From Language Trainer to Dream Weaver: Gulafshan Khan's Journey of Resilience and Compassion

Interview by Ankush Bharti

Gulafshan Khan is a seasoned Soft Skills and English Language Trainer with over four years of experience in Learning and Development. Her professional journey commenced at Freedom Employability Academy, a pivotal influence in shaping her current standing. Grateful for the work environment cultivated by the CEO, Gulafshan is passionate about empowering individuals to learn and grow.

Her journey from facing public humiliation for English-speaking challenges to becoming a facilitator for others' language learning is considered her most significant achievement

Gulafshan envisions establishing a home named 'Noor,' a haven for elderly individuals seeking peace, orphaned children in need of love and care, and women struggling on the streets. Her belief in the unifying power of humanity drives her mission to create a space where these individuals can coexist as a family.

In addition to her training expertise, Gulafshan has demonstrated entrepreneurial acumen by successfully running a small handmade items business that spanned more than 20 states in India during her college years. She aspires to revive this venture to support the residents of 'Noor' with income and a dignified life bound by the principles of humanity.

Gulafshan is not only a trainer but also a poet who occasionally shares her thoughts through open mic performances. Despite facing severe challenges in 2022, including a diagnosis of depression and EUPD, along with seizures, Gulafshan has displayed resilience. Her personal struggles have not deterred her commitment to her dream, and she strives to bring 'Noor' to fruition.

In moments of vulnerability, Gulafshan reached out for professional help, experiencing the reality of mental health practitioners falling short of their oaths. However, surrounded by a supportive network of friends and family, she found strength and continues to inspire others through her thoughts shared on platforms like LinkedIn.

Currently medication-free against professional advice, Gulafshan faces ongoing challenges, including severe panic attacks, but remains determined not to give up. Her experiences have led her to value the affirmations from strangers on LinkedIn, the comfort expressed by her trainees, and the support from friends and family, reinforcing her resolve to fulfill the dream of 'Noor.' Despite a lingering desire for a peaceful end, Gulafshan seeks to depart with the satisfaction of achieving her life's purpose

  1. Can you share more about your experience as a Soft Skills and English Language Trainer and how it has shaped your professional journey?

My journey so far has been a dynamic blend of passion, adaptability, and continuous growth. Over the past 5 years, I've had the privilege of working in diverse settings, from urban to rural, government schools to NGOs and corporates.

The zeal to provide the support and guidance that I couldn't receive, has helped me throughout to provide the best to the learners. As a trainer, the most rewarding feeling has been witnessing the impact on learners. I have seen professionals enhance their communication prowess, students gain confidence to express themselves before crowds, and overall professional and personal growth. This serves as a reminder that I am on the right path.

Being a Soft Skills and Communication Trainer has not only shaped the journeys of countless learners, but has significantly helped me in my professional growth, impacting my personal life as well. The constant pursuit to provide the best to the learners, has led to refining training techniques, staying updated with the technology, upgrading my learnings, and honing my communication skills through interactions with others.

Being a trainer has been a wonderful journey, helping others learn and also learning from them. I am sure this will help me be a lifelong learner gaining knowledge and learning from others’ experiences.

  1. You mentioned that Freedom Employability Academy played a significant role in your career. Could you elaborate on the impact it had on your growth and development?

Yes, there is no denial in this. Before joining FEA, I didn't know if there was anything like facilitation or soft skills training. I lacked self confidence. FEA has been instrumental in shaping my journey, helping me learn invaluable lessons, and fostering my professional growth. I have been a person who tries to look for positivity, FEA helped me find the ways to do so.

Being a facilitator made me realize what exactly the education system lacks. It made me realize every individual Is smart enough to learn things, you just need to guide them to find their ways to do it.

I was fascinated by the personalities of the trainers in the organization, and that served as the motivation to join the training team. The team had the most wonderful colleagues I ever got. They would be the ones cheering for me on my achievements, and extend the support when things wouldn't go easy.

Being a facilitator or trainer was not easy. It's not easy for the ones who are still in the organization. But, you wouldn't find anyone who had or has been a part of it, and doesn't feel proud.

  1. Your dream of establishing 'Noor' is inspiring. What motivated you to pursue this particular initiative, and how do you envision making it a reality?

I have had this dream since my school days. I wondered as a child, witnessing the condition of old people, children, and women, if god was partial. Why would someone have everything, but somebody else would struggle to find even the necessities to be alive.

