Opinion | Finding a mentor

Swarna Tamrakar

Swarna Tamrakar

Opinion | Finding a mentor

We do not have a culture of seeking help from an expert or having a mentor. Instead we often rely on completely unreliable sources for advice

I can bet this is a typical family gathering scenario in Nepal: the men of the family on one side, drinking and debating why the current prime minister is a total failure. And then, there are women on the other side, discussing the children, their schools, the difficulty of budgeting and how the new helper is better than the previous one. I should definitely mention the kids—you will not be in the men’s or the women’s discussion group until you are married. Even if you are 30 and unmarried, you are still considered a kid in the family—who are either on their phones complaining to their friends why they did not want to be a part of this gathering because it is boring, or they will be busy making #cousinunite Tiktok.

Maybe I am stereotyping. But I have been part of these bewildering gatherings for years and one conversation never gets old. I know you all must be thinking, the ever loved and haunting “When are you getting married?” but no. Here I discuss the love for the discussion of health issues.

When I mention health issues, they do not, in closest proximity, include mental health. When it is family, we discuss only diabetes, blood pressure, thyroids, arthritis, gastritis (our national disease) and migraine, to name a few. There will be one uncle or aunty who is the yellow page for doctors. They will instantly recommend you to a doctor who will run a wand around you and fix everything. The same person will also be an expert at suggesting medicines and alternative hacks to deal with your health problems.

We take our health for granted until the issue is so severe that we might have to live with it for the rest of our lives or to go under the scissors. In both cases we are jeopardizing our future. Similarly, we do not have a culture of seeking help from an expert or having a mentor.

Mentor is a person who is specialized in a subject, and guides and motivates you in professional and personal life. A life coach or a wellness coach can also be a mentor for your personal growth. In recent days, the culture of seeking such expertized services is growing. While life coaches motivate you to keep your personal life running, professional mentors are also necessary for smooth and healthy career growth. In simple Nepali terminology, they are called Guru.

In my humble opinion, there is a slight difference between a teacher and a mentor, even though they are interconnected. A teacher is a person who will help you acquire knowledge whereas a mentor will guide you to use and incorporate that knowledge into practice. A mentor will not exactly teach you but s/he will keep you on your toes to use the knowledge.

When you have a stomach ache, you are advised to go to a gastroenterologist and not the expert uncle who might give you a random medicine and screw it up more. Similarly, it is a smart approach to find a mentor from the same field of work as yours and keep questioning and learning. Finding a mentor is not easy. A lot of times people might not even give you the attention and time that you need. It is extremely important to approach people with a clear intent and communication. You might work in the same firm, you might work for him/her, or it could be totally independent.

Another important criteria while choosing a mentor is that they have to be an expert in the field where you seek help. You cannot go to a clinker brick maker to learn how to stitch a pair of shoes. For that you need a cobbler. Having said that we need to find a mentor, there will be a time when you have to look for a replacement. There is always a limit on how much one person can share knowledge and mentor someone. In time, the gurus can change, with the changing needs of the disciples. And it is absolutely fine to keep moving.

If you ask me, my mother is my first teacher and mentor who still holds a major credit for the person I am today. I guess it is so for each one of us. Beside my mother, luckily, I found a life coach in my early 20s who has helped me with my outlook and approach to life. Even after two decades of pestering him, I still give him my social audits once in a while to get validation.

For my professional mentorship, each person who is from my field of work is my mentor. I learn as well as unlearn from their actions.