12-year-old Naresh Babu stood quietly at the reception area. It was his first day at the Sehwag International School (SIS) — owned, conceptualized and run by cricketer Virender Sehwag. And the presence of the former Indian opener at the premises made it quite an experience for Naresh and his father, both of whom had travelled from Patna.
Sehwag shook hands with them, and the office boy quietly passed on a miniature bat signed by the cricketer to Naresh. It was the youngster’s induction at the Sehwag’s education institute, a 23-acre property in Jhajjar, Haryana.
Viru, who was recently sold to Kings XI Punjab for `3. 2 crore at IPL 2014 auctions, is known as ‘sir’ here, a role he has quickly adopted, overseeing every detail with elan.
“Every student, irrespective of caste, creed, color or religion is welcome here,” says Sehwag, who visits the school at least once a week, to nurture his dream of turning the school into a successful endeavor.
In fact, this dream is that of his father, Krishan Sehwag. “When I was a kid, I spent time travelling the entire day by bus and my father would say, ‘you waste so much time in travelling. I wish we had a place where you could stay, study and play at the same time.’ When I was successful as a cricketer, he asked if I would now be able to provide children with such a facility,” he recalls.
Sehwag turned that dream into a reality when he was gifted land by Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and started SIS in 2011. In its fourth year, the institute has close to 390 students and over 35 faculty members.
Learn from experience
Unconventional has always been Sehwag’s middle name, and his interactions with students, whether in the classroom or in the sports field, stresses of learning more from experience than text books. “What extra can you learn from a book? You can learn what is written, but experience teaches you far more. If you are ever involved in a crisis, no book can tell you what to do. It is what you learn from it, that shapes your identity and character,” he explains and adds carefully. “I don’t want to preach to the kids. I want the children to be responsible themselves and take their own decisions.”
Elaborating further, he says, “I never tell them what to do. I share and motivate.” Wife Aarti is the chairperson and takes care of the finer details of the school like the menu for students for all meals or the activity chart that includes blindfold games, movies, pool parties, football, handwriting contests, nature walks — the aim is clearly towards overall development and not just academics.
SIS principal Singh Dhirendra Singh narrates an interesting story about the veteran cricketer. “One day Viru told us how he was rejected twice during the Under-19 trials and would not go to the trial the third time. ‘Six balls is all I get’, he told his coach, who was forcing him to try again. The coach said, ‘Viru, at least you have those six balls, what are you afraid of?’
This time, Viru slammed six sixes in that one over and the rest, as they say, is history. He is an inspiration and students and parents take pride in being associated with this school,” Singh says.
Sehwag spends time with students, but the dashing batsman is sometimes left stumped when they ask him difficult questions. “They can ask anything. One day they asked me about match-fixing, sometimes they want to know about my game,” the cricketer says.
Asked if he was a naughty child, Sehwag chuckles, “There are a lot of stories about me. I must’ve been up to something since my coaches had to tie a rope to my leg while I batted! I excelled at sports. Also I never failed in academics. It didn’t matter, whether I scored 90 marks or 50!” he winks.
Creativity as a subject
One of the most important subjects that Sehwag is contemplating is to introduce creativity at his institution. And the inspirations are his young sons, Aryavir and Vedhant.
“My kids are very creative. They do amazing things… sometimes they dress up like Hanuman or Arjun. They become mythological characters but then they give it a modern twist. If I ask them to narrate Romeo and Juliet, they present the story and characters in such a different manner!,” he exclaims.
He adds, “Their ideas are so modern. There is no end to creativity and we need to cultivate it. Creativity needs to be nurtured.”
Sehwag’s vision with SIS is to provide the future generation a place for all-round development. “I have had a successful cricketing career, and if this can turn out to be same, there’s nothing more than I can ask for,” he concludes.