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Coffee and Conversation @MANTRA

With Mr. Sanjay Purohit and Dr. Anupama Purohit

This article is a part of MANTRA’s blog series, “Coffee and Conversation”. At MANTRA, we invite inspirational figures to meet and share their experiences with our team over coffee. With a hope that these recollections from our conversations will help and motivate those on a similar path, we will continue to post these. Stay tuned.

It was late in the evening. The candles in the bistro were being lit. It was only then that I realized time had flown past, and I had not a clue. Such was the conversation with the minds sharing the table.

The public education system has always been a cause of concern for many. Few make the effort of converting coffee table conversations into action. A couple that would fall into the latter group of leaders is the Purohits.

Dr Anupama and Mr. Sanjay Purohit, on the outside, seem like any other couple. Sanjay strolled into the café with a wide smile followed closely by Anupama, who shared the same warmth. It’s only when one gets to interact with them that the couple’s work and passion for education at large comes to the forefront.

Our guests for the evening

The combination of Sanjay, who is currently the Senior VP and Global Head, Products, Platforms and Solutions at Infosys Ltd., and Dr. Anupama, Program Manager at Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy (a Bangalore-based NGO), had to be the perfect recipe for inspiration for a team of young dreamers and doers such as those in Mantra4Change.

Wisdom for Newbies

Encouraging the members to be a part of something bigger than themselves, Sanjay said, ‘The only goal an organization should have over the first 12 – 18 months is to make the cause bigger than the individuals, who make the organization.’ Having clarity on the ‘why’ always helped, according to him. ‘It’s the ‘why’ you’re doing what you’re doing that gains credibility in the initial phases,’ he added, ‘because leaders in the industry know that the idea may change along the way. It’s the values and the passion that would be the constant guide. Values should always form the core – the nucleus.’ In addition to knowing the reason behind every step taken forward, a strong sense of values and ideals are also important for the organization, according to the Purohits. Stating the example of Infosys itself, Sanjay said that values should be seen as something that cannot be compromised on.

Lauding the courage of youngsters to step into the development sector and work on the field level, Sanjay also expressed his own desire to be a part of the classroom to gain first-hand understanding of the challenges of being in the classroom and the experience of working in a school.

Getting into the Classroom

Having been a teacher herself, Dr Anupama helped bring the focus of the conversation from the macro to the micro, i.e. to the school/ classroom level. ‘The key to any transformation is to make it a collaborative process,’ she said. ‘Work with the teachers rather than on them,’ she added, stressing on the need to make teachers and everybody else accountable stakeholders to the growth of the children.

As the sun went down and the candles were lit, the promenade facing the café filled up with people enjoying the late evening breeze. The Mantra4Change team bid goodbye to the passionate couple, but the thoughts and conversations in their minds had just begun. The aroma of the coffee they shared with the Purohits would stay long after.

This article has been written be Shardha Narayan, a Teach for India fellow 2013-15, who worked passionately and constructively with MANTRA4Change team as a summer intern on STEP (School Transformation and Empowerment project).

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