During India’s glorious golden eras, when the Mahabharata & Ramayana played out, when Mughal kings & Rajput queens roamed the lands, the Indian culture held its own. The world followed India for their excellent ideologies & practices.

One of these fascinating concepts that I am currently exploring is the concept of apprenticeship. People familiar with Indian terminologies will also recognize this as the guru-shishya tradition.

As a child, modern Indian history never fascinated me all that much. What really caught my attention was the caste system of India, the clear division of labor, the beauty of that arrangement. To me, the only thing degrading the beauty of the caste system was the treatment of certain jobs. Why treat one job as less worthy than another? Every job well done makes a better society!

In any case, that is all discussion for another blog post, so let me come back to the matter at hand - apprenticeship.

The 10000-hours concept

We’ve all heard this enough - practice a skill for 10000 hours, and you can call yourself a master. Ever wondered where this concept came from?

Apprenticeship is a period of learning for a mentee/protégé (shishya) as imparted and facilitated by a mentor (guru) ranging anywhere from 4 to 10 years, where the mentee is generally in his/her teens/early adulthood. (My reasoning for saying 4 to 10 years is because anything shorter would be too fleeting, and anything longer, too cumbersome)

Let’s pause here for a second and look at the link between them.

Average of 4-10 years: 7 years

Average school day/work day excluding breaks & travel: ~4 hours per day

Skill development in hours: 7 years x 365 days x 4 hours = 10220 hours

Well, now we know what apprenticeship really meant.

Imagine if every person in the world dedicated 4 hours of every day for 7 years of their lives doing what they felt they were meant to, being guided along at every twist and turn of the way by a person of experience?

Where are all the mentors gone?

The guru-shishya traditions so loved in the Indian culture has all but disappeared. The only concept of mentorship existing is in the fields of dance, music, religious & spiritual practices.

These traditions were not just for the benefit of individuals, they were important channels that helped pass down best practices, efficiency & excellency in the fields offered. The shishyas imbibed to the best of their abilities, and the gurus made sure to pass on the knowledge they learnt from their successes and failures.

These traditions were important because they kept the arts & sciences alive. We can collectively blame society (ourselves included) for abandoning this wonderful medium of education.

Why should I bother?

I’m sure you’re wondering how any of this matters to you in specific, but it does. Let me break it down for you.

Is there something you’ve wanted to learn for ages but don’t know where to start?

Is there something you’re learning & have doubts but don’t know who to ask?

Do you wish to get advice from the best in your field tailored to your needs?

All this is possible in a world where apprenticeship & mentorship is readily available to everyone.

Each one of us holds a certain key, a certain skill, a way of doing things that is beautiful in its own way. Let’s not put that to waste. Go out there and find a person to mentor you, for your betterment. If you’re good at something, offer to mentor someone else, for the better of the world around you.

Let’s not sit around and wait for the education system to get better (shout out to India’s exhausted engineering bunch), because it is going to take a while. And who said we couldn’t do something on our own? Carving our own paths is what we’ve been good at, anyway.

Collaboration is key!

P.S.: This is a topic that I will come back to exploring further.. In the meanwhile, any thoughts and suggestions are always welcome!

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P.S. The opinions expressed in this article are applicable in the author’s life and she does not advocate this, or wish to force it down your throat. Another perspective, if you please.

The number of articles telling we should have learned something by the time we’re a certain age is infinite. I, for one, have indulged in umpteen number of these articles and have come to realize my folly in wasting ‘X’ hours of my life reading those.
Here is a one-size-fits-all version of the simple things in life to understand:

  1. Everybody grows at a different pace. You could be 40 but have little to effectively contribute to another person. Heck, you could be 2 years old and make a difference. What matters is the perspective. Develop it.

  2. Learn a new thing as often as you can. Learning keeps you busy, learning not only gives you an edge mentally or physically, but also emotionally. Why emotionally, you ask? Well, the more you learn, the more you can offer. And the more you can offer, the more you are needed. Being needed is sometimes more important than being loved. Being needed can keep you alive more than most people believe.

  3. Smile and cry too. Don’t be afraid to shed tears if you really cared. Don’t be afraid to laugh if you really cared, either. The world is filled with just too many stoic, judgmental people, and even those people cry when you’re not looking.

  4. Don’t hold onto your opinions and beliefs like a drowning person holding onto driftwood. You are not equivalent to your opinions & your opinions were never yours. You derived your opinions from other people’s ideas. Your opinions are subject to change.

  5. Everybody is alone. Some people find solitude in being alone, some find loneliness. Seek solitude.

  6. Appreciate and spend time with things that stir your soul and give you goosebumps. For me, it’s music and literature. For you, it could be anything from traveling to lying on the grass on a bright sunny afternoon. As someone rightfully said, life is too short to spend time on mediocre things.

  7. Give a piece of yourself to the people that love you. Spend a piece of your time on the things you love doing. Try not to interchange the two statements. People deserve a piece of you more than things.

  8. Math was all wrong about constants. The only constant in the world is change. Even the value of pi can change any day for all we know.

  9. All the knowledge in the world cannot tell you what lies in the future, let alone prepare you for it. Embrace the unexpected and be suspicious of routine. Be very suspicious.

  10. Love what you do, and do what you love. Interpret this statement in all and any way possible — literally, figuratively, colloquially. (Hint: Spot the euphemism)

Lather, rinse and repeat — or don’t.

Totally your choice. :D

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2015 Update

With more than half the year past, it’s a little too late for a 2015 update. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to change the theme and hopefully get back to writing more than ever!


Looking forward to sharing new adventures!

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Afreen Siraj

Enjoying the litte pleasures of life - food, music & the written word


Content & Community Manager, HashLearn