Meet Niraj Singh Kawat: ETASHA trainee and singer


His friends and facilitators all told me that Niraj Singh Kawat, age 13, was an exceptional singer. However, when I asked him if he would like to sing during the interview, he shook his head. Only after a few minutes of coaxing and cajoling did he finally relent, performing an amazing rendition of the song “Tu Naa Jaane Aas Paas Hai Khuda.” However, in the moments that I was persuading him, he seemed bashful, averting my eyes, as if not sure whether or not to sing. Once he actually started singing, though, all traces of shyness vanished, replaced instead with intense focus. It was as if I was looking at a different person! The transformation was startling, and once he was finished singing, he reverted back to his previously hesitant demeanor. Later, I realized the cause for both behaviors: Niraj’s confidence levels. Normally, he (and other underprivileged children just like him) aren’t exposed to people of different social classes and as such, often feel uncomfortable and unsure when conversing with them. However, the one thing that wouldn’t change regardless of other circumstances was his singing ability, which is the reason for Niraj’s self-assurance while immersed in the song. When he is singing, he can forget about everything else, and focus only at the task at hand.

By nature, Niraj is very creatively oriented: he enjoys the arts, such as singing and dancing. His music of choice includes Sufi songs (sad songs) and songs by Justin Bieber. Several days a week, he goes to the ETASHA educational center at Tigri, where his favorite classes include those involving computers and English speaking. He explained to me that he especially liked English classes, because he could practice no matter where he was, whereas work on computers could only be done while he was at ETASHA. Throughout the interview, I was impressed by not just his English vocabulary, but also by his accent, which he changed to sound more like a native speaker.

The two sides of Niraj I observed represent a very important skill that ETASHA works to incorporate in all of its trainees: social confidence. It’s not that trainees can’t speak without stumbles, but rather, that they often lack the belief that they can succeed. Therefore, ETASHA tries to slowly remove these fears by working with trainees and building up skills to augment confidence. Niraj is just one example of many. He told me, “ETASHA has helped my English improve, and I speak more fluently now.” By giving trainees more practice with skills that might have been subpar, ETASHA increases that confidence that students have while using these skills. For example, Niraj might have so much confidence while singing because he has practiced for years. However, he probably has not spent nearly as much time familiarizing himself with computers or spoken English. So by giving Niraj the means to dedicate more time to such activities, ETASHA improves his skills, and at the same time gives him the confidence to make these skills all the more effective and polished.

Niraj wholeheartedly believes that ETASHA has been invaluable in his educational development so far, and hopes that it will continue to help him. One day, Niraj sees himself as an accountant, putting his love for numbers to constructive use. Stay tuned to hear about how ETASHA is helping trainees just like Niraj to succeed in the future!

–Abhishek Bhargava

2 thoughts on “Meet Niraj Singh Kawat: ETASHA trainee and singer”

  1. Another well written article Abhishek – really interesting!! We’re going to miss you when you’re gone!

  2. Mini Bhargava

    That’s so beautifully put, Abhishek you have a talent.

    Yes I agree when I see Niraj, I remember him singing at the certificate ceremony, how confident he was while singing but the time he joined the course he would rather be with friends & not come out of his comfort zone, but now he seems more confident in approaching strangers.

    Will miss you too, but will keep in touch.

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