Jaishree Deshpande, a sibling of Sudha Murthy, is the wife of Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande, who made it very big in the IT world. But it is not quite easy to locate the couple in a crowd. There’s no show off, no pomp and no high-profile visitors around.
A volunteer of Kakatiya Sandbox, a replication of Deshpande Foundation work in Nizamabad district, guided me to this 62-year-old woman, who was having a chat with a group of volunteers during the lunch recession, in Nizamabad town recently.
Kakatiya Sandbox held a discussion on dynamics of growth in rural areas and the couple attended it to share their views.
Treasurer of Sparta Group and founder of the Deshpande Foundation, Jaishree was born into a middleclass family in Hubli. She joined college in 1973, the same year her husband-to-be finished his degree. ‘Desh’ Deshpande, as he is known in the IT world, was founder investor in Airvana, Cimaron, Webdialogs and Relicore; Co-founder and Chairman of Sycamore Networks; and founder and Chairman of Cascade Communications.
“I believe in living simple. That’s what my maternal grandfather taught me. He led a simple life. You know, it is easy if you have a simple living. You save a lot of time. I tell the same to my kids,” Jaishree says.
An MSc Physics from IIT (Chennai), she worked for ISRO till 1980 before moving to Canada with her husband. She worked with a few firms in Massachusetts and taught computer science. She also has a Master’s degree (Computer Science) from the Boston University.
“That you can buy and afford to buy things is a different issue. It is easy to buy things. But it is always good to have what you actually need. I believe in that and live so. We are in the process of getting rid of what we have,” she says.
Pausing now and then to oblige requests from volunteers for group photos, she says she loves trekking. “I trek with my friends. I trekked up to the base camp of Mount Everest when I was 50. A few years ago, I trekked to Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. A village we stayed for a night in another trekking expedition was ravaged by the devastating earthquake there,” she recollects.
Busy with the activities of Deshpande Foundation, which has emerged as a role-model for corporate social responsibility in the country, Jaishree serves as a Trustee for the Museum of Science. She also works with HESTIA Fund, an initiative that supports low-income children.
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