Mother’s Day: ETASHA Interacts with Mothers of Trainees


To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we met the mothers of some of our trainees and spent an afternoon talking to them about the changes they’ve seen in their children as a result of our work with them, how they feel about their children’s growth, and what they would like to proudly share with us about their children.

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Mother of Anish Khan (Program: CS & IT)

“Anish and my other kids were very understanding of our situation. They never complained about the lack of food or lack of variety of food in our home. They ate anything I made,” Nasrin said. Nasrin works as a tailor to keep the household running as her husband is unable to work because of his poor health. “Now that the children are earning, life is not that hard anymore,” she said. One of the best things that have happened so far, Nasrin said, is that now she is able to make her children’s favourite dishes without worrying about the money.
Photo: ETASHA Society

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Mother of Shyam (Program: CS & IT)

Rajdulari says that although her son’s quick temper often upsets her, there is something about him that she believes sets him apart from most of the neighbourhood kids. “He never gets into trouble in the neighbourhood. He respects people a lot, especially women. When waiting to get on a bus, he usually lets the ladies pass first or offers them his seat. Sometimes I get angry at him for being so kind,” she said laughing. “But he still does it.”
Photo: ETASHA Society

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Mother of Gagan (Program: CS & IT)

Kamlesh shared that her son is an expert at fixing things around the house. “He even fixed my mobile phone! He is very smart boy,” she said. She also said that Gagan stays away from bad company and has been a good kid all his life. She supports him in all his wishes. “I was very happy when he brought home his first salary. You (ETASHA) got him where he is today; I am sure you will take him further ahead in life.”
Photo: ETASHA Society

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Mother of Vivek (Program: CS & IT)

Shanti feels very proud of her son Vivek’s English-speaking skills and his ability to communicate well. She said she hopes for him to continue to learn and succeed in life. Vivek will start his new job at Sterling Resorts from May 11, 2015. “I am very happy about his new job,” she said.

Photo: ETASHA Society

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Mother of Rahul (Program: CS & IT)

After finishing his schooling, Rahul along with a few friends went to ETASHA’s centre to find out about the scope of the programs they offered. “He has always been an obedient and focused kid,” she said. Her only worry was that he used to get very angry. “Sometimes our neighbours used to tell us that Rahul got into an argument with somebody,” she said. She believes the biggest change in him after joining ETASHA is that he no longer gets angry. “Sometimes when I scold him or when we have an argument, he comes back after a few minutes and hugs me,” she said.
Photo: ETASHA Society


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Mother of Shivani (Program: CODE)

“Earlier Shivani would get irritated about things and people around her, but now she is very calm and does things with ease,” Shanti said. She believes her daughter is different from other teenagers in the neighbourhood. “She is very sensible. Unlike other kids in the neighbourhood, she doesn’t care who is involved in what. She stays out of other people’s business,” Shanti said. Shivani spends most of her time on her job and studies – two things she loves a lot. “I wish that she continues to grow in life and get more opportunities to study because she loves to study,” she said.
Photo: ETASHA Society

We would like to thank the mothers of all our trainees who have supported their children’s journey with us. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Accenture Employees Volunteer at ETASHA Centre


By Sanchari & Umesh

A good cause is lucrative and meaningful in so many ways. Therefore, we, volunteers from Accenture, are striving to do something rewarding here at ETASHA – easing the workload of the dedicated faculty by helping the trainees enhance basic skills in math, computers and spoken English

On our first visit at ETASHA’s Career Development Centre in Tigri (south Delhi), the enthusiasm of the trainees overwhelmed us. Many of us don’t respect the things that come easily to us, but this didn’t apply to them. We couldn’t help but admire their determination to step ahead in life and face any challenge that life presents them, with a smile and confidence.

We’d like to mention one particular boy in class 12th enrolled in the MUPSE batch at ETASHA. Fear, it seemed was something not in his dictionary. He showed no signs of hesitation to sing in front of 30 people – fellow trainees, volunteers, and teachers – or in surmounting the English language barrier. He knew the Indian history and the richness of the Indian culture better than most of us! He showed intellectual prowess and innate thoughtfulness, which is not very common in children of his age. Needless to say, we were left captivated by him! This one boy taught us so many things in a day. Such are the trainees at ETASHA. And it was very motivating to see how they are encouraged every day to be stronger and to strengthen their will power.


