Travel For A Cause With Crossbow Miles – Bhopal, India

Have you ever been on a trip where all the stars lined up? Where every single thing fell into place like a beautiful cosmic dance without you lifting a finger? Where at the end you feel like it was a surreal dream and one of life’s intense experiences at the same time?

I did. The feeling is magical. And the gratefulness, well that’s when I realise that it is not about me at all.

I first heard of Srishti’sProject Crossbow Miles six months ago, during their crowd-funding stage. At that point, I was battling with the idea of India, identity and what I need to learn to be able to understand it better. Crossbow Miles hit me like a sudden lightening bolt and it led to two major realisations, overnight. One, women today stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us. It hasn’t been an easy journey and it definitely isn’t something that we should take for granted. When it is time to pay it forward, we must. Two, we are not a “not my problem” generation (paraphrasing Srishti). We have time and monetary luxuries that our previous generations didn’t, and if we are called upon to exercise it in any way, we must.

Project Crossbow Miles shaped up into something powerful and touching at the same time. Srishti started a march along India’s spine from Kanyakumari to Kashmir focussing on two vectors to empower women (heaven knows there are so many). She conducted digital and financial literacy workshops for women in villages along the way and also addressed school and college students to tackle mindsets, the root of all discrimination. I watched this journey online, and cried so many times at the stories she unearthed on the ground. This is it. This is the real India I’ve been struggling to understand.

I couldn’t resist a trip to see it for myself, to immerse myself in this experience albeit for a short three days. So I headed to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. And what an extraordinary three days that was. Every single logistic fell into place magically and all I had to do was throw myself into every activity with all my heart (and erm, legs).

(All photos in this post feature Srishti Bakshi)

The Walk: Srishti and I walked 55km over 3 days when I was there. NH-46 from Budhni Park to Bhopal was the narrowest and dustiest highway the team had encountered in four months and 2000km! Tired of the dust, we spent a considerable time on a parallel railway track, jumping off the tracks and watching trains when the signals turned yellow. And at other times, we walked through protected forests and noisy dirty towns. Finding loos was an adventure. Pushing through smoke chimneys which broke our hearts was an adventure. Heck, every step was one to remember.

This walk tied together my other two loves – endurance activities and travel. I love walking and slow running, and 55km fed right into this need. And my wanderlust heart has always wondered what it would be like to walk long distances to get from point A to B instead of flying or driving, slowing down and breathing slow. Sure, NH-46 wasn’t an ideal candidate for this, but it was an immense learning experience that I can survive this without using a single emergency asthma attack equipment that I had packed!

55km in 3 days

Through protected forests…

…and crowded, dusty towns.

Till we got off the highway to a parallel train track.

People who stop by to express their support, invaluable on the road.

The Workshop: I attended a workshop at the Army Wives Welfare Association conducted by Srishti, which focussed on finding your voice and standing up for equality. From the podium, I watched the audience and their reactions. Heads nodded in agreement, faces lit up in hope, eyes turned wistful at “if-onlys”. They mobbed her after the event, a true testament to someone voicing what they’ve always felt. I have deep respect for army men and women and their families for their service to the country, and it broke my heart to see that women’s issues cut across social and economic strata like nobody’s business.

AWWA Workshop

The Wall: Project Crossbow Miles is going to paint 30 walls on their journey, each one an inspiring story of a woman or child they’ve met along the way who has overcome odds and serves as an inspiration to others. Poornima Sukumar leads this massive effort, and my nervous un-artsy hands got to paint a little of the police green on Neelam, a sub-inspector from Itarsi. I will wait for the case studies and documentary to tell her (and other) stories 🙂

Neelam’s Mom tears up at her daughter’s portrait.

