In Hindu philosophy, the order of significance in terms of respect and honour (highest first) is summed up in Sanskrit as: Maathaa (Mother), Pithaa (Father), Guru (Teacher) and Deivam (God).
Maathaa - Having carried us in her womb for 9 months and going through the pangs of labour. our mother brings us into the world. She nurtures us with love, brings us up through all kinds of hardships and provides unending love. And, expects nothing in return. My mom has been a source of great inspiration since time immemorial - for her sheer hardiness, perseverance and more than anything else, wearing a smile hiding away any sorrows lying beneath.
Pithaa - It is our mother who shows us who our father is. And, it is our father who teaches us values in life by being role models for boys and a rock of support for girls. My dad was an example of generosity, humour and understanding, values that we siblings imbibed growing up.
Guru - there were several teachers who have guided me across life. My high school chemistry teacher who taught us about friendship and personal values, my medical school surgery professor who taught me that learning can be accomplished in small bite sized chunks, my higher surgical training mentors who taught me humility and integrity, the list is endless. In fact, anybody from whom we learn, however trivial the matter might be, is a guru. As my spiritual Guru, I do have the Sankaracharya of Kanchi, whose life and teachings and blessings guide me even today.
Mitrah (friends) - Ah, why is he bringing this new class into the order system, you might ask? Because, that order system pertains to reverence, but the question posed here relates to influence. There have been several friends in my life, some of whom started off as relatives. My wife, the greatest of them. Each friend has taught me something unique not by lecturing or pointing at things, but living and leading by example. I am grateful to them all.
Deivam / God - I am at that stage in life where I do not know if there is a God, but as somebody pointed out to me, there is no Divine, there is only divinity. Every person who has touched my life in some way and has influenced it significantly, are but facets of such divinity. I owe every single one of them - thank you.