A trainee singing during a conversation class at ETASHA’s Career Development Centre in Tigri.

All of them were unique individuals in their own right.  Despite a lack of confidence in spoken English, some students were very confident about themselves and their skills. Fascinatingly, vice-versa seemed to exist as well! With these being the least of the peculiarities we observed in just two days, we aim to observe every trainee as well as the educational process at ETASHA.

Observing is one thing, but teaching is a whole new game. We believe we were able to understand the school and the college students as it hasn’t been long since we crossed that juncture of our lives. And now stepping into the teachers’ shoes is symbiotic as it’s not only the trainees who learn something from us, but even we learn how to read and teach them. In order to do that, we also need to know what are the characteristics or skills that need to be inculcated in them.

The pre-requisite for being a teacher is to understand the group of trainees, to understand their strong and weak points. As we ourselves are in the nascent teaching phase, we also face a lot of challenges while trying to reach out to them individually, especially because in every group there will be some students with brilliant processing rate and confidence levels, and some with either or neither of the two qualities. We observed this in the CS&IT 5 batch as well. This batch proved to be an interesting, but difficult group to teach.  So, in order to alleviate this problem, we plan to take session with a mixed batch of trainees that will help us to give much more to them.

A good set of skills coupled with high self-confidence and a strong foundation helps one to jump ahead of the queue. We need to teach them to reassert themselves and impart things in them that will set them apart from rest of the crowd.

Therefore, as volunteers from Accenture we aim to do exactly this, and we aspire to do more and give more to these exceptional trainees on our every visit to ETASHA.

About the authors – Sanchi and Umesh are employees at Accenture, and volunteer at ETASHA on Saturdays.

Accenture employees are currently supporting “Project Udaan 2014-15” that aims to provide vocational training and employability skills training to 250 youth and place them into entry level jobs in the organized sector at Rs. 6,500 and above.

(If you’d like to volunteer at ETASHA, write to us at

A Day in ETASHA’s Classroom


Riya Vij

By Riya Vij

Today’s sessions were both fun and informative. It was a whole new experience for me. I felt like I was among the trainees. I had expected that as a silent observer, it might not be too exciting, but I was mistaken. It was a very exciting day.

As we started, I saw around eight eager faces of varying ages, waiting for the class to begin. As soon as a facilitator entered the class, everyone stood up to wish her. Although most of the trainees seemed very happy and excited for the class, there were some sleepy faces as well. To get everybody into an active thinking mode, the facilitator asked the trainees to write down the names of the companies they knew. I too made a mental list of the companies I knew.

As the class proceeded, I saw an interactive teaching taking place. There were no long lectures or boring conversations. It was more of an activity. Everyone was supposed to take part and everyone, eventually did. All the sleepy faces now seemed to be up and about.

The trainees were divided into groups and were told to write down whatever they knew about the different departments of a company. Some wondered,  others brainstormed. Some were busy copying from others, and others, hiding. But getting the answers seemed to be the be-all and end-all of their lives at that point.

The environment in class was fun-filled and it seemed as if I was sitting with my own friends. All the students were very warm and welcoming.

Another thing that I noticed and really appreciated was how the facilitator kept asking them why it was important to know what she was telling them. She wanted them to understand why they were being taught, what they were being taught, and how it was useful for them.

By the end of the class, everyone got their doubts cleared and then each trainee was asked to sum up the sessions. Once that was done, we all ended with a delightfully motivating song -“Tu Zinda Hai”.

During the half an hour break between sessions, I got to interact with the trainees and got to know so much about their lives. With each session, I felt more and more connected to the trainees. The journey went from seeing all these new faces as outsiders to being a part of them.

About the author – Riya Vij is a student in New Delhi, and volunteers at ETASHA Society.

ETASHA Stories: Shashi

Shashi Bala, ETASHA Trainee (CPCTT - 2)

Shashi Bala, ETASHA Trainee (CPCTT – 2)

By Neha Abraham

Meet Shashi, a 20-year-old ETASHA trainee from Mayur Vihar phase III, Delhi.

Shashi Bala is the eldest of six siblings. Her mother works at a factory fixing zippers on bags and her father is a dhobi. Every day she leaves for her CPCTT (Certificate Program in Computer Teacher Training) classes after cooking for her family. Making 40 chapatis for eight people takes her two hours.

