Tag Archives: family

Friday Reflections: Mentors

It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m back for this Friday’s Reflections post, folks! 🙂

Today’s topic is Mentors.

You can apply the exercise from this post to your novel – protagonists, sometimes even antagonists, often have mentors who lead them along and offer the occasional nugget of wisdom that sparks an epiphany. You could just try a journal entry about this topic. Or you could write a poem or any other creative piece, like a short story! Absolutely your choice 🙂

So what comes to mind when you think of “mentors”?

Image

A classroom teacher figure? Or someone more like a rather old, but wise and experienced type?

Mentors could be anyone – your friendly, understanding aunt; your closest cousin; that best friend you look up to; your piano instructor; your pastor, or family guru; your mother or father. One of my closest friends thinks of her own elder brother as a mentor – he has been something like a guide for her all her life, through school and college, and even today he’s ready to offer her advice if she needs it.

I had a conversation with my aunt about teachers and mentors once, and what she said then has really stuck with me. She’s my father’s younger sister, and there’s quite the age difference between them, almost a decade’s worth. My aunt told me that the first and best teacher in her life had been my dad, who had helped her with all her school lessons. Until she told me this, I hadn’t really considered my father as a ‘teacher’, even though he’s taught me so much about physics and mechanics and the way the world works, amongst many other things.

Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d assumed that it was the role of the parent to ‘teach’ or ‘impart knowledge’. But my dad’s way of teaching had always been decisively teacher-like and not parent-like, and I only realized there’s a difference between the two when my aunt brought it up.

It’s always so interesting to look at someone in that new perspective, someone we’ve been looking at our whole lives.

A change of perspective

So just take a moment to close your eyes and open them again, look at the world of people you know from different angle. Whom all would you consider “mentors”? What is a “mentor”, to you? A guide? Someone who offers advice whenever you go to them, or someone who is actively involved in all of the decisions you make and lights the way? Someone who has trained you in a particular craft, and perhaps has taught you life values through that process? Does your mentor make you want to work harder and do better, become a better person?

Think about the ways in which you address the various mentors in your life. Why do you call them that way? Does the way you address them give away the mentor-mentee relationship between the two of you (like “Ma’am”, “Sensei”, “Master”), or is the person a relative whom you hadn’t quite thought of in that way before (like my dad, for me)?

Mentors, teachers, instructors, and such, don’t necessarily have to be “positive” influences every time, either. For instance, in Batman Begins, Ra’s al Ghul is initially Batman’s mentor, but eventually becomes one of Batman’s greatest enemies.

What is most important is the way in which your mentor has affected your life. Take a few minutes, maybe even half an hour or two hours, if you have the time, to reflect and write about it.

An exercise in poetry

Write a list poem about all the things you’ve learnt from someone, starting from the thing of (apparently) least significance, to the thing of greatest significance    (or in any order you prefer)

Some more questions to ask yourself

Is there someone who played the role of mentor in your life whom you haven’t seen in a long time, or who has changed drastically since you last saw him/her? Does distance, time or change affect the way you remember him/her now? How and why?

Is there a dilemma you’re facing now that you wish you could consult one of your former mentors for advice about?

All of these questions and answers could apply just as well to a fictional character in your next novel; add depth to characterization by giving your protagonists or antagonists a ‘mentor’ figure. Think Yoda and Luke Skywalker. It’s important to note how much of an impact the mentor has on the protagonist – and how significant and unique what he/she has to teach is, how that contributes to the protagonist’s overall goals.

Yoda

If you’re journalling, dig up those old memories from school and college days! Perhaps those wonderful teenage years, when nothing was ever going right – maybe someone helped you figure the world out?

And if you’ve got a whole new perspective on this topic that I haven’t even touched upon, that’s great! Write about it!

Whenever you have trouble drawing up words, maybe you can pull out an old school yearbook and rifle through the pages for a photo of your favorite teacher. Old photographs, especially black-and-white ones printed in yearbooks and such, always make me feel so nostalgic 🙂 and nostalgia practically spills words on the page for me!

Happy writing folks 🙂 and happy weekend!

Friday Reflections: Tradition

Posted on

Image

I’ve had several religious functions happening around me lately (one just yesterday, in fact) and these occasions always get me thinking about tradition.

All the chanting, the mantras, the fire, the smoke… When I watch these things taking place before me, here in the 21st century, I’m…awestruck. That all of this has survived the test of time.

These traditions, these rituals, they connect the distant past with not just the present, but also (I hope) the distant future. We stand centuries away from our ancestors, but these things that our families do now and then, these rituals – they bridge that gap as if nothing at all has passed in between.

The world has changed so much since those times when these were practised out of practicality rather than faith or superstition (depending on how one looks at it). And yet, here we are, chanting the same verses. And to think that decades from now, our children, too, would do so! It gives me faith in mankind. The wisdom of our predecessors has been carried over so safely, so far. Tradition keeps it moving forward.

Tradition and Identity

It always seemed to me that humans and their habits are fragile things. We can be so quick to change our minds. There are times when we want the new, the foreign, the unknown, and in wanting these things, we want to shed ourselves of our pasts; there are times when we want to be identified not by our bloodlines, skin color, or ancestry, but rather what we make of ourselves today, here and now.

But I see these rituals being conducted, and something pulls me back from the frame of my life and out into the big, really big picture. The big picture in which humans have overcome all of these debates of identity and our traditions have overcome them alongside us.

Thinking this way makes me overlook even the religious aspects of these functions and appreciate the fact that they have withstood generations of wars, calamities, chaos, anarchy…

Yep. Definitely awestruck.

A Poem

A few years ago, while I was simply enjoying the fireworks on the night of Deepavali, I wrote a poem. Here’s an extract:

The night sky is so beautiful,
Lit with fireworks, in celebration…
And almost like incense, a mild scent
Of gunpowder travels to us
And fills the atmosphere;
A scent that today marks a tradition
That has transcended centuries;
A tradition so ancient, representing
The victory, the triumph
Of Good over Evil
(in one’s heart),
ImageThe brilliance
Of Light in Darkness.
We welcome this victory,
We welcome Goodness,
And pull tradition along.

Our experiences

As a child, I had never cared much for the practices my parents insisted on following. Often, I questioned them. I still do. But back then, I questioned with the intention of finding a reason not to follow them. Now, it’s just to know why and maybe find a personal reason to follow them. Because traditions have taught me a great deal about humans and the tenacity with which they have preserved those traditions.

What is your personal experience with tradition? What are the aspects in which you see that word?

Maybe it doesn’t mean anything in terms of religion, but just ethnicity? Perhaps it means some tradition your family or a circle of friends follow faithfully and that means the world to you. It could bother you, even – I know my family’s traditions used to bother me very much when I was younger (some of them still do – guess I’ll be asking questions for a while longer!).

Dig deep and write, write, write, folks 🙂