“It doesn’t matter how intelligent and smart you are, it’s very important to be Hardworking.” – Mrs Manju Lodha
Mrs. Manju Lodha is an ardent philanthropist, poet and writer based in Mumbai. She is the Chairperson of the charitable trust- ‘Lodha Foundation’ that aims to improve the lives of communities in the fields of education, culture, literature, sports and water resources. The Lodha Foundation also undertakes Corporate Social Responsibility activities of Lodha Group of Companies. Mrs Lodha is married to Mangal Prabhat Lodha, an Indian politician, Vice-President of the Bharatiya Janata Party Maharashtra, and the founder of the Lodha Group
Q. You are the chairperson of the charitable trust-‘Lodha Foundation’. How it all started?
I started doing social work when I was 26 years old. I was very close to my mother and when I lost her, a vacuum was created in my life. My husband suggested to join some organization/ activity to come out of it. Later, when my husband stood for elections, we use to go and campaign for him. During those times, we saw the conditions and plight of underprivileged people and thought of doing something for them. We started doing further surveys and research to understand about their needs, losses faced by them and requirements. We thought of making them self -dependent and self- sustainable, as if you give them food, it will finish off in a while and you making them dependent. So, we started skill development workshops for them including computer training, mobile operating training, beauty courses, workshop to become electrician and so on. All these were free of cost. Then we opened medical clinics, hospital, schools and many more organisations to help those in need.
Q. What all work the Lodha Foundation does or involved in?
The first initiative of the Lodha Foundation was sponsoring the education of the girl child. Besides that, the women of the under-privileged section were provided with vocational training. Motivating them to take up vocational training was the major challenge which we met successfully. English speaking classes were also arranged to build their self-confidence.
The mobile library was started to reach out to interested readers who may have had to forego their love of reading due to far-flung locations of libraries in Mumbai- South Mumbai and Thane-Dombivili-Bhiwandi areas. The concept has received a stupendous response. The mobile library van makes a trip to a different area every week and stops at various locations in that area during that week. The halt time is 45 minutes at every location. We have over 10,000 books in Hindi, Marathi, English and Gujarati catering to all types of readers and every month new books are added.
We conduct various activities for senior citizens to keep them engaged. We organize classes to help them become digitally savvy by teaching them to operate smart phones and tablets, how to use email systems, internet and more.
We have adopted villages where various socio-economic welfare schemes have been implemented to uplift the weaker sections. A health care system has been put in place to provide timely medical attention free of cost.
Q. How important is to give back to the society? Can you share any incident which imbibed the art of giving in you?
Very important! We have been taught from our childhood itself that when you learn to receive, you also have to learn to give at the same time.
I remember going to the temple with my mother almost every day. On one of the days, while on our way back, I requested my mom to buy me a chocolate. As she gave it in my hand, a girl came to me and asked for it and as a small child, I didn’t want my chocolate to be taken away from me but than my mother, said “Dear do not let anyone go empty handed, when they ask for something. Give her half and tomorrow, I will buy you another”. I think that was the day I learnt the art of giving and that is what I have taught my kids also.
Q. How and when you started writing?
I do not know from where this poetry came. I did not get educated that much. I did my first year and got married but I used to love reading books. I used to read a lot and after some time, I felt like trying to write something. So, I wrote some influential things that I learnt from my life in a book, as you don’t always remember what you read but once you write it, you have it with you and whenever in need you can open and take a look at it.
I have written 15 books till date and very thankful to god that I got a chance to recognise myself. It is all God’s blessings.
Q. What according to you is important – smart work or hard work?
I am a hardworking woman because it doesn’t matter how intelligent and smart you are, it’s very important to be hardworking. Also, I never thought that I will reach till here, but, whatever I have right now it is all God’s blessings, my hard work and experience.
Q. You have developed a unique way of reciting your poetries.
Whenever I feel lost or confused, I write poetries and express it into beautiful words. I believe if you want to live a happy and healthy life, you must see good in people and not the bad habits
I do not have that habit of repeating one poetry line thousands of times. I think, why I should waste peoples’ time by doing that. The first time I went on stage, I did not take pen and paper, also, I in the process I used to know – if I must speak for one minute or one hour.
Also, I always talk about positive things in my poetries and never speak negatively.
Q. During your journey, did you face hardships?
we have seen all the types of times in our lives. we weren’t very rich with lots of money, but we were very happy and thankful for what we had, and as siblings we never fought for small- small things. We lived such a peaceful life in our childhood. After marriage, we moved to Mumbai, where we started our journey with 500sq.ft and saw struggle for life.
People say that I am very down to earth. I always remember the things taught by my mother -“ Ahankaar toh Raja Raavan ka bhi nahi chala, toh tum kya chiz ho”. And I have remembered that thing throughout my life.
Q. Kindly tell more about your book ‘Paramvir – A war diary’ is about 21 instances of bravery recounted by the friends and families of Param Vir Chakra awardees, what made you choose this topic to write about?
‘Param Vir: A War Diary’ is a subject that is close to my heart and I want the future generations to read and acknowledge the sacrifices of our brave jawans. Though I could not meet most of the brave soldiers and got stories only from their families, this experience of writing about them fills me with gratitude for the young heroes and the sacrifices of the families. I now feel I have done my bit and this motivates me to do more for my country in my own way.
In 2014, the immortal song written by the great Poet Shri Pradeep and sung by Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo” celebrated its 50th anniversary and Lodha Foundation had arranged a grand programme to celebrate the day. The presence of our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and his inspirational speech on that auspicious occasion was attended by almost 1.5 Lakh people. Lataji was honoured by Shri Narendra Modi ji and she regaled the audience with the history of the song.
On this occasion, there were several soldiers who had been awarded prestigious awards like Paramvir Chakra, Ashoka Chakra etc. They were recognised and appreciated for their valour and the families of the soldiers were also there in huge numbers. The stage was full of brave soldiers. They received the warm welcome and acknowledgement by such a large audience. The respect for the army persons inspired and motivated me to write this book.
When this book was presented to our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji and he was turning the pages of Param Vir with great concentration, I was surprised to see the changing emotions on his face acknowledging the countless sacrifices by our brave soldiers and their families. It made me realise how at every level we all should remain grateful to and inspired by our brave soldiers.
The English version of Param Vir was inaugurated in London at the hands of High Commissioner Mr. Navtej Sarna and in India by the then Defence Minister, late Mr. Manohar Parikker.
Q. How do you manage your time for work and family?
Where ever I go I always have this message for myself that ‘ Samaaj seva nahi hogi chalega, lekin Sabse pehle gharki seva’.
Q. Any message for our readers?
Never make your elders cry. You should always start with your home first. Also, to be successful, work hard.