Introducing : Maithli

After the orientation, I had understood the large scale aspects of the program. While extremely rare, there had been situations in which mentees had chosen to opt out of the program. The major contributing factor to this disheartening event was that the mentees’ parents had experienced a change of heart. Sigh. I already had a dozen scenarios playing in my head.

What will she be like? What if she’s shy? Will she find me too chirpy? How should I dress? What if she thinks I am boring? Will she have predetermined expectations? Or will she be open to adventure? Will she speak her mind? Or will it take me 6 months to find out her favourite colour? What if her parents don’t like me? Oh god, what if they judge my ink and decide I’m unfit to be around their child? Will they find me patronising with all my enthusiasm and ideas?

For the first time in my life, my babysitting experience was falling short. I was nervous to the point of rehearsing my introduction in front of the mirror. Dammit. I’d never been this apprehensive even before a job interview. I had worked with a School on Wheels program in Deloitte. Despite the evident language barrier (my limited Telugu vocabulary), I had done just fine. I remembered the older kids speaking near fluent English and the younger ones expressing unhindered enthusiasm. Fear will build walls only if you let it – I reminded myself. I decided to make her a ‘excited to meet you’ card and left the name blank. I still didn’t know who this young girl was. I showed up at the school with my fingers crossed.

In the sessions, we stick name tags on our shirts / wrists to make introductions easier. Our names are coupled with symbols to assist grouping for activities. I eyed the ice-cream cone next to my name and wondered which one of the girls already present in the classroom was my mentee. I didn’t get long to pause. “Didi!” a voice cried out from the first few benches. “What’s your name?” I approached the desk and introduced myself, my fears disappearing with every successive smile that greeted me. What followed was a string of questions ranging from what are your hobbies? to do you like quilling? I laughed as relief washed over me. The chatterbox was Lohita. But the girl that caught my eye was the one sitting next to her. She couldn’t stop smiling. Her voice was soft, but her diction was perfect. Her eyes were expressive and full of shine. I couldn’t help wishing that I be paired with her. “Didi,” Lohita interrupted my wishful thinking. “I think you are with Maithli.” I asked her to explain her conclusion. “Because you both have ice-cream cones on your sticker”, she answered simply. I turned to look at Maithli and if it was even possible, her smile was now more endearing 🙂

As we navigated through the one-on-one and group activities, she asked me about my education, where I lived, the number of people in my family, my love for art, the books I had read and liked so far, and if I had any secrets! I sent a prayer to the heavens. This girl was my perfect mentee match ❤ She decided that we should converse in English despite the fact that we both speak Marathi. I was glad to see that she wasn’t averse to stepping out of her comfort zone. But if you think the questions stopped there, you are wrong. She asked me to explain my motivation for joining the program and my thought process preceding the decision to make the final commitment. It was nothing short of a formal interview. I threw the question back at her and I was floored by her response. Didi, I read that there was a mentee who was shy. But after spending time with her didi, she became confident.  I asked her where she had found this information. “On the MMI website”, pat came the reply. This 11 year old had done her background research!

I had waved her au revoir for the 6th time before she left, promising to call me in the following week. A short conversation with my coordinator told me that this resourceful child had interviewed even the program staff! My heart brimming with enthusiasm and promise, I began to count the days until our next session.


I spoke to Maithli yesterday and found out that she has been busy preparing for her upcoming quarterly school exam. She said she was a bit bummed that our last session had to be rescheduled because of the rain and was looking forward to meeting me on Sunday. I have a friendship day surprise planned for her and I hope she likes it!


16 Comments Add yours

  1. Aditya Solanki says:

    Wow! Are you a part of The Lighthouse Project or is this a project similar to The Lighthouse Project?
    I’d like to read more about your meetings with Maithli. I like to see individuals grow as a person and Maithli does seem like an individual with a lot of potential in her. She’s content!
    Keep Blogging.