When Shashi joined the course, she had hoped that getting some basic computer knowledge would help her to eventually get a government job which would bring some kind of security to her and her family. After the first Orientation at ETASHA, she realized that the course wasn’t what she expected but she decided to stay since the curriculum sounded good and she wanted to learn in English. She had studied English for only two years in class 8 and 9, after which she didn’t have a chance to continue to learn the language.

Shashi had never given teaching a serious thought as marriage would be on the cards in a couple of years and a job was perhaps not a practical option for her. The need to support her family, however, was a responsibility she couldn’t ignore.

It wasn’t a question of whether she could work, but if she would be allowed to travel to places that weren’t within walking distance of her house.

“Mujhe visits pasand aye, kyunki hum pehle kabhi bahar nahi jate the, aur agar jate bhi the toh kuch observe nahi karte the, bas aise hi kaam karke aa jate the. Yahaan par humne cheezon ko dekha, samjha aur fir presentation bhi diya,” she says about the Social Confidence visits.

(I enjoyed the visits because earlier I didn’t go out and even if I did I never observed things. I would just finish my work for which I was out and go back home. But here I observed things, understood them and then made a presentation on them.)

After one such visit, she reached home at half-past eight in the evening – well after it was dark outside – but she kept her parents informed and so they didn’t worry. They too are gradually getting used to the idea of their daughter going out, travelling on her own and occasionally staying out after seven in the evening.

Shashi learnt about Microsoft Word for the first time when she joined the course, and now she is interning as an assistant teacher at Vidya Welfare Society – a computer training institute. As for her English, although she struggled initially, after five months of classes, she feels that she is no longer intimidated by the language and doesn’t feel embarrassed to ask questions if she doesn’t understand.

These days she wakes up earlier than usual so that she can finish her household chores and make it on time for work, with her mother and sister chipping in for the 40 chapatis for the meal.

You can support more young trainees like Shashi.




About the author – Neha Abraham is a facilitator at ETASHA Society.

ETASHA’s EVS Volunteer To Slovenia Shares His Experience – Part 1

By Himanshu Shukla

“How did you get to be an EVS volunteer? Isn’t it only for Europeans?”

This is the question I got asked so many times by my friends, my acquaintances and even by my co-passengers on my flight to Slovenia. I told them that I am on a parallel EVS project under which India sends volunteers to Europe.

While gathering more information about Slovenia as part of my preparation before I left, I found so many interesting things about the country – things that were very different from my country, but also some similarities too.

The EVS is part of the Youth in Action Program of the European Commission. It gives young people between 18 and 30 years of age the opportunity to participate in voluntary activities abroad, in all the countries of the European Union and its Partner Countries. The EVS lasts between two and twelve months. It has three important actors: a sending organization in the home country of the volunteer, a hosting organization abroad and, of course, a volunteer. After waiting for more than half year, my departure date to Slovenia was confirmed.

sloveniaDora, an EVS volunteer from my co-ordinating organization, Zavod Voluntariat, received me at the airport. Slovenia, although foreign to me, gave a pleasant first impression, especially because in February the temperature fell below zero.

On my arrival in Ljubljana, I was surprised and excited to see snowfall. It was the first time I saw snow!

The EVS project includes an on-arrival training and a mid-term training. I found the on-arrival training very informative, and I was able to learn so much about European culture as well as initiate my own topics of discussion. The training was conducted in a hotel outside of the Ljubljana, in Laško. We were divided into two groups – those who had just arrived and those who were on their mid-term evaluation. This allowed us to discuss more easily our current feelings and experiences of EVS so far. The training involved games, discussions, and presentations, and this allowed me to meet and interact with all the other volunteers.

green t shirt

In our free time, we used the swimming pool and the sauna at the hotel, which in the cold winter was just perfect, and kept us relaxed before the next day’s discussion.

I live in an apartment with two other volunteers – Dora and David. They helped me a lot to adapt in the new environment easily and rapidly. When not in training, I spent some time travelling in Laško. I even climbed a mountain!

The city centre is full of historical monuments and must-see attractions, such as the Prešeren trg (Prešeren Square). I particularly enjoy walking around the city and interacting with the local people, and understanding culture and habits. I am also learning basic Slovenian.

Once while I was walking on the streets in Laško, a police car came over and stopped beside me. They asked me to show them my documents, which I confidently did. I also used some Slovenian phrases which I learnt before my departure from New Delhi. The police were polite and nice. This was my first interaction with Slovenians outside of my voluteering organization.

