I miss my mentors. All of those who have passed…
My Dad was perhaps my first real mentor. Long before there were those outside the home, and they were few and far between because good mentors are hard to find, Dad was there. Even though he had an inclination towards silence and stillness, it was his carefully measured, softly uttered, frugally spoken words that still linger with me.
Words uttered on a railway platform as the train was departing and I had come to bid him farewell till the next school break – “I expect nothing but the best of effort from you”. When you are in middle school, that stuff somehow stays with you for a while. In my case, it’s been a few decades and I still remember that message from my mentor. The home was always stocked with all kind of books (mostly from American fiction authors!) and music (Indian and western). It was his way of creating an environment for me to ‘learn’ outside of my education. And there was much more. That was Dad’s mentorship.
My mother’s sister’s husband, my second Dad, was pretty much cut from the same mold of silence. I got to know him well because I spent fourteen years (from age seven) growing up in his household. His mentorship to me came through his relentless devotion to providing for his family. He worked long, long hours working the family business, and you did not want to be ‘talked to’ by him after he got home after a twelve hour day. His reverence and dedication in celebrating the major Indian festivals was also a great lesson in ‘slowing down’ for me. And when it came time for me to leave his home and come to the USA for graduate studies, he was instrumental in convincing my parents that it would be okay. He was my biggest cheerleader, and that gave me tremendous belief in myself. That was Uncle’s mentorship.
When I moved to the US, his youngest brother here became my ‘American Dad’ and mentor. He and his family provided a sense of ‘home away from home’ that was vital for someone whose nearest family was on the other side of the world. An electrical engineer for Ford, he always kept a keen eye on me all through graduate school. I looked forward to meeting up with every Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that I could learn from him about how to raise a family with a blend of American and Indian values. A lot of his wonderful advice about faith, career and family, continues to linger with me. That was my Ann Arbor uncle.
And while all three of them have physically departed, I can honestly say that I often find myself asking – what would Dad (or my Uncles) do in such and such situation? I can also say that I have had a very tough time replacing them as mentors. The closest ‘replacement’ was my NASA mentor – I am greatly indebted for his decision to take me under his wing when I was first starting my career.
All this talk about ‘male’ mentors doesn’t mean that I did not have any ‘female’ role models. I have talked about them (my Mother, my Aunts, my maternal grandmother) extensively in many previous #spiritchat blog posts. For some reason, as I sat in morning #meditation this past Sunday, I was asked these questions – Who are your mentors? Who are you mentoring? How are mentors different from role models? And what about our (spiritual) guides? How do I go about identifying some new mentors in my life? What effect is the (apparent) lack of influential mentors in my life having on me and my growth?
I share these questions that were asked of me with you, with the intent that perhaps you can relate to (some of) them. Yes, we have all the power within us to do great things, but a lot of that potential lies latent – like fuel needing a spark. What if the heart-based guidance of a good mentor could ‘raise us to that stage’, and help us manifest our power, so that we may expand our experience of truth, awareness and joy?
Share your stories about mentors and mentoring in our weekly twitter conversation – Sunday, January 27 at 9amET / 730pm India in #SpiritChat. Who knows – maybe you will find a new mentor, or have an opportunity to mentor someone you haven’t even met yet? Namaste – Kumud
Swami Vivekananda – A mentor whom I met through his books, poetry, lectures and essays…