Mentoring — a typical corporate buzzword — has now morphed and evolved into spaces outside of glass facades and boardrooms. The word, which essentially means to advise or to train someone, was often limited to professional growth and development. Over the years, the scope of it has grown leaps and bounds into lives of all sizes and kinds.
Led by the remarkable efforts of the now century old Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, mentoring has helped and impacted millions of lives. The way these programs work is by matching an adult with a child (typically between 6–18 year olds) for a duration of time (a minimum of one year and a maximum of a lifetime) taking into consideration their personality types, area of interests, backgrounds, personal stories etc. and providing structured support during the course of the relationship.
These program have gone on to not only create a generation of more successful (in a conventional way of metrics i.e. Financial, academically, etc.) citizens but also enabled them to be more responsible, sensitive and caring individuals. The beauty of such a program is as the relationship grows, the relationship becomes less transactional, the boundaries begin to blur.
As the mentor, who is typically akin to a giver, and the mentee, the receiver, begin sharing life experiences, reflect, learn (and un-learn and re-learn), tips, successes and failures, the relationship takes new forms and shapes, as do the mentor and mentee, as human beings — as if they grow into new (and better) versions of themselves — like a software update.
I have been fortunate enough to be a part of one such mentoring relationship over the past 2 years. As a part of being a Bhaiyya (Hindi equivalent of a brother), I would be required to spend about 5–6 hours in a month with a kid, Bhavin (then 9) — a, now, 11 year old young man (or so we like believe). Over these years, I think, he has given me more than I was hoping to receive.
The sessions that started off with me offering to help and support him with anything and everything — my ego, at that point in time, was peak Batman — imagining myself to be a solution to all his problems whatsoever. But what I understood, over a period of time, was that it was a partnership, of equals — not just Batman but Batman and Robin!
Talking to him about topics ranging from Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi (Go, Messi!) to the best football team (Go, whichever team Messi is playing for!) to why do parents not understand what we want to say to boring school lectures to awesome friends and how to find them! I evolved and changed (and even challenged). Spending time with him has been a great exercise in reflection for me.
It’s in those moments, that we both grew and nurtured in each other’s company. As much as I was hoping to be the upper hand in the relationship, it grew into a hand of equals — like a high-five!
I think mentoring is about enabling — enabling opportunities, options, ideas, questions, ideas and stories. The quote that I most resonate with when I think of my relationship with Bhavin is this: If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. — Buddha.
It gives me incredible joy to see so many mentoring organizations (we work with a bunch of them at ConnectFor) grow in India and the fact that it’s one of our biggest areas of successful matches too! Here’s to many more beautiful relationships and to saving Gothams — both outside and inside each of us.