Initially, my time here was  easy as I found the weather very exciting. Later, while traveling around the city I often lost directions, but now I realize that it was part of the learning. I now understand that learning is a continous process.

In this learning, my host organization Zavod Voluntariat provided me with much support and help. Zavod Voluntariat is a non-profit organisation to promote the ideas of peace, social justice, sustainable development, international cooperation and solidarity through exchange of volunteers and volunteering projects.

I realize that time is flying quickly. I intend to utilize all the time I have here by taking the opportunity to travel to neighbouring countries (countries within the Schengen area because I have a Schengen visa), and also to enjoy my time in Slovenia as much as I can. I will be sad to leave this small but beautiful country behind.

I know there is no glamour in being a volunteer. We don’t wear fancy clothes, attend exclusive parties, stay in posh hotels when we travel. But there is passion, a sense of adventure, and a constant need to do more, hear more stories, have more experiences, and visit more places. As volunteers, we are eager to embrace and explore the new, and at the same time we get to share who we are. There is a will to make our work better, to contribute to the community in which we are living, and to reach more people with our activities. There is pleasure in sharing our knowledge about our own countries, sharing our vocabulary, explaining our habits, and sharing our pictures.


With all this, comes a bond that we inevitably create with extraordinary people as a result of coincidence, work, and through common friends.

There is some sadness in knowing that eventually we will move onto our different paths. There are people with whom we share so much, with whom we connect so instantly, and grow to love in such a deep way that it is hard to imagine that in a short time from now, we all will be living with the distance of many countries between us.


About the author – Himanshu Shukla is a former ETASHA trainee and is currently an EVS volunteer in Slovenia.            


Setting Aside English Grammar Rules


By Neha Abraham

“Ma’am ‘- ing’ hamesha Continuous ke sath lagta hai?” (“Ma’am, do we add ‘-ing’ to make the Continuous tense?”)

“Ma’am ‘At’ hamesha time ke saath ata hai?” (Ma’am is ‘At’ always used for time?)

These are common questions in ETASHA’s classrooms. Most of our trainees have studied English up to the 12th Standard, but very few can actually express themselves effectively in the language.

English is thought of in terms of rules, like formulae to crack an exam, rather than being a means of communication. This fixation over always getting the rules right is what makes the trainees hesitant, and so one of the major challenges of facilitating spoken English classes is pushing them to move beyond grammar, to help them speak and articulate their everyday thoughts in English, and to help them become effective communicators which is what will make them employable in the formal sector.

English isn’t as alien as people make it out to be. There are some trainees for instance, who struggle to string a single sentence together, but can sing Bollywood hits like ‘Pappu Can’t Dance’ and ‘Do you want a partner?’ perfectly, oblivious of how both songs have so many English lines.  This unconscious stock of vocabulary is what we are trying to tap into and build upon, to help our trainees develop fluency and confidence and not falter because of a set of intimidating grammar rules.

Therefore, understanding the interests of the trainees and the things that they might relate to is essential in making our classes relevant, interactive and participative.

Every classroom, however, has students with varied levels of confidence and different degrees of exposure, and this complicates our work a little bit. Some trainees are street smart, or ‘jugaadu’ – great at networking, and familiar with many back alleys of Delhi. They know how to get things done, which makes them potentially employable in Operations management. But perhaps they never paid much attention in class at school and weren’t the conventional good students who learnt all their English  ‘formulae’, which is why they are extremely hesitant and self-conscious of speaking in front of others. On the other hand there are some trainees who are self-driven and enthusiastic because they know they can perform well in class, but they rarely venture out of their ‘mohallas’ and would be very uncomfortable if asked to do so on their own.

Manish, a trainee at Mori Gate is an example of the former type. While he is attentive in class, and constructs long humorous sentences about his classmates, he never likes to show that he is trying. Outside class, he takes great pleasure in pulling my leg with the tall tales he narrates so convincingly in Hindi. When spoken to in English, however, he refuses to respond. “Kya bolu Ma’am? Mujhe aati hi nahi” (What do I say Ma’am? I don’t know how to speak in English), he says.

Manish’s classmate Shumaila is his complete opposite.  A spirited trainee, she takes the initiative to participate, and speaks confidently in English, always ready with clever comebacks (in English) for the boys who tease her by calling her a Pakistani.



