This is what superheroes are made of. These girls are real superwomen – soon to be role models for other young girls in their respective communities. It is their effort, their will power that pushes and creates social change. They are the essential ingredient in changing the mindsets of a long established system. They are the flint that ignites the flame. And the best part: there’s no kryptonite in sight.
– Kaz Christopher Tomozawa (USA)
Class of 2016