The Fourth Estate: I was a fly on the wall as Srishti conducted a press conference. For all the Sean Spicer grilling I’ve seen, I did not expect the press to be belligerent. I was wrong. I watched Srishti tackle confrontation, all the while giving due respect to the other school of thought. But when the reporter interrupted her a hundred times and yet listened to her father General Bakshi without as much as a whimper, I was enraged. But then, I was a fly on the wall. And I’ll never be able to find his name or read his expert opinions in Hindi even if I did, so I’ll have to eat my feelings, rest this case, and pick a different battle when I can. Hopefully in English 🙂

The press conference

I also learnt how much effort it takes to put together a project of this magnitude. Srishti and her team have been working tirelessly for a year to get sponsors on board, a UN internship and massive logistics in place. Not to mention the physical conditioning required for an endurance project like this one. What lies beneath is pure passion. A drive to make even one person’s life a tad better during our time on earth.

The final product of this nine-month tour de force will be a documentary of this journey with its sights and learnings, a report to the National Commission for Women to attempt to affect policy change, and the biggest one of them all – an app to consolidate the ways that people can contribute to causes that make an impact on the ground, all from the comfort of their daily lives. Download Crossbow Miles today and gift your steps to the women and children of real India!


I must mention my mother before I sign off. The biggest female inspiration in my life, she continues to do so much in one lifetime which I don’t think I can do in ten. She’s professor-ed (hah, yes, that’s a word from today!) for more than three decades, still teaches with a store of patience that seems never ending, raised a family, taken care of both sets of grand folks, and without a word also reached out into society and educated our maids’ children and supported them in various ways over the years like how many in her generation did. Our maid is currently educating three daughters in spite of great pressure from extended family, and she says she couldn’t have done it without my Mom’s silent backing. Mom’s impact on society matches mammoth projects like Crossbow Miles, steadfastly paying it forward as much as they can and making a difference.


Here I stand, watching stalwarts like these, only hoping that one day I find my heart’s calling in the next step in life – to give back. It isn’t going to be a lightening bolt. And it isn’t going to fall into place magically. It will take hard work, and an open ear, heart and mind to the call of the universe.

This article was first written by Akshata Rao on January 20, 2018 and appeared here.

A thing of beauty: Wall art 1

Written for Arrow by CrossBow
Founder of Aravani Art Project | Muralist | Artist | Wanderer | Photographer
Part of the process of wall painting is hunting for it and the experience with this first wall was really adventurous with Isha from the CrossBow.
We came upon a wall that was in the premises of a big ground that was part of public gatherings and a play ground for the young people. It also served as an important walk way from the main road.
The concept was developed after interacting with Deepak and Srishti soon after their first workshop, after listening to the stories it almost felt that everyone have taken women and their issues for granted.
The visual was inspired by a picture that Sabit took during the workshop. It was a girl who had her eyes closed and seemed like she was thinking deep.
Her eyes seemed closed, but not ignorant. Closed to show a sense of resistance and re-affirmation that women have the power within themselves.
The beauty of painting in public spaces is the reaction, appreciation and sometimes participation that it brings. The quick analysis that i could derive from the interactions with the student crowd that were passing by every 10 mins, was of course curiosity. Some of the girls were very forthcoming to offer a helping hand and ask questions whether related to the painting or not.
The boys were particularly alarmed by the fact : ‘why only women rights?, what about men?’
It would leave me speechless at times.
The artwork resonates with the fact that women are subjected to certain expectations that are pushed upon us by the society in general.
It is heartbreaking to know that we need to remind ourselves and the rest of the world that “Women also have rights”.
Often my observations after painting in places that have lesser exposure to ‘urbanisation’ is that there is very little understanding of what rights mean, equality means and both are taken for granted. This is not a generalised opinion; there are some beautiful stories of bravery and free sprit that I often get to listen to.
 The wall is a sign of a resilience, a silent voice, a voice that will remind every single person who reads “Pengalukkum Urimai Undu” (Women also have rights).


Painted by : Team Crossbow, those lovely high school girls who helped me paint a flower and Ramesh from Kanyakumari who did the Tamil typo.