    1. deineisana says:

      Hey Aditya,
      It is similar to TLP. Mentor Me India is currently set up in Mumbai and Thane. It is a structured program with regular brainstorming meetings, group activities, and L&D sessions. We are currently at 250 Mentor-Mentee pairs and have ambitious growth plans. Every bit of promotion helps to create awareness regarding such volunteer opportunities. I ended up pulling one of my juniors into the program. And a few other acquaintances reached out for more information with promises to sign up for the December cohort. I will definitely post an update after our next session 😀
      Thank you for writing!

      1. Aditya Solanki says:

        Tell me, can a college student work as a Mentor with Mentor Me India? If yes, can I apply to be a Mentor now or will I have to wait until December?

    2. deineisana says:

      Hi Aditya,

      Check this out. It’s another volunteer opportunity and has a similar set up to MMI that you could pursue even as a student.

      1. Aditya Solanki says:

        Hey, thanks for reaching out to me to make me aware of this opportunity. However, this opportunity does not fall in line with what I wish to do. I’m interested in becoming a Mentor and what you’ve shared with me is an opportunity to work as an intern at The Green Batti Project. Also, their program is different in terms of the age group of their mentees and perhaps, it’s thus that they do not allow students to work as Mentors with them.
        Again, thanks for reaching out to me to make me aware of this opportunity! I’m still waiting for the update on how things are between Maithli and you; I’m excited to learn how she’s growing as a person and how you’re helping her in her journey to become a better version of who she already is.

      2. deineisana says:

        Hola, new post is up! I write a travel blog and it takes up a lot of time – so, it took a while to get this one out. Will try to post about our session as soon as I can 🙂 keep reading and spread the word!

      3. Aditya Solanki says:

        I’ll spread the word!

  2. deineisana says:

    Hola Aditya,
    the form requires employment reference as a mandatory field. So, I believe you will have to wait at least until you graduate. The organisation does accept volunteers in non-mentoring roles. Feel free to call the office and have a chat with them in case you’re looking for specific information. They’d love to hear from you.

    1. Aditya Solanki says:

      Hey, I just read this comment of yours; as you posted this as a separate comment instead of as a reply to my comment, I received no notification on WordPress about this comment. I can see why they’d prefer working professionals over college students. I’m anyway in the last year of my law course now. Also, I’ve realised that if I really am interested in helping someone to grow as a person, I do not compulsorily have to do that through a formal institution. 🙂

      1. deineisana says:

        Awesome 🙂 glad to know. My sister is a lawyer and she did her own share of non-profit work – she worked with juvenile delinquents through legal aid, ran marathons for non-profits, and also worked with blind children. So yes, there’s a lot you can do even as a student. Good luck!

      2. Aditya Solanki says:

        Ah, is working for the social good a hobby that flows in your blood?

      3. deineisana says:

        Well, a lot of my friends are also mentors or do some kind of pro bono work. In fact one worked with The Lighthouse Project. I believe that after working 14+ hours in the corporate sphere we just wanted to do something that wasn’t about making more money for those who already had enough. There’s a lot of satisfaction in the impact sector. And also, we are now equipped (in terms of education) to make that impact. Working hard has finally paid off 🙂

      4. Aditya Solanki says:

        You said that there’s a lot of satisfaction in the impact sector. Can you tell me how working in the impact sector or what in the impact sector is giving satisfaction to you?

      5. deineisana says:

        the fact that you’re creating tangible benefits. you can actually see a visible result of your efforts. it’s also a lot of hard work and has its own setbacks (I haven’t experienced any so far but I am aware of the possibilities). But in the end, it’s rewarding work. I painted a school for street kids in Bangalore because I am an artist. I made fun, creative, interactive walls out of dreary and dull ones. And the kids watched me do that. I know how much they loved what I had created for them. That’s tangible.

      6. Aditya Solanki says:

        Tangible? Ah. I’ve worked at an LPO for two months. There, though all were happy and witty, I could find none who was satisfied. I wonder if that’s because they could not directly see the impact of the work that they were doing.
        Do you think that most corporate employees are not satisfied because they’re unable to directly see the impact of the work that they’re doing?

      7. deineisana says:

        I have been working for about 8 years now. There is an increasing number of professionals who are dissatisfied for varied reasons. And that is a discussion for another time and place.

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