Durga the fighter- fighting circumstances for a better future

20-year-old Durga sits awkwardly on a mooda. She rarely smiles; only something very amusing compels her to crack a grin. Perhaps her front teeth make her conscious. She lives with her grandmother and uncle at Old Seemapuri, while her father lives alone at Qalandar Colony. Durga grew up in Qalandar Colony but she cringes at the mention of the area. “It’s dirty. The people are bad. Many girls work as prostitutes,” she says.

Durga’s contempt for Qalandar Colony and its residents stems from the anger she has for her father. After her mother passed away when she was 8 years old, her father began drinking and stopped going to work. “The people there were like this and my father also became like this,” she says. Her grandmother decided to send Durga and her two sisters to live at a shelter home in South Delhi where they could finish their studies.

She returned a year ago but didn’t have money to continue her BA. So she found a job at a local store selling ready-made garments to save up. But the working hours were long with very little pay so she left after six months. Durga joined ETASHA’s Computerised Office and Data Entry Programme to be able to find a job and become independent. Being one of the few at home to have finished school, she wanted to help herself and her family.

Three months into the programme, Durga is working on her skills and seeing a few changes in herself. She likes the Computer sessions as she feels that computer skills are essential for all jobs nowadays. “At my school, there would be a computer teacher for only three months in the year, so we barely learnt anything. Here I have a laptop all to myself so I am learning to use it properly and I also come early and practice.” She adds that her typing speed needs improvement and so she is trying to use the proper finger position and memorize the keys to do this.

She recently gave her first presentation which was an important achievement for her. “I never thought I would be able to talk like that in front of the whole class. But I tried and I managed. Ma’am also gave me feedback on how I could have better body language and make eye contact so I am working on this now.”

Ankita, Durga’s employability skills facilitator mentions that while her communication skills and grooming need a lot of improvement, she makes very good points in the sales sessions. “She understands different products and knows what features would appeal to different kinds of customers,” explains Ankita.

Durga like the Sales sessions too. “We learn about marketing and selling. I try to combine this with what I learnt from my previous job about different kinds of fabric and how to take care of them. This is why I want to join the retail sector. I think I can perform well there.”

The World of Work sessions are her favorite because they have given her a goal to aspire towards. “I like these sessions because they teach us about companies. I have also learnt about where I can be in the next few years. In another five years I could be at a good position, with a job which I can be proud of and a good salary. Maybe then we can also afford to buy our own home.”

Overall, she likes to come to the center where she has met other young people who share similar goals. “I used to like the shelter home because it was quieter, away from the ‘chain chain pain pain’ (noise) of Seemapuri. If I ever got angry I could talk to my friends about it, because they came from similar backgrounds. I missed that last year, especially on days when my father would come drunk to our grandmother’s house, shout abuses and ask for money. Coming to ETASHA is a good break from the environment at home as for a few hours every day I can concentrate and focus on my future.”

Even though there are days which are exhausting, both emotionally and physically, Durga is slowly trying to build a path towards a future she wants for herself.