CrossBow ART Project

Poornima Sukumar is a muralist, community artist, illustrator and documentary photographer who uses public spaces to engage youth in peacemaking and to create awareness.

CrossBow is partnering with Poornima to leave behind a beautiful message for the cities and towns it is going through.

With the help of local volunteers, Poornima will be painting walls in 30 major and minor towns and cities along the path of Project Crossbow. Each of these individual walls will have a motif and all 30 of them will come together as a whole piece of artwork. This artwork aims to combine elements of technology, life, strife and culture to represent an empowered Indian Woman moving towards the future. This artwork is an attempt to bring together the various parts of India, one step at a time, to create symphony and beauty.

Read more here.


Arrow by CrossBow Press Release Launch 15/09/17

For a safer India for Women-Srishti Bakshi begins her 3800 Km cross country walk in Kanyakumari

Women in India – making them safer and empowered through digital and financial literacy


Kanyakumari, September 15, 2017Srishti Bakshi, Founder CrossBow and an Empower Women Champion for Change 2016-2017 today embarked on her pan India walk with team Crossbow, covering 3800 kms over 260 days from Kanyakumari to Srinagar. The walk will begin from Vivekananda College, Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu). The walk is aimed at creating awareness across India for women’s safety and empowering them through digital and financial literacy. UN Women’s Empower Women Initiative is dedicated to empowering women to achieve their full economic potential by inspiring both men and women to become to become advocates, change makers and leaders in their community. Present at the campaign flag of was District Collector Mr Sajan Singh Chavan IAS, Mr. Doraiswami, President, Vivekananda College and Mrs Rekha Sharma, Member, National Commision for Women (NCW).


As a supporter of the campaign, Mr. Navneit Sekera I.P.S, Inspector General of Police, Women Power Line, reiterated his association with this cause with his words wishing Srishti for the flag off. “We are happy that Srishti is spreading the message of 1090 across the nation to help make India a safer place for women. Her effort is inspiring and her spirit is unmatched”.


Through this walk, Srishti and her team will conduct workshops on women empowerment, digital and financial literacy, leadership, knowing one’s rights, gender sensitization, health and hygiene. The campaign aims to drive awareness in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi as well as J&K, which will be the route for her entire walk. As radical innovators with an aim to reach 1 billion steps, team Crossbow will soon be able to cumulate the steps collected on their app (digital platform), which will be recorded as a remote footstep contribution by any individual willing to make a difference. These steps collected serve as virtual support to organisations’ working in the areas of education, skill development, health & hygiene and women empowerment; and to their charitable partners and trusts. Ideated and spearheaded by Srishti Bakshi, this is a way to engage the current ‘digital’ generation for a social impact movement, using the power of technology.


Speaking on the campaign Srishti Bakshi said, “This campaign is a fight against the alarming gender bias in our country that has not seen visible difference in spite of the significant economic progress we have made. Through my Modern Day Dandi March, we hope to initiate change and create awareness that change begins with the individual. We look forward to the open conversations that we hope to engage in along the way and understand the key action points that need our immediate attention. The digital platform is the way forward and we urge India to collaborate with us and make the difference that we aspire for through their footsteps and information sharing.” 


She further added, “In our eyes, this campaign is an emotion that binds the women of India together, as we set out to create that change and move together in making India a safer, educated and healthier country. Gender equality, political power, economic freedom and women entrepreneurship are buzz words, but women’s safety is the very basis of existence. Through digital and financial literacy, we can prepare women to be informed and empowered individuals capable of navigating through deeply entrenched social norms. It is imperative to create an India with women, for women, with the efforts and vision of women who understand the path to cheer the joy of being a woman. This campaign is for both men and women, as we believe inclusivity is the key to social success.”


Extending their support to this initiative and powering this campaign, companies like L&T Financial Services (SIP with me India), RB India – Dettol & Harpic (Dettol Banega Swachh India), Jagran Group (Jagran Pehel), ITC – Vivel (#AbSamjhautaNahin), IOCL in addition to other collaborators, have come forward to make a social impact.


