Joginder Rohilla, a Delhi-based engineer has started over 20 libraries across India under his venture Sanskriti- Let's Be the Change and plans to open 100 more within one year.
“Libraries are transformative places. A library can change entire communities for better,” says Joginder Rohilla.
The engineer, who has worked for multinational companies like TCS for many years, in both India and elsewhere, hails from the small town of Bahadurgarh in Haryana. When growing up, Joginder always found one thing missing in his hometown and that was a library.
During his college days whenever he would come home for holidays, he would struggle to find good books and a quiet place to sit and study. Therefore when he was placed in TCS after completing his graduation, Joginder and his elder brother Jitender decided to start a library in Bahadurgarh.
“Ours is a small town and I didn’t have any resources to start a library. However, my father was as enthusiastic as I was about the idea. Ultimately we decided to start from out of our home and Sanskriti was born,” Joginder recalls.
It was in 2007 when the small library with over 200 books, some from Jitender and Joginder’s personal collection and some donated by his friends, was started in Bahadurgarh. After Jitender’s untimely demise, their retired father took the responsibility. Even today, the library is open to all and any and everyone is encouraged to borrow books and read more.
Years passed and the library grew. But Joginder wanted to do more and fulfill his brother’s dream. He knew that one library wasn’t enough when one looked at the bigger picture.
“I wanted to start more libraries and I was donating books, as an individual, to different NGOs and schools whenever I could. But building entire libraries was a huge task and I didn’t have that kind of infrastructure and savings,” says Joginder.
Infrastructure, man-power and books are the three key things required to start a library. Joginder realised that he didn’t have to provide everything but could simply provide the idea and books to people who already had some infrastructure in place. He decided to take the Sanskriti initiative forward by collaborating with local organisations, schools and NGOs.
“Bakul Foundation runs two orphanages in Bhubaneshwar where hundreds of children in different age groups are residing. The organisation has infrastructure as well as man power. We approached the authorities with our idea, ran a book collection drive here in Delhi as well as in Odisha with the organisation’s help and viola, we had a library! I got in touch with some of my friends and our core team of 7 people has managed to start 20 libraries in the last three years across India in different states like Haryana, UP, Telangana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar and Odisha,” informs Joginder.
After starting the library in Bahadurgarh, he noticed that many students would come up to Joginder’s father and ask about different professions pursued by characters in the books they read.
“Research has shown that only 19.4% students reach higher education. In rural areas, it is often because the children have no idea about different career options,” says Joginder.
To tackle this, Joginder and a team of volunteers started visiting different schools in Bahadurgarh as well as in Delhi’s underprivileged areas and started offering career guidance to children. They conduct workshops where they inform the kids about different professions and give a basic guideline about how these professions can be pursued.
Sanskriti – Let’s be the Change has grown from a single library to a thriving organisation in the past decade. Joginder is now aiming at opening 100 libraries across India within the coming year.
When I repeat the big number incredulously to confirm, he hesitates for a moment and informs that he is planning to work full time for Sanskriti in the near future.
“I just sensed it was time to go all in. I am going to devote all my time to Sanskriti. What I really want to do is utilise my corporate experience of over a decade to make Sanskriti a financially-viable entity. And I have a plan ready for that,” he concludes with a smile.