The idea for KUROS started on a cramped bus ride, traversing the Himalayan foothills from Delhi to Kathmandu. I had just graduated college and had no idea what I was doing with my life, so I packed a backpack and set out alone to “find myself”.
KURO'S STORYI was your average American college kid. Focused more on extracurriculars than actually studying, and in my senior year of college I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know who I was, or where I was going... I needed to leave my comfort zone. A college friend of mine was Pakistani, and one night we got to talking. I told him I wanted to go live a simple life after graduation while I searched for "who I was".
After graduation I found myself in Pakistan living in the servant quarters of some of his family's friends. No electronics, no plan, intent on living a simple life of meditation, and introspective "soul searching”. For the first time in my life, everything was simple. My bed was a cot and my shower was a bucket of cold water. My days were spent reading, thinking, or sitting outside.…
Life rarely goes as planned, and I hadn’t chosen an ideal time to be in Pakistan (January 2013). A rapidly deteriorating security situation and growing local suspicion of my presence led to me leaving Pakistan in a hurry, crossing the border into India on foot. I walked until I hit Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs. I was exhausted, alone, and ready to give up. My feet were badly blistered from the trek and I was grossly unprepared. I contacted my family, and told them I was ready to come home. I was lucky to get out of Pakistan, and told them I would get to Delhi, so I could fly home to Texas. I felt defeated…
After my feet healed a bit, I went to the train station and boarded a train that Ithought was heading to Delhi. I ended up in a cramped second classtrain car… but as the sun set and the train was still moving, I realized that I didn't know where I was going. The train continued through the night… and I sat there and began to think about my existence… This train became a metaphor for my life. Accepting that I was truly lost. I had no idea where I was... I had no idea where I was going... but I felt that if I had an open heart and an open mind... everything would end up okay. I felt like something was pulling me, and I took it as a sign to just let go and have faith. What should have been a 7-8 hour train ride turned into almost 30 hours traveling across India. I realized I wasn't supposed to go home yet... I still hadn't found what I was looking for.
The train kept rolling along, but I felt like something was telling me to get off…I didn't care where the next stop was, I needed to get off the train. I ended upgetting off in a city called Varanasi, the "City of the Dead". Situated on the banksof the Ganges river, hundreds of miles from where I was trying to go. I spent thenext few days wandering the city and meditating on life. Varanasi is known fortheir funeral pyres on the banks of the Ganges. At one point I ended up followinga funeral precession down to the river. I watched the body burn.
I realized that I would become this one day… that I had to leave this world... butthat I wanted to leave the world better than I found it. It was so simple, but Isuddenly felt like something happened. I had traveled thousands of miles andall I had to do was look inside myself. I felt like something had pulled me toVaranasi. I felt like the universe was laying out a trail of bread crumbs… a littlepath to lead the way. I had found a purpose for my life, I just didn't have adirection yet for the purpose.
A few weeks later I found myself on a migrant worker bus heading to Kathmandu.Just as the bus was about to leave, two guys came and sat down next to me. One named Pramod, and the other Pranay. While I didn’t know it at the time, their names meant "happiness" and "guidance" in Sanskrit. Pranay (Guidance) looks at me and begins to tell me how he hates America because he passed up an opportunity to go to the United States for a girl and when they broke up he always regretted not going. He asked me if I had ever heard of this town he was going to move to, named Austin, Texas... My home town. I couldn’t believe it, I felt like this was another sign that I was heading in the right direction.
Pramod, Me, and PranayIt was a two day bus ride into the Himalayas. Near the Nepali border we had to stop due to the fog that comes with the sudden elevation change. While we were sitting in this dense fog at night in the middle of nowhere, Pramod and Pranay started telling ghost stories. They told me the tale of the Kichkandi, the ghosts of women who are raped and murdered and their souls are forced to wander the earth. They take the form of a beautiful woman in a white dress who roams the streets at night looking to seduce men traveling alone. Men in the region are so serious about them that they carry talismans, andrefuse to pick up women traveling alone at night. While intended to be scary,it sparked a realization in me.
I realized this folktale was to protect women traveling alone at night! Think of how old it must be if it has saturated an entire regional culture. Women have been getting raped and murdered for thousands of years, this is not a new phenomenon. We then got to talking about the Delhi Rape incident which had made international news and which had occurred just a few weeks prior.They told me how rampant these sexual assaults were and how it affected these women living there, even if they hadn't been attacked. Having a little sister I could only imagine the helplessness the families felt. How helpless these women must feel living in these conditions, where being attacked isa daily and almost accepted part of life. How the police aren’t doing anything,the justice systems aren’t doing anything, and these women are living withtheir backs against a wall. I realized there is a need for immediate, physical protection. A way to stop these attacks before they occur... these women need a chance to fight back.
I thought about girls I knew in Texas who carried pepper spray... and thought ofarming these women in countries around the world with a way to protect themselves. I wanted to offer them free pepper spray. Suddenly, again I felt like something clicked. I felt like I had found a direction for my purpose... in a small bus crossing the Himalayas, thousands of miles from home. So I returned to Texas and started the company Kuros! with hopes of creating a mechanism that could sustain itself and continue to give away free pepper spray to women around the world. So for every Kuros! product sold, a can of pepper spray is provided to a woman who could not otherwise afford it. In 2015 we partnered with SABRE, the leading pepper spray manufacturer in the world to be our international supplier for the free pepper spray, in addition to releasing a Kuros! branded SABRE can domestically that is available in retail outlets nationwide. We are currently distributing free pepper spray to women on four subcontinents and are expanding more and more every year. The cries for government intervention have gone unanswered for too long. Let us do something right here, right now and help give these women around the world a fighting chance.
– Kuro Tawil