Speaking on the power of the movement and extending their support, Mr. Kailash Kulkarni, Chief Executive- Investment Management, L&T Financial Services said, “L&T Financial Services through our Mutual Fund arm is proud to be associated with the cause of women empowerment. Through this Modern Day Dandi March, we will enable women to take their first step towards financial literacy. Helping them to be KYC compliant during Crossbow’s financial literacy workshops will be the key enabler in that direction. It is our way of contributing to the movement. I wish Srishti and Team Crossbow the very best.”


On the occasion, Mr. Rohit Jindal, Director Marketing, RB, said, “Women empowerment is crucial for the development of our country. Srishti Bakshi is undertaking a commendable feat of connecting women across the country with her nationwide walk. Dettol & Harpic through the Banega Swachh India campaign are happy to associate with her as hygiene and sanitation partners. We wish Srishti good luck for her journey.”


Speaking on the support, Sameer Satpathy, Chief Executive, Personal Care Products Business, ITC Limited  said, “Vivel Ab Samjhauta Nahin is proud to partner with Srishti Bakshi, the UN Champion for Change 2017 in her journey to raise awareness on safety for women. We believe that women can empower and protect themselves against violence and discrimination by being aware of their rights under law. To this effect we have created an educative ‘Know Your Rights’ module which provides a simplified understanding of the laws around women’s rights. The module will be hosted at workshops across the country during Srishti’s journey from Kanyakumari to Srinagar” 

Please note: United Nations Mandate on usage of this text (to be used in full and not in part)

Srishti is an Empower Woman Champion for Change 2016-2017. UN Women’s Empower Women Initiative is dedicated to empowering women to achieve their full economic potential by inspiring both men and women to become to become advocates, change makers and leaders in their community


About CrossBow:

 CrossBow is a mass outreach and engagement platform tailored for cause-driven campaigns. Conceptualized and established in 2016, CrossBow is the vision of Srishti Bakshi. It has a special focus on empowering impact projects with analytics, which can make a paradigm shift in how funds flow from sources to these projects. Team Arrow will be embarking on a 260 day and 3800 km on-foot journey across India from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu to Srinagar, Kashmir mobilizing citizens along the way to make India a safer country for women. Team Arrow aims to sensitize citizens to the gender divide in the country, which it will combat by empowering women with digital and financial literacy. The initiative will engage people in a unique digital world movement by collecting one billion steps on an app CrossBow Miles. People can connect with CrossBow on a digital platform and join their steps to the movement and lend virtual support to organisations working for women empowerment.   For further details please contact:


Deepti Belliappa Ganapathy

The Prophets

M: 9845534780  E:


Tariq A Wari

The Prophets

M: 9611436963  E:


Are Safe Spaces Liberating Too?

Are Safe Spaces Liberating Too?

India has been tagged as a perilious place for women. Many have vehemently argued against this. I have been a believer of India as a safe country for women. One may question what gives me the authority to advocate this thought.

In my defense, I have travelled over 3,300 kms across 7 states of India in public buses (except five times when there were no buses along the route or when they refused to take off). It took me 35 days, four pairs of clothes, innumerable good-hearted people and ZERO peppersprays to finish this journey. I returned perfectly safe.

Since I finished this journey one and a half years back, I have been trying to change mindsets. My fondest memory of safe women is a scene in a train compartment.

I was 13 days into my journey. Given that there were no direct buses from Ratnagiri to Mumbai, I decided to cover this stretch by train. I had to wait for three hours at the station. Three young boys running a Chai-Pakoda shop kept me company sharing stories about them quitting education, running away from home and regretting the decision.

Three women from the midst of nowhere came and started talking to me about well, my attention-seeker backpack. They thought I represented India in sports (wish that was true) and I was travelling to play. Since their destination was also the same, they asked me to join them.