Bridging the gap between these extremes involves creating a space where everyone feels comfortable – comfortable enough to be corrected and laughed at occasionally, and open enough to speak out and make mistakes.

For the more self-conscious trainees, it’s a question of getting them interested and almost ‘tricking’ them into speaking in English. We discuss topics such as ‘romance’ and ‘my dream house’ when we are left with extra time after class, just to bring in                                              some humour and to get the trainees talking.

On one occasion, I asked the trainees to come up with a list of blatant lies, in English, of course. I told them that the best lies would be featured on ETASHA’s blog. Manish’s face lit up with a mischievous grin because he was certain that he had the wildest imagination in the group. Shumaila, too, who is always quietly competitive, was excited by the idea of a fun challenge.

During my seven months as a facilitator at ETASHA Society, this is one ‘trick’ which stands out because my most conscious trainee was voted by others as the best speaker, at par with my most forthright trainee.

I leave you with the lists they came up with. Hope you have a good laugh!

Yesterday night at 1, I was repairing the puncture of the metro.

Dirubhai Ambani is my friend.

I put a100 rupee note under a train track and it changed into 200.

I jumped off from the third floor and nothing happened to me.

I abused Prime Minister Modi in a dru    nken state.

I got 105 marks out of 100 in Accounts.

I can perform stunts on a horse.

My father owns Bharat Petroleum.

I threw cow dung at an Aunty and she smiled.

– Manish, Code 24, Mori Gate


I met Akbar and Birbal at the Red Fort.

I will sell the Red Fort on 30th February 2015

I reached Mt. Everest by a cycle.

I am the hair stylist of Tom Cruise.

I shave my face every day.

Barack Obama is my neighbour.

I have a pet lion.

I can live without make up.

– Shumaila, CODE 24, Mori Gate

 About the author – Neha Abraham is a facilitator at ETASHA Society.

ETASHA Society’s Career Development Mela – 2015

The event is the latest in a series of activities ETASHA undertakes with the objectives of spreading awareness about Vocational Training and career opportunities in the Organized Sector and of influencing members of target communities to think long term and plan for pursuit of careers.


We are organizing a “Career Development Mela” on February 22, 2015 near our Career Development Centre at Madanpur Khadar.

The Mela which is scheduled between 10 am to 4 pm will feature a number of stalls with various interactive community-based activities. These activities will include opening email accounts and creating CVs; Walk-in-interviews,  career guidance, registration for ETASHA’s vocational training programs ; quiz competition for school children; poster-making competition; registration for Spoken English and basic Computer classes for mothers and fathers; registration for self-defence course for girls and women in the community, and information regarding open school and correspondence courses, information desks with information and application forms for Aadhar Card, PAN Card, Voter ID, Government Schemes and Bank Account; along with nukkad natak and dance performances.


In addition to this, women from the community have also been invited to set up stalls in the mela to sell their home-cooked food to visitors.

With this initiative, we hope to build a deeper connection with the communities we work in, and meaningfully serve not just the youth from these communities, but their parents, neighbours and the whole community at large.

Join us at the mela!

ETASHA Trainee Goes to Slovenia

Himanshu Shukla

Himanshu Shukla

By R. Nithya

Himanshu Shukla, 20, remembers hanging out with his friend on an afternoon when he received a phone call from ETASHA Society. It had been a few months since he finished the program on Customer Service and Work Culture (CSWC) from ETASHA’s Career Development Centre in Tigri (south Delhi), so the call was a bit of a surprise. The bigger surprise, however, was being offered to go to Slovenia as a volunteer.

ETASHA Society partners with Zavod Voluntariat – a not-for-profit organization in Ljublijana, Slovenia – to host and organize a volunteer exchange program. Under this program, Himanshu is the first volunteer selected by ETASHA to go to Slovenia.

Meenakshi Nayar, President ETASHA Society, was impressed by Himanshu’s efforts to fundraise for his registration fee during the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2013 – the year when ETASHA trainees were first asked to fundraise to pay for their 6 KM run registration. The idea behind this was to build independence and social confidence in the trainees as well as to push them into social interactions that demand convincing the other person.

Himanshu was the first trainee who took on the task of fundraising for himself and confidently walked into the main office of ETASHA, and convinced ETASHA Faculty to support his run registration cost. Needless to say, he successfully fundraised that year.

