I know how to handle relationships, put on make up and even make a good meal,” says Reena Singh, a 33 year old from Delhi. While this sounds like a candidate of a matrimonial ad, Singh is actually a housewife with three kids. She insists she learnt the above only after completing a three-month course at Lifelong Learning Institute in Delhi, earlier this year. These instances may seem trivial to most, but for many women like Singh, the step up from being an ordinary woman to a “classy lady” comes courtesy a life-management course.
On the other side of town, in Dwarka, Colonel Riyaz Khan, who runs Tranzition, a life coaching institute, conducts a two-hour ‘confidence building and interview session’ with a class full of teenagers. Khan also conducts workshops in schools. “We have held sessions in GD Goenka, Somerville school in Noida and many more. With the inclusion of ‘soft skills’ in the new CBSE syllabus, many students approach us, for coaching,” he says.
But while communication skills, confidence building, home and financial management seem like things one would pick up from family and friends, and not a coaching class or a tutor, many feel counselling in schools or colleges may not be enough.
Ritu Dhingra, 41, consultant with GD Goenka school, Delhi, and a freelance senior counsellor says, “Recently a set of young girls from school came up to me and hugged me, saying ‘why can’t our parents be like you?’ It shows that new family structures, lack of parental time, pressure from the Internet and friends preys on young minds. Children get stressed easily nowadays.”
The stress to be beautiful and be accepted is weighing on Deepika Balani, 15, who tries to keep her hand steady as she applies eyeliner while still in her school uniform. “I got to class straight from school, so didn’t have time to change,” says Balani, who is part of the 3-month course at Lifelong Learning. “My parents thought I should join. I have learned basic make up, cooking, sari tying, dinner etiquette,” she says, as the rest of the crowd of brides-to-be and housewives get their quick tips for ‘smoky eyes’.
“We have a practical side to our courses. We have a session on legal rights, gynaecology, where experts in the field come in to give lectures,” says Supriya Dogra, head trainer at Lifelong Learning.
Life management is also a must for corporates who have to learn how to get the best out of business discussions, how to reach out to clients. “Some want us to train them in procurement, negotiation skills, how to prepare for interviews for clients,” says Khan of Tranzition. But while most of these life coaches are part of institutes, Omesh Kandalkar in Mumbai is a life coach for businessmen, housewives and students, and doesn’t believe in ‘course work’.
“After my MBA in Australia when I returned to Mumbai, I realised I enjoy helping people sort out their problems,” says the 28-year-old engineering graduate. “The answers to most of the questions lie with the clients themselves. I don’t give solutions but show a way out.”
For example, when a woman told her about her husband cheating on her, Kandalkar asked her to first find out if it was just suspicion at work and if it was, she had to work on herself. “Then I asked her to talk to her husband. The husband admitted to the affair, and then with her talking in a calm way and dealing with it without daily conflict, the husband realised his mistake and came back to her,” says Kandalkar who has been a life coach for the last two and a half years and has had around 60 patients.
While life skills may seem like the need of the day, they don’t come free. Kandalkar charges R2,000 per session. “Most people require atleast 2-3 sessions,” he says. At Lifelong Learning, a ‘diamond course’ for the span of six months can set you back by Rs38,000. Tranzition charges Rs1,500 for 8 sessions twice a week.
Most of the coaches are self-taught. The trainer needs at least a “post graduation course with a psychology background,” says Dhingra.
“The social mileu is changing, from corporates, teachers, maids to students everyone needs to equip themselves with life skills to get ahead. We counsellors have to now even add Facebook as a mode of communication in our syllabus. Life skills are not easy to learn, you have to address a lot of issues,” she adds.