The train arrived and I boarded with the ladies. It was the first time ever that I was travelling in a ‘Ladies Compartment’ in a train. What I saw made me smile and wonder.

These ladies were a different breed in that compartment. Solo travellers slept fearlessly with their faces covered with dupattas and towels, nostrils flaring and mouths wide open. Older travellers parked themselves wherever they could – two of them squeezed themselves between my feet. Some stood at the open door gazing outside, unfettered by the strong winds. Some sang and a little girl, with two front tooth missing, danced like she was in a party. Everyone else cheered and clapped for her like they were in a party. Strangers spoke, made each other laugh, brought each other chai and samosa. Some fought when their request to make space on a two seater which was already occupied by five wasn’t met. Indeed women in a ‘Ladies Dabba’ of a local train were the happiest.

This compartment felt like the most liberating space for women in our country. In that moment I was too busy making mental and actual notes, having gup-shup, capturing moments and creating memories for myself.

Though, much later, this experience raised questions in my head when I read a piece on how women negotiate public spaces in India. Images after images and memories after memories crossed my mind about the ways in which I have negotiated spaces because of perceptions of threat and a strong sense of unease.

Perceptions of threat have forced me to follow rules and advise other girls about using public spaces cautiously. To wait at a bus stop and not any other place is a common strategy to stay safe that most Indian women will swear by. Like the article says, we strategise everyday – carrying sharp objects like keys and pepper sprays, saving quick dial numbers on our phones, walking faster or not walking at all after sun-down, rolling our windows up while driving through dark lanes. I even switch from English songs to Hindi or a regional one while driving past streets that are not well-lit. The list is never-ending.

I proudly admit that I was safe throughout my 3,300 kms journey (no weapons used). But I also confess that I was vigilant all the time. I could not afford a moment of negligence. My trip plan included reading up on safety tips for solo women travellers in India. I was prepared for the worst and ready to walk away from any space/ conversation without giving rise to a conflict situation. The spaces I went to were safe – nothing unpleasant really happened. But are safe spaces equally liberating? I now wonder if there are any other liberating spaces in our country other than the ladies compartments in the trains.

The answer is a clear no. The attempt must be to create such spaces. Why loiter, the beautiful initiative, has created ripples since inception and it continues to do so. To take things a step further, to empower women using digital media to its best advantage, to stand up against violence and deep rooted gender bias, Srishti Bakshi will walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. If you want to jon hands in this initiative, click here.

The 3,300kms travel across India was an initiative of the group, The Travelling Trinity formed by Sangeeta GoelHimanshu Shekhar and Kamal Haz. While Sangeeta Goel travelled solo in public buses for 100kms to 150kms everyday, Himanshu Shekhar and Kamal Haz cycled everyday on the same route, covering the same distance.

This blog was written by Sangeeta Goel and first appeared here.

NOT ‘not my problem’

I remember walking into the local Chinese school where I taught, just a few days before Christmas in 2012. I was planning to teach the kids Christmas carols and was already humming happily. As the only Indian in the school, I was always treated nicely but distantly. I suppose my colleagues struggled with English and didn’t want to make the effort to converse.

That day was different. There was a group of four women sitting together and looking visibly pained. As I walked in with my cheery good mornings, they responded and then one hesitantly said, ” We hear bad rape in India. We sorry.” They were talking of course of the Nirbhaya case.

In that one second, I paled, retched, sobbed, fumed and cried all at once. There was no condescension in their voices, just genuine concern. And in that one second, the armour of ‘Not my problem!’ that I had built up my entire life, crumbled.

Growing up in India, we hear stories of violence, injustice and oppression against women every other day. As working adults abroad, when we read these same stories, they make us cringe, make us embarrassed and make us thankful to have left India. But deep down, they also make us feel guilty. Guilty that we aren’t able to help in any way.

