9th August 2019 will remain memorable in my life for years to come. As a Toastmaster since 2004, I had been searching for a person with whom I could, in all honesty and candidly, discuss my successes and challenges. The intensity of the vacuum had magnified after I completed my tenure as the President of Everest Toastmasters Club in Un-Districted Nepal in 2011. What next? Whom to ask?

Joining District 41 in 2017 provided, among other learnings, the end to my search for a mentor. I had the good fortune to meet DTM Deepak Menon at several District events but little did I have any inkling that I would propose him to be my mentor and he would accept. My unbridled joy must have reflected in my voice that a restrained laughter on the other side quickly reminded me to regulate my excitement and get down to fix my first mentoring session.

There were many trepidations entwining my expectations and delight as I looked forward to 9th of August. I have my spiritual guru. There are still colleagues and friends with whom I do consult and work together with. However, my uncle whom I consider to be my only mentor in life had passed away many years ago. Twitching between bated breath, preparing points to discuss and frequent glances to check time, skype flickered on and got connected ‘Hello Suman, how are you?’.

The disarmingly innocuous start immediately put me at ease as the thumps on the left side decidedly died down ‘Good afternoon Deepak. I am fine. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity’. What followed close to an hour was friendly talk peppered with professional advice and suggestions. Topic ranged from personal Toastmasters goals, leadership challenges and maneuvering to preparation of his visit to Kathmandu during our Division conference ‘Citation 2019’ on Dec 07. For many years I had been a mentor providing suggestions and sharing concerns with fellow members. This was a refreshing change that I was yearning, for what seemed like ages.

Closing the call, I conveyed my wishes to him for his travel the next day to the international convention at Denver for the crowning moment where he would become the International President and congratulated him.  The silence thereafter provided contemplating moments and glimpse into a person who would lead Toastmasters International. For me, among many takeaways, I like to share four that I want to emulate and improve upon.

One, Deepak is a thorough professional with absolute respect for time. He pinged his readiness before schedule and through the video call, I could see him upright and his preparedness with notes and pen neatly stacked on the study table. It was not a slouching couch and anything else one would have imagined. Two, the voice and demeanor was casually infectious allowing me to open up to discuss the agenda I had created giving the benefit of doubt and listening intently. Three, there was no ambiguity when advice and suggestions were provided. It was to the point and boiled down into incrementally actionable task that could be achieved. Four, humble and always ready to help with possible solutions.

If I could feel empowered and motivated within such a short time, I am imagining how many lives he must have touched positively over the years and what kind of impact he will engineer to explode in the global stage during his tenure. For me, I am still savoring our interaction and hoping for many more such sessions in the future.

Suman Shakya
Division A Director, District 41

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