By Volunteers Mitali Kulkarni (FHI Mumbai) & Jay Laddha (FHI Ahmedabad)
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.“
~ Benjamin Disraeli
It was not the best of times to live in. It was the season of darkness, it was an age of despair. The states were divided and rulers were frail. The future seemed bleak and the dangers of the invasion were lurking at the borders. Led by Alexander the Great, after conquering a large part of the world, the army from Greece had reached the banks of the Sutlej river. Amid such dark and uncertain times, a naive little kid full of ambition and a righteous guru were destined to meet. It was Chanakya, who took Chandragupta to Takshashila, where he provided him requisite education in military tactics and the aesthetic arts.
It may be remembered that it was their duo that prevented India from being conquered and consequently unify most of India under one administration. Their lives are a resounding example of how proper guidance and counseling can go a long way in overcoming unprecedented obstacles and achieving phenomenal outcomes. Indeed, be it Krishna-Arjun, Socrates-Plato, or Maya Angelou-Oprah Winfrey, history has been an invariable testimony to the power of quality mentorships.
However, as Indian society continues to struggle with the disparity among its people, we must not overlook the younger disadvantaged generation. According to a 2007 case study on ‘Implementing a Mentor Program for Disadvantaged Indian College Students’, even though financial assistance is provided to children from underprivileged backgrounds, the number of students who actually continue education and are gainfully employed is less and the rate of dropouts is more. The child’s living conditions, parents not being able to relate to their level of education, lack of confidence, and feeling of inferiority are some of the many issues faced by them.
Just as we all have experienced, every child faces so many doubts, fears, and challenges while growing up. A lot of times what can weigh down as one grows along is that other factors like bullying by peers, family expectations, natural puberty, etc. come in and that’s where the need for mentorship emerges. A lot of people support youngsters when they become successful at a later stage in life, but it is at this young tender age where they are still finding their way, there is such a big need for it; it is almost a bottomless pit.
The thing is, as a mentor, our job is not to teach them their subjects. They have to do that individually with the guidance of their teachers in their respective subjects. We just hope to help them as people. We’re not here with an aim to create toppers or world champions but to offer a beneficial intervention, just something that could help them from our own experience; to add some X factor to their performance which may help them achieve their dreams or reach the next level.
Nonetheless, what is grossly overlooked many a time is the other side of the narrative. Mentors change lives, but students change mentors’ lives more. Mentoring a child imbibes a fresh perspective to the mentor. It offers him a wonderful chance of self-introspection. He becomes a part of the continuous learning process, gains insights into his techniques as per response from the child.
Alas, we can never really look into the future and say what will happen. Honestly, not everyone will become like Chanakya-Chandragupta. There will always be some constraints. Withal, mentorship is not an easy thing to do. It is an archetypal activity; Youth and elder meet where the pressure of the future meets the presence of the past. Old and young, opposites that secretly identify with each other; for neither fits well into the mainstream of life. Yet, the show must go on!