I have seen the conditions of the old people around me. It frustrates me to see their children treating them badly, worse if they are ill. The kids who should be learning and growing, begging at traffic lights. Women, who should feel safe and empowered, are living on the footpath. I feel if I die without actually being able to do something for them, I would die without fulfilling my purpose of life.

Noor is the home where I see these people living together as a family, getting the love and care they should. I don't want them to be dependent on anyone. Therefore, I wish to restart the handmade business I started during my college days. The idea is to let them live a respectful and peaceful life. So, even if I am not there, Noor still remains a home for the ones who deserve respect and love.

  1. Transitioning from being humiliated for English-speaking abilities to helping others learn is a remarkable journey. How did you overcome those challenges, and what advice do you have for individuals facing similar struggles?

FEA helped me improve my confidence. It teaches people that English is just a language, and it can be learnt over a period of time with guidance and zeal. Wherever you go in FEA, you will find everyone speaking confidently even with errors and everyone being respectful.

As I shared, I wanted to join the training team, I knew I would have to work harder. I explored, learnt from others, accepted the feedback without taking it personally, asked others to correct my errors, and worked on my areas of improvement. I made sure that I became conscious while speaking. Being conscious helped me know my errors and correct them. Being a trainer means I should know the content I have to deliver, but it also doesn't mean I will be the most knowledgeable and experienced one in the room. I am open to learning from my trainees, and everyone around me.

To the ones on the similar journey, don't give up. A child doesn't speak complete sentences in the beginning, but learns with time while observing others. It's the same with any language. We can't deny the fact that English is a global language. Therefore, instead of learning the rules, practice speaking. Be assured, even the celebrities speaking fluently make several errors that they ain't aware of. Don't stop yourself because someone made fun of you. The same people will ask you later how you did it.

Either you find a way to do it, or will find an excuse!

  1. Your accomplishments include covering more than 20 states in India with a small handmade items business. What drove you to start this venture, and do you plan to revive it in the future?

I was in college and instagram was gaining popularity. I came across accounts of people selling handmade items. I loved art and craft. But, seeing people selling those gift items that I was already making for others on their birthdays and anniversaries, made me question if people are willing to buy them too. I thought of giving it a try. Within a week of starting the account, I got an order. And, the journey started.

My family thought I was wasting my time and compromising my health as I used to stay late at nights, and spend hours making them. Though, the hard work didn't go wasted. I covered more than 20 states, delivering different types of handmade gift items. The greater accomplishment was the messages from the customers telling me how much they liked those products. I was able to cover my college fee and didn't have to ask for pocket money from my family. But, after getting a full time job, I had to stop. I tried in the initial days, but it was difficult. I still take a few orders in a year if anyone approaches me.

I surely want to revive it for ‘Noor’. I am confident it will help me fulfill my dream and purpose.

  1. Poetry seems to be a significant part of your life. How does it contribute to your well-being, and can you share a bit about your creative process?

I love writing my thoughts in a poetic way. However, I don't share all my poems with everyone. I don't have a particular style, but I definitely like to have rhythm in my poetry. As I shared, I directly write my thoughts in the form of poems, I generally finish my poems within an hour.

However, when I started medication and I wanted to write about my journey, it took me weeks. I have written a few more poems that took weeks to complete.

I write online journals too, but poems help me share everything that I am otherwise not able to explain. Poems have hidden meanings and everyone has a different perception of them. I leave it upto the reader to find the meaning. I realized it when I performed in open mics at different events. The crowd was different and how they perceived and responded was also different.

  1. Dealing with depression and EUPD is undoubtedly challenging. How did you find the strength to cope, and what role did your support system play during this period?

It is extremely tough. You can't exactly tell how you feel. You don't know what can trigger you and how the reaction would be. It has been almost one year since I was diagnosed with it. It's not easy. There are days when I am fully motivated, but then other days I wish I didn't exist.

For the initial months, I didn't desire to live. If you saw me in the training room, you wouldn't even think that I was struggling hard to survive. I think I am a good actor in those terms. After opening up about my condition, I got to know about others. Everyone is going through a lot. You can't compare your pain with someone else's pain. You may share the similarities but the journey is different. That realization helped me at least not think about dying.

My family didn't know how to deal with my condition as it was devastating for them to see me in such a pathetic state. I won't say they were able to understand me completely, but they always tried to. They have been there trying their best to make sure I don't go back to that state again. I know they love me and care for me, and therefore I try my best to smile.

