Icebreaker questions are simple, and are supposed to elicit simple answers.
However, while interviewing 18-year-old Pooja Kamat, I found that this is not always the case. I learned that she carefully thinks about each and every aspect of the world around her, analyzing it to elegant simplicity. For example, when I asked her what type of music she enjoyed, she replied “It depends on my mood. If I’m happy, I like happy music. If I’m upset, I like sad or slow music.” Okay, fair enough. I then asked her who her favorite film stars were. “No one,” she said bluntly. “Actually,” she amended, “I like some actors and actresses in the roles that they play, but not necessarily who they are in real life.” This was a unique perspective that I hadn’t really thought about before, and a deviation from usual answers like “Salman Khan” or “Katrina Kaif.”
Pooja went on to tell me that she likes painting and relaxing, and that her family of five (in which she is the youngest), lives in Badarpur in South Delhi. Her mother is a housewife, and her father works as a private servant.
Like many of her peers, Pooja first heard about ETASHA while enrolled at the government ITI. Initially, she thought that ETASHA would be like other organizations she had encountered in the past. These organizations would stay for a few days and work with students, but not remain involved for more than a few weeks at most. However, she feels that as ETASHA was “staying for a long time” there was a greater chance of reaping long-term benefits, unlike other NGOs. “The classes were very good; they went day by day and taught subjects very methodically. I learned a lot.”
By engaging students while training, facilitators were able to inspire the young people, making them love learning. “I really loved the strength and weakness classes,” says Pooja. “They worked on recognizing your strengths, and then working to take your listed weaknesses and making them your strengths, too.”
Slowly but surely in Pooja her self feels that there has been a lasting change in her, and she feels that she now has a metaphorical canvas to paint with her interests, inclinations, and aspirations. Not only this but her confidence levels and social skills have improved. “Before, I didn’t have much confidence and I was scared to talk to anyone I didn’t know. I was worried that anything I said would look stupid to people I was talking to.” The facilitators worked with her over time to gradually improve her social skills. Instead of trying to fix everything at once (which would be unrealistic at best), the organization slowly built up Pooja’s confidence, through various speaking activities. “ETASHA showed me that at the beginning, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying or who you’re saying it to, the important thing is that you’re just speaking. Then after you can speak without fear, you can work on content and fluency. Before, I looked at speaking and conversing as something to be afraid of. Now, I know it’s just something that has to be done, and it’s nothing to fear.”
One day, Pooja hopes to use her enhanced communication skills and discipline to get an occupation regarding defense, including possibly becoming a police officer, or perhaps joining the navy or air force. “It’s what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was little,” she explained. She is no doubt on the right path to making her dreams a reality.
Stay tuned to hear about how ETASHA and ITI are working together to give trainees like Pooja the tools to succeed in the future!