From Darkness To Light – Stories of change 1

 

Santosh

SANTOSH

A confident young man stands behind the coutner of  the KFC kitchen in his bright red uniform, working on multiple tasks, and in the midst of all the kitchen chaos he has a wide smile on his face, a smile that just says how much he loves his job. This my first impression of Santosh.

On seeing me he comes over and says, Hello ma’am, what would you like to have at KFC today?” I find it hard to believe that a year ago this very boy struggled to converse in English and did not have the confidence to talk to people.

Santosh, 20, one of three children, previously used to wash cars in CR Park to earn a living. Even though he had completed class 12 he did not know how to use his knowledge. It was his employer Mr. Chakravarthi who told him about ETASHA and coaxed him to join it. Initially, Santosh was apprehensive about joining the organization and had doubts if it would actually live up to its promises but once he enrolled himself he knew this was exactly what he needed.

Aside from work Santosh is pursuing BA (political science) Hons. through correspondence. He hopes to do an MBA in Sales on day and the mention of  ”SALES” lights up his face. He beams with excitement and begins to tell me about his favorite class at ETASHA, the one that taught him Sales Skills. And Parul Ma’am , who taught that class. He talks about her unique teaching ways and recalls, “I still remember once in class she told me to sell a comb to a bald woman.  I was hesitant but I performed convincingly and was praised by her. Now I have complete knowledge on how to sell a product.

A proud Santosh states to me, At ETASHA I learnt various skills but the self confidence that they instilled in me is what I will value most. Today I am confident that even if I lose this job I have the caliber to get another one. They made me strong.”

Santosh is now a permanent employee at KFC and earns Rs. 6000 per month. When he first joined he was under the misconception that he was being mocked by his co-workers; he would be given multiple instructions which he was unable to follow. At that time he felt he could neither do the work nor fit in and thus, considered quitting. He changed his decision uptalking to ETASHA’s Mini Ma’am and says, “It was Mini Ma’am who explained to me the scope of growth in this job and advised me not to leave and I am glad I took her advice.” It’s been 9 months since he has been working there and has already received his 1st Star which indicates that he has mastered one section and moved on to the next. With a sense of accomplishment he says, The cut off to get the star was 90%, I got a 96%.” And he is soon getting his 2nd star.

He aspires to be like his Manager and rise to the same position in 3years through a series of tests and assessments. He tells me how there is a wide scope for growth in KF C and he will never quit his job because now he knows how to do everything. He feels like they are one big family where everyone works with each other and their first and most important goal is to make every visitor feel special. I then spoke to his Manager who said, Santosh is very hardworking and keen to learn more. He comes in each day with a positive attitude and is sincere in his efforts. He has changed a lot since he first got here n changed for the better. I feel like he is my younger brother.

Left to Right- Santosh’s manager, Santosh and a co-worker

 

Santosh himself feels he has changed for better in many ways. Since he has fixed work hours, he studies in the morning and works from afternoon onwards. With a child like smile he confesses to me, “I don’t waste my time like I used to and roam around all day without any purpose. My life has a sense of direction now.”

He tells me how his mother, Meena Devi, is very proud of him. He and his brother try to help her as much as possible. They love to cook and Santosh loves to pamper his mother and cook for her. With his head held high he says ,Now that I am earning I like buying her gifts from time to time like a comb, gajra and even a sari. Thanks to this new confidence and my permanent job, we have now bought our own house in Sangam Vihar. I feel it’s a very big accomplishment and even though we are yet to pay off a loan for Rs. 1 lakh with the combined income of my family I am sure we will be able to do that in no time.”

The one thing that bothers him constantly is that he still needs to pay ETASHA. Santosh feels he will forever be indebted to the organization for what they have done for him without ever asking or forcing him to pay. He claims this is what sets ETASHA apart and is their best feature that for them money was secondary. He recalls being told, “Let us train you first, you come and learn and when u get a job you can pay us back. It’s been one year and I have not paid them, yet they have never forced me for payment but me and my family do want to pay them, it’s the least we can do as compared to what they have done for us.” Santosh says he has promised himself the day he is done paying his home loan he will pay ETASHA.

He then adds, “They do so much for the community, they support people who have no means and no direction…” His last sentence was as simple as him but it was enough for me to know he is grateful for the life he now lives.

In the end before I left I asked him if there is anything he wants for himself and a hopeful Santosh with that same smile of confidence that I first saw said, “Yes, one day I will earn enough to buy a bike for myself.”

Namrata Sharma, June 30th 2011