“Himanshu is an interesting combination of simplicity, charm, audacity and self-confidence,” Meenakshi Nayar says about Himanashu. “This is what convinced me that he could take on this very daunting task of going to a country whose language he doesn’t know, and that he could learn and grow from that experience,” she says.

Himanshu’s immediate reaction to the opportunity of volunteering abroad was placing the call on hold, quickly consulting with his friend who was next to him, and then jumping at the offer with a ‘yes!’

But he didn’t tell his family about this opportunity until he got himself familiar with the volunteering program. And when he finally did tell his family, “they thought it was an opportunity too good to be true,” he says. As the process of the travel arrangements began, the surreal opportunity seemed to take a more concrete shape for his family.

Unfortunately, for months since then, Himanshu’s chances of going to Slovenia met with an unmanageable array of failures: unavailability of travel documents, bureaucratic barriers, and contradictory visa information from different sources. During this period of delay, Himanshu volunteered with ETASHA and helped in organizing events, and in setting up ETASHA’s new centre in Gurgaon as well as mobilizing the local communities there.

The delay in his first overseas travel taught him a lot of patience – something, he says, has made him more positive now. “Sometimes I feel I’ll get a call at the last minute and they’ll tell me I still have some documents missing. But I don’t see myself getting demotivated,” he says. “If I get such a call, I’ll ask them for the next possible travel dates.”

While his volunteering assignments will be decided after his on-arrival orientation program once he reaches Slovenia, he already has assigned himself three tasks. First, he wants to interact with as many people as he can irrespective of the language barrier. “If I don’t manage to do this, then I’ll consider my trip and my time in Slovenia as failed,” he says. He also wants to learn as much as possible without thinking much about what kind or level of work he will be assigned. And lastly, “Like they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I want to experience a new culture and enjoy myself, but without compromising on my personal principles,” he says.

Himanshu has already learned few Slovene words and has spent time with current Slovene volunteers at ETASHA to learn more about their country and culture, and the things he would need to survive there.

Slovene volunteer at ETASHA Society Natalija Zdešar (EVS 2015) guiding Himanshu Shukla on his six-month stay in Slovenia during the volunteering exchange program between ETASHA Society and Zavod Voluntariat.

Slovene volunteer at ETASHA Society Natalija Zdešar (EVS 2015) guiding Himanshu Shukla on his six-month stay in Slovenia as part of the volunteer exchange program between ETASHA Society and Zavod Voluntariat.

All empowered with the skills he learnt at ETASHA, with loads of confidence and positivity, with half a dozen jackets to brave the Slovenian cold, and with the Slovene visa stamped on his passport, Himanshu landed in Slovenia last night. We wish him good luck on his experience there!

About the author – R. Nithya is Communications Coordinator at ETASHA Society.

 “So You’re Native Indian!”  


Sagaree Jain

Sagaree Jain

“Then where are you from?” a trainee asked me.

On my second day volunteering at ETASHA, I observed a class on Spoken English at the Mori Gate centre in North Delhi. Eight or nine trainees, probably about my own age – 19 – sat around the edges of the room in wicker chairs that are called, as I would later learn, “Moodha”. The rain outside made the centre’s floor mucky, and the centre itself was grey to match the overcast sky, but the trainees, as always, were bright, energetic, and delighted.

I introduced myself as Sagaree. I told the trainees that I lived and studied in the United States, and that I was here in Delhi only for a few weeks, and so I wanted to spend time teaching English and writing for ETASHA. When I spoke, my voice creaked from disuse, and my American accent broadened and then cut off my English. I looked, I think, much like a Dilli-wallah. I followed Hindi, but my speech had immediately marked me as an NRI.

“I’m from A-mer-i-ca, I sup-pose,” I answered the trainee’s question, enunciating my answer as I had been instructed by the facilitators. “But my family, my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts, they are all here, so I come to India when I can.”

The boy who asked me the question was Vicki. He was young, with hair puffed upwards and quick, tapping feet. At my short speech, he settled backwards, leaning against the wall, indicating that the issue had been resolved.

“So, you are native Indian!”

Native Indian.

This was my first response. In my time in Delhi, outside and inside ETASHA, I got many more, some impressed, some derisive. One time, a 22- year-old relative asked me if American colleges were anything like the movie American Pie”. Another, man selling leather chappals rolled out that his cousin was a doctor in California, and asked if I knew him.

