After a long week of a common cold and jobless bed rest, one blazing hot afternoon I decided to visit ETASHA’s Madanpur Khadar training centre.
Since I wasn’t sure of the metro route I went via auto. Very reluctant to take me, the driver said, “Khadar toh bekar jagah hai madam,” (it’s a hopeless filthy area) but somehow he agreed to drop me for an extra Rs. 50 but getting there provided its own obstacles. After a bumpy 35 min ride I reached Samosa Chowk and then next was in ETASHA’s office.
Two classes were running simultaneously and so I made my entry to the computer class where some 15 students were learning fax-email templates on laptops and PCs. I was happy to see the equal boy to girls ratio in the class. The facilitator made a quick introduction of me to the trainees and one of the boys in the class asked me from which country I came! I answered Arunachal Pradesh and very instantly he told me that Itanager is the capital of AP.
It is often assumed that the people from slums lacks manners and etiquette but here I was simply amazed by the social and ethical behaviour exhibited among the students from ETASHA. In act I would say kids these days in posh public schools have fewer morals and lack the manners that the young people from the slum showed!
I spoke to Rukshar, a 17 year old class 12 student who lives with her 5 siblings and father, a fruit seller, and who proclaims her mother to be a ‘beautiful home maker’ and ‘not a house wife’ . Rukshar aspires to become a fashion designer and is already sketching her designs on the computer – she likes it more the digital way!
Her classmate Prabhat, a 16 year old boy chips in saying he wants to be an English teacher or a lawyer. Rukshar loves cooking, playing digital games, watching both English and Hindi movies and Prabhat loves music, Priyanka Chopra and in his spare time he reads books to his ‘girlfriend’!
A lot of these young people love taking part in behavioural classes, which is very important, since they develop attitudes, communication skills and other skills necessary to start work in the organised sector.
Mahesh, the 19 year old son of a mistry (carpenter) in a local hardware shop is a student studying in the CSWC program. He says that he has learned to respect and honour women during the sessions, though earlier he had not liked having girls in the class with him. Sadly there is now only 1 girl left in his batch – Kalpana who is 20 years old and educated to 10th standard. Kalpana states that the other girls in the batch had ‘family issues’ so their attendance became very irregular and they couldn’t continue.
Kalpana’s father is a chef at a small local hotel and so has taught her some cooking and her mother is also a home maker. Like Rukshar she first heard about ETASHA from a faculty member who once conducted a workshop in her locality. When asked why she wanted to join ETASHA while some of her friends are still learning in school she answered, “ETASHA has better teaching methods and space and the faculty here make sure that every student is well disciplined.”
“Freedom of expression is more encouraged among students here than than in school.” says Prabhat, while Kalpana thinks students here are not scared to express their feelings and that, “Everyone pays attention to one’s problems and difficulties .”
Despite being from underprivileged families and living in homes and communities which lack even the basic amenities of an Aam Aadmi these students have broken through their fears and insecurities with zeal and confidence to pursue their future goals. One doesn’t know how many of them will fulfill their drea s but their journey together is surely beautiful and inspiring.
It is a privilege and great joy for me to volunteer for ETASHA and I truly appreciate them for giving their best effort to prepare the disadvantaged young people to meet the challenges that lie ahead and for improving the quality of life for people wherever they are in need.
Mithy Tatak (22years old)