I’m proud to know this incredible woman – Srishti Bakshi. She is an absolute inspiration.
She has been nominated as a Champion for Change 2017 under the Empower Women Initiative of United Nations Women. This September she begins a 260 day journey walking the entire length of India (3,800km!), campaigning to make India a safe and equal place for Women. She will be conducting workshops to empower women through financial and digital literacy.


Preparing for the long journey ahead

Srishti was an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) like me, with a high paying job in Hong Kong. It would have been easy for her to say ‘not my problem’ and turn a blind eye. But she didn’t.

I’m going to join Srishti in Project CrossBow. With two children under four, I won’t be able to join the actual walk, but I can participate virtually. Every step I take while here in Hong Kong gets counted on the CrossBow app and unlocks funds by corporate and philanthropic sponsors towards organisations in India, working to empower women.

To go from a one-woman walk to a nation-wide Modern Day Dandi March, CrossBow is going to need great virality and social media galvanisation. And that’s where my expertise as a digital marketer comes in. Because this is my fight. This is my movement. This IS my problem.






This blog was written by Anita Balagopalan and first appeared here.

Modern day Dandi March

Nowadays it’s fashionable to diss Mahatma Gandhi and his belief in a united India, dignity of labour and non-violence. And for sure, his political ideas were for a less complex world. But the master strategist that he was, I think he would have adapted. It sounds almost blasphemous to reduce the Father of the Nation to some sort of low level political opportunist. After all, he was an idealist, incorruptible and selfless. And they are seen as schmoozers, sly and selfish. They needn’t be. They are simply the people who devise plans to reach an end. The means is what makes them selfish or selfless, incorruptible or dubious.

Violence against women is perpetually in the news these days and the horrors of gang rape, dowry deaths, acid attacks and honour killings are too lurid and omnipresent to ignore any longer. It is a slap in the face of India and its claim to its modernity and progress. So how can we end this scourge of violence against women in India? By invoking the principles of Mahatma Gandhi in the nation that he helped bring to life.


I’m proud to be associating myself with Project CrossBow to raise my voice against this surge in crimes against women in India. You can too.

To read more and support the campaign, please visit


This blog was written by Anita Balagopalan and first appeared here.





Our Goal


Our Goal

This September, Srishti Bakshi, on her Modern Day Dandi March, will be walking 3800 km (2300 miles) from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu (South India) to Srinagar, Kashmir (North India). With this on-foot journey, we hope to collect ONE BILLION STEPS, from you towards making India a safer country for women.


How will we achieve our Goal?

We know that each one of you strives to give your time and hard earned money to fight for causes you believe in. It’s hard!
What if we told you that your daily steps, clocked into our App will unlock funds by Corporate/Foundation/Philanthropic DONORS to benefit Non-Profits who are working on-ground protecting women and girl-child rights in our country. CrossBow , a mobile app , where you will clock in your daily steps is a mass outreach and engagement platform tailored for cause-driven campaigns.
We will be on the road for 260 days, walking from one city to the other. During this walk  our team of Arrows will be –
  1. Conducting Workshops on  financial and digital literacy to empower women
  2. Build an extensive volunteer network of change-makers on-ground who will continue the mission
  3. Document stories through shooting a documentary feature film.

CrossBow Preparatory Walk


This is a call to action. Everyone who’s cringed or raged about violence against women, YOU can be a change-maker. Back our Modern Day Dandi March. Violence against women is perpetually in the news these days and is a slap in the face of India and its claim to its modernity and progress. We are tired of hearing that India is NOT a country for Women, tired of just waiting for someone else to bring about CHANGE.

Our Milaap Campaign

This is a call to action. Everyone who’s cringed or raged about violence against women, YOU can be a change-maker. Back our Modern Day Dandi March. Violence against women is perpetually in the news these days and is a slap in the face of India and its claim to its modernity and progress. We are tired of hearing that India is NOT a country for Women, tired of just waiting for someone else to bring about CHANGE.

This is a shout out to you, our fellow countrymen and change-makers across the world.