The problem with cynicism is that once you adopt such an attitude, the universe often presents itself in such a way that you end up holding on to such limiting mindsets; an offshoot of the Law of Positive Attraction if you will. I thought that getting into SPJIMR would have been the start of a cure for this affliction of mine, but, now I realise that there is a long way to go as I commence with baby steps for now.
My cynicism really came to the fore when I attended Prof. Deepa Krishnan’s orientation session for Abhyudaya, a programme where we mentor underprivileged children (Sitaras). As Ma’am explained the process of e-mentoring, the voice in my mind echoed, “Me? A mentor? A role model? Surely, Ma’am speaks in jest.” I started to preemptively pity the Sitara boy or girl who would be shackled to a once mediocre student turned socially awkward jester.
I felt apprehensive before my first informal video call with my mentee, J (name has been withheld to retain anonymity), with thoughts such as, “What if I say something stupid and offend him? What if I say something so dumb that he doubts my intelligence and abilities?” Surprisingly, J was calmer and more collected than I had ever been at his age. “Maybe I’m your first mentee, but you’re my fifth mentor.” He smiled through his phone camera. “Don’t worry. I’ll mentor you on how to mentor me,” he joked.
Rather arrogantly, I had entered this course with the misconception that I understood urban poverty. In my hometown, Kolkata, I had studied in a modest state board school. I lived in a slum area and played cricket on the gravelly roads with those very children. In retrospect, I don’t recall when a socio-economic barrier separated us. As the years rolled by and the times changed, the cricket bats in my hand were replaced with books and gadgets but my less fortunate friends had perhaps become manacled by the destructive forces of poverty and menial labour. Inevitably, I am wiser now and I can at least attempt to understand the ill effects of poverty on the development of adolescent youths.
J is a bright boy. His hands are magical; the sketches he draws are mesmerizing. His technical abilities are evident in his drawings – he perceives and leverages depth beautifully; creating surreal drawings that appear like they’re leaving the plane of the paper and entering our own physical realm. I beleive that his amazing spatial intelligence is why he plays football as a midfielder or a central defender; rather than a striker or winger as most youths do. I haven’t seen him play but if his footballing vision amounted to even a tenth of his artistic vision; he’d be Andheri’s own Andres Iniesta.
“Oh, I made this just like that,” he would casually brush off my praises of his drawings as I would stare at them in awe.
What impresses me the most about J is his sense of humour. “We can make a comic series of our own!” I had enthusiastically quipped at the start of our 1st session adding, “You can draw and I can write.”. He laughed saying, “You say this now. Wait till your MBA curriculum picks up. You’ll know it’s Sunday only because of a scheduled session with me.” Armed with the wisdom of being under the tutelage of four mentors previously, he is as much a guide to me as I am to him.
I have never considered myself the nurturing kind but I feel a palpable excitement when I see him attempting to form four letter words in Scrabble rather than three letter ones he was attempting initially. He had told me at the beginning that he felt that his spoken and written English was weak, but now he tells me that he has started to attempt writing his thoughts on pen and paper. He says he won’t reveal his work to me because he feels that it is full of errors. I have told him to take his time and show me his work only when he feels comfortable in doing so. What he doesn’t understand is – how proud I already am of him.
My mentoring sessions with my Sitara are what make my SPJIMR experience whole. SPJIMR has truly given me a young friend for whom I will root throughout life as I am sure he will blossom into a wonderful human being.