I fielded these questions with some fascination, but mainly, I was fully involved in trying to understand this city, and how to fit with the rolling, weaving, flood of energy that is Delhi. I altered my speech to make it higher and sweeter. A hand extended to join the joke. A question and a shrug at the end of each sentence.

I learned to pick up the gaps in conversation like the lulls between honks on the overpass (is this the right vocab?). I enunciated my Ts.

I fell into a web of extended family.

I learned to fiercely depend on chai twice a day, cheeni alagh (sugar on the side). I enjoyed that when I ordered onion rings at an American-themed restaurant, they turned out to be “pakoras”, and when I ordered Mexican fajitas, they had paneer in them. Even the dust in Delhi moves stubbornly, demanding its own flavor.

I became a buzzing collection of “Woh kya hai?” (What’s that?). I gained a whole new set of vocabulary – “NGOs” instead of “non-profits,” “standards” instead of “grades,” and “batches” instead of “graduating class.” I learned that I am an NRI, or less politely put, an ABCD. But even so, it was ridiculous that I had not heard of Sachin Tendulkar or Honey Singh.

The trainees’ stories, too, were unfamiliar. They were from neighbourhoods I had never heard of – Seemapuri, Madhanpur Khadar, Tigri and Dakshanpuri. They had stories of farming in Uttar Pradesh and grocery businesses in Haryana, or of growing, schooling, and becoming an adult in their Delhi neighborhood. One is the story of a boy called Bhagwan whose father paints houses, and he wants to be a consultant. Vipnesh, on the other hand, had tried to join the army, but is now at ETASHA, finding another way to help people. Deepak dreams of being a manager just like his father is in the Railways. Durga is 22 years old and married, has a daughter, and is learning English to teach it to her. Each of those stories describes a chipper, cheerful person, happy to share, and happy to be sitting in a marble floored classroom with feet bare.

Last week, I held a conversation class at ETASHA’s Tigri centre with a batch that has been in ETASHA for a few months now. From the first week to the 12th, there is always a huge difference in the confidence and expression of the batch as a whole. The trainees wanted to pick a topic of conversation. They settled on “India.” We drew up categories – Food, History, Festivals, Culture, Sports, and Geography, and brainstormed words to fit under them. We started with Culture, and I scrawled the words they threw out on a whiteboard – just a little too small for the endeavor.

“Ma’am, food!”

“Ma’am, clothes!”

“Different. Ma’am, culture is very different.”

“Music, Ma’am?”

“Ma’am, personality.”


“Greet-ing is good!” I said, scrawling, and scrawling, and then turning back to the room full of students. I pieced together some Hindi, so that I could practice too.

“You know, the first day I was here in India, I met my Dadu’s sister, and I said,”–putting out my hand to indicate I had tried to shake hands with my wizened Dadiji– “‘Hello!’”

The whole class laughed on cue, kindly, as a small nod to the poor American girl who didn’t quite understand. We kept writing, and I kept learning – that you make “pakoras” for Holi; that the Old Fort is beautiful; that the Yamuna River has serious pollution problems.

After class, in the lobby of the centre, I heard the staff cooking Maggi and good heartedly mocking one another. I told the trainees, all in cut-cut-cut fractured Hindi that the trainees praised absurdly, that I was there because I wanted to teach.

“Me as well,” said Vikram, who lovingly wore a green zip-up hoodie every day. He said he wanted to teach English some day after the data entry job ETASHA would place him in. “Where will you teach?” he asked. “America, or back to India? India is very good.”

It was the trainees who immediately assumed that I belonged in Delhi’s lovely chaotic song, without my asking for it, maybe without my deserving it. I didn’t have the words in Hindi to tell him that my whole heart was heavy with mismatched language, or that every style of speaking my tongue found felt just a little wrong. I was all filled up with longing and dust and waiting for a place to settle.    

I told Vikram I hadn’t decided yet.

About the author: Sagaree Jain is a second-year student of Literature and Indian History at University of Berkeley, California. She is currently volunteering with ETASHA. 

India’s Shortage of Skilled Workers


According to the ILO, the Indian Industry will have a demand for 500 million skilled workers by 2022. However, the current supply of skilled workers is only 3.4 million approximately. The Indian education system, which often overlooks employability skills, faces a massive task of making 496.6 million Indians employable in a new-age economy within eight years.

500 Million Skilled Workers



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