I always thought I made many good friends, but I am left with very few. I am happy though. They are the only ones who stood by me, listening to things that didn't make sense or I wasn't able to explain. They kept a check on me every day even when they too had hard times.

The only motivation I have right now is ‘Noor’. I believe that's the purpose of my life. I know it's going to be tough for me. I get severe anxiety attacks. At such times, I disconnect myself from everyone. I lose my motivation and I feel I won't ever be able to come out of it. I had stopped believing in God for the last 2 years, though I am trying to restore it. However, I question my existence on such days.

But, I know this time I don't wish for death. I may have tried earlier, but now I wish to die peacefully when God wills. I wish to fulfill my dream. I want to make world a better place at least for some of them.

  1. Opening up about your struggles with mental health can inspire others. How do you balance vulnerability and strength when sharing your personal story, especially on platforms like LinkedIn?

I think a lot before posting. I am a working professional and even when we call it the modern era, our thoughts have not developed. We still judge everyone, and treat them as per our judgment. I was told not to share my thoughts at a platform like LinkedIn as it may affect my career. I get sarcastic remarks as well.

However, I feel if my words and journey can motivate someone then I am doing the right thing. I do take care of my word choices as I don't want to hurt anyone. I believe if we have achieved everything, but we ain't kind and humble we still haven't achieved anything.

It's good to have opinions and perspectives, I respect and welcome them. But, you can't impose them on me. The same goes for me as well. Therefore, I try raising awareness and talking about a lot of things, sharing from my perspective. I am ready to know and understand yours.

When I receive DMs sharing how impactful a certain post was, or how motivated someone as they can relate, serves as an indicator that I am on the right path.

  1. Your experience with psychiatrists and psychologists wasn't entirely positive. How do you think mental health professionals can better support individuals dealing with similar challenges?

At first, I tried understanding them as they deal with such patients throughout the day. But, isn't it the profession that they chose? A doctor can't say in an operation room that they are tired and will continue tomorrow.

Mental health is not something that can be taken so lightly. Because of someone's ignorance, a family may lose a member forever.

If you go for a private session, that would cost 2k and more for a 30 minute session. If you opt for a hospital, they might not even be interested in listening to you. The situation is worse in government hospitals.

I gained weight due to medication but no motivation.

I feel if you choose a profession like being a doctor, you can't compromise with someone's life. Justify the reason you got to wear the white coat and sit on the other side of the table.

  1. The decision to stop medication is a significant one. What led you to make that choice, and how do you manage your mental health without relying solely on medication?

The only thing I gained was weight. I was taking medication that was more than 1200 mgs a time. There were colorful tablets, but my life was still a mess.

At first, medicines did help me sleep, but I had panic attacks. Medicines take time to act. I went to a psychologist, but it seemed the person was more interested in ending the session and advising me without listening to my side.

I stopped medication for depression. I focused on my work. Being in the training room makes me happy. It drains my energy due to my health condition, but it helps me avoid overthinking. I write even if I am unable to exactly express myself. I do self-talk. I talk to others or watch videos of the ones who went through depression and how they overcame it. I find motivation in people, poetries, and stories. When someone tells me I made them happy, it motivates me more.

  1. Your desire to fulfill your dream despite ongoing struggles is commendable. How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals during difficult times?

As I said, I look for motivation in everything. What I went through, there are people who went through the same or even worse. When people reach out to me and tell me they want to talk about their lives, I feel that I must have done something that made them comfortable to share about their personal lives with me.

  1. You mentioned that strangers on LinkedIn reach out to you, finding motivation in your thoughts. How does this external validation impact your perspective on your own journey, and what message do you hope to convey to those who look up to you?

I never imagined strangers would reach out and tell me things that could be shared only with the trusted ones. I am a good listener because I know how much we want someone to listen to us without prejudices.

Strangers reach out to me for various things. Someone wants to learn English, someone wants to share their opinion on my post and how they found that relatable. It makes me feel valued. I had gone through a lot during school and college days where there were moments I felt inferiority complex for various reasons, and I thought I won't ever be able to achieve what I truly desired for. Such validations make me feel grateful and humble. I appreciate the kind gestures people show towards me.

I hope I am able to help people through my learnings and experiences. Please be kind and humble but don't let anyone take advantage of it. Take stand for yourself.