After the dust had settled and the star had left the building, a lad held up a ballpoint pen to this writer and asked, "Did I borrow this from you?" Indeed he had, a good hour-and-a-half earlier, in the hope of getting Gautam Gambhir's autograph.
So, that the disappointed young boy — the despondent look on his face revealed that he had failed in his mission — actually bothered to return a nondescript object in the midst of the melee that prevailed here on Thursday afternoon came as a pleasant surprise.
Maybe, the student of MCD Primary School, Trilokpuri, appreciates the worth — and might — of the instrument. Or, perhaps, he was simply being his honest self. Either way — and this is something that would warm the hearts of many, including Gauti, the brand ambassador of Hindustan Times' 'You read, they learn' initiative — the kid's education is working much more than just academically.
"You don't go to a school just to study. You learn a lot more, discipline being one of the key things," said the India opener. "But above all, childhood is a time of innocence, and it should be spent in schools, not working in factories or people's homes."
Those carefree days of yore are something he tried to relive for a few moments, even as he was being mobbed by school kids and equally star-struck adults. Thursday, of course, was not an exception — a hassle-free session of gully cricket is out of the question given his stature. But that has not stopped him from occasionally giving in to the craving at the strangest of places — a barren tract of land near the airport, for instance.
"I requested the kids not to make a big deal and they were happy to play along," recalls the 31-year-old. "Nothing has changed — the fights and arguments are still the same."
Being someone who was always more interested in hitting balls instead of the books, the years of formal education were full of hard lessons of life. But nothing was harder than flunking 10th standard. “At the time I was despondent,” he admits. “But then I remembered what my mother once told me — it is not about the first lap but the final one. It were her words that kept me going.”
So, school taught him never to give in without a fight. But did it also result in the 'gambhir' game-face that one gets to see whenever he takes the field? “Oh yes! School was fun but gave me nerves as well,” he admits.
“When I started playing cricket, it wasn't really encouraged as it is done now. My family always feared that I might not play at the highest level because of which studies were always given that due credence."
He has strong views regarding the cuurent education system. "While grades are important, they should not be the be-all and end-all. Emphasis should be given to personality development and vocational studies.”