A mission to read

With courage and conviction by your side, take a chance, exults Manmohan Jain of India Literacy Project (Hyderabad)

December 14, 2017 02:14 pm | Updated 02:14 pm IST

Manmohan Jain of India Literacy Project

Manmohan Jain of India Literacy Project

Three years ago when Manmohan Jain of India Literacy Project (Hyderabad) had to travel to Bengaluru for a meeting, he wondered how to book tickets! “I knew how to book tickets but till then my travel plans and hotel bookings were taken care by my secretary. Later, I figured it on my own,” he recalls with a smile.

In their office near Kothaguda post office, a small room houses the books and kits for school children. Manmohan looks cheerful as the office boy walks in with a tray and states, ‘Please have water and tea.’ A smile adorns Manmohan’s face; The office boy speaking English is a boost to his ‘literacy for all’ mission.

Software stint

A student of electrical engineering, Manmohan switched to software when he was introduced to programming language in his third year. After graduation, he went to the US to do his masters. “I found programming very interesting and challenging and changed my academic interests into software,” he shares. He spent 18 years in the software industry which included a 10-year and 8-year stint in the US and India.

He joined it as a software engineer/trainee and reached the level of vice president in CA Technologies. “I enjoyed my job. In fact I was in one company for 18 years which was unheard of in the software industry,” he states and defines growth, “I believed that growth is constant when one is learning. One need not look at growth as some promotion. For me, growth happened in two aspects — both vertical in terms of promotion or lateral in terms of handling a new team or domain.”

His comfy life and workplace perks was the dream job for many. “It was interesting and challenging and I kept myself motivated by being in domain or shifting to a new team or changing cities from California to New York to Chennai and then Hyderabad. I would joke that I was able to change jobs while being in the same company. I was able to do different things,”

While continuing his job, he started the Hyderabad chapter of India Literacy Project and was volunteering his time in it. “But software being hectic I could only give limited time and felt if I wanted to scale this and make a significant impact I had to give it dedicated time,” he states and affirms his decision to quit job was not based on a trigger moment. “For me, it was more of a process of things building up to when the inevitable had to happen. Stagnation on career front and the impact being so limited, is what finally made it happen.”

He plunged into it full time in 2014 and broaden the base of ILP. With 20 core volunteers and 40-50 floating volunteers, ILP works in 33 government schools with its focus to improve the quality of education in those schools. The volunteers could teach or read books to the children. “We have a flexible system where volunteers can offer their time; either it could be an hour a week or even two hours a month. All we ask is treat this also professionally and be committed to it.” Speaking about the rising number of volunteers, he shares, “It’s encouraging and heartening to see how the youth is also interested in giving back. Earlier, volunteering was something which was done after retirement. There were various factors to it but now they look at these stints as varied experiences.”

As a parting note, Manmohan affirms positive energy will help one deal with challenges. “If anyone has an inkling, take the plunge and do not be afraid. Even if you fail, re do it. If you are doing this for a good reason, my conviction is things will work out. When people see that you took a chance, they will appreciate it and value that you had the courage and conviction. For someone who is not afraid of trying, failing is a valuable asset.”

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