Laxman’s dream: Facility to provide free education to the underprivileged
Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman, among Asia’s all-time great batsmen, spoke to The Telegraph at length ahead of the launch of his book — 281 And Beyond — in the city on Wednesday.
Besides being a member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Cricket Advisory Committee, Laxman is the mentor of IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Classical on the field, Laxman (now 44) is a perfect gentleman off it.
Q Were you an avid reader of books? I recall always seeing a couple of them in your hotel room, during your India days...
A Yes, indeed... My uncle (and mentor) Baba Krishna Mohan gifted me one on my ninth birthday and, from then on, books took up space in my life.
Q Was it Sir Donald Bradman’s The Art of Cricket?
A (Laughs) It was... At that age, I didn't understand everything and, later on, I certainly didn’t follow everything prescribed in that classic! The next book I read was Sunil Gavaskar’s Sunny Days: An autobiography. It was much lighter reading and highly enjoyable.
Q What made your uncle gift you Sir Don’s masterpiece?
A Uncle had obviously seen something in me. Besides, he didn’t want me to pick up the wrong things.
Q Was your reading of books limited to cricket?
A No... Uncle kept presenting me books on sport, while my father (V. Shantaram) gave books which would inspire and had plenty of spirituality in them... Books by Swami Vivekananda, for example.
A Look, books and music have been a part of my life... Books educate, inspire and help one stay relaxed. Music, on the other hand, can soothe... During my playing days, especially, both helped take my mind away from the game... Both helped me unwind, put me in a relaxed frame of mind, which is important. There are times when you need to switch off.
Q When did you get the idea of 281 And Beyond?
A Well, I’d always been wanting to write, but I got busy with Media commitments post retirement in 2012... Two years ago, after I’d delivered one of my corporate talks at an event organised by an MNC in Goa, a gentleman came up to me and said he’d been inspired and that it would be good if I put my thoughts together in a book... Even his grandchildren would then be able to get inspired. I came back to Hyderabad and began giving the book serious thought.
Q What was the theme of that corporate talk in Goa?
A It was on the lines of evolving and change... The one thing constant in life is change... As for evolving, if you don’t evolve, you stagnate. The reality is that you cannot afford to stagnate.
Q How best would you sum up your book?
A It traces my story from childhood... The dream I had and the challenges faced... My journey as an India cricketer from 1996 to 2012 and what it meant to be part of a successful team. I recall the huge moment in the family when I was 17. Both my father and mother (V. Satyabhama) are doctors and the big question was whether I too take to medicine or work towards a career in cricket.
Q No.1 challenge?
A I’d say it was overcoming my insecurities... As an opener, in an early phase of my India career, I didn’t get many runs... I would get dropped and, so, there was that insecurity... Overcoming that was a challenge... Getting over the disappointment of not being selected for the 2003 World Cup was also a challenge. In fact, I wanted to walk away from cricket and, towards that end, I went to the US after completing the India A commitments in the West Indies... My frame of mind was such that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the game. But, then, after a month or a month-and-a-half, I began missing the feel of bat in hand. After two months, I came back home and, soon enough, was back at nets... There was the 2003-2004 season to look forward to.
Q Any particular reason why you went to the US?
A Because most of my childhood friends are in the US. I thought I’d feel better in their company.
Q Did that phase of your career teach you something?
A Most definitely. That if you’re passionate, then your love for the game will stay intact... Also, that one needed to respect and not let down elders... Let me explain... When I was 17, my parents gave me the freedom to immerse myself in cricket. Had I walked away in the early part of 2003, I would have let them down very badly. On reflection, I couldn’t have done it.
Q Generally, how are challenges overcome?
A If you have the passion, no challenge is insurmountable. Passion, therefore, is crucial. Ups and downs are, after all, part of life not just sport.
Q Is there something you wish to say by way of a message to youngsters?
A If you have a dream, commit yourself to achieving it 100 per cent. If you do, it will be realised.
Q You often tweet the inspiring deeds of totally unknown men and women. How are you sure of what gets communicated to you?
A I have a friend who runs an NGO in Hyderabad and he keeps track of good deeds on the part of men and women none of us know... He verifies the details/does the screening and, only then, do I tweet. Why do I do that? Because there’s so much good that keeps happening in our country and it often gets done by the real heroes who go unrecognised.
Q Do we need to learn something from the real heroes?
A That you don’t need an X number of Rupees to start doing some good, that you should follow your heart and not expect recognition... It’s not that you must wait for the right moment, so to say, to do a good deed. Every moment could be seen as the right moment.
Q Can I have some words on the VVS Foundation?
A I’m happy you’ve asked... My Foundation supports 91 students from Class VII upwards. Those boys and girls are exclusively from underprivileged backgrounds. Then, the Foundation supports 31 of those studying in IITs. My Foundation also supports seven highly talented cricketers from the districts of Telengana... My dream is to set up a facility which would provide free education to those most needy... I consider myself blessed and I do feel the need to give something back to society... In a way, it’s a responsibility.
Q Is it easy to get funds?
A We’ve had one fund-raising event in Hyderabad... Telengana chief minister KCR’s son, KTR (Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao), was among those who attended and, in a wonderful gesture, donated Rs 10 lakh... You know me well enough... I feel shy asking for anything at all. Nevertheless, there are donors even from Ahmedabad and they help with the funding of the 31 in the IITs.
Q You’ve mentioned KTR... Could we see you in politics? On Tuesday, you tweeted your congratulations to KTR after the TRS’s handsome win in the Assembly elections. So...
A (Laughs) No... No... I’ve already been approached and I've said no. Let me just give something back to my people without taking to politics.
Q The last one... We’d like to know which party offered you a ticket? For the Lok Sabha or the state Assembly?
A No names, please! As for the latter part of your question, my answer is both.
Postscript: Laxman, by the way, has dedicated 281 And Beyond (published by Westland Sports) to his uncle and parents: ‘For my uncle, who recognised the talent in me, and my parents, who gave me the freedom to pursue my dream and passion’. So well said.