The show is over. The curtains are drawn. Confetti are descending slowly to the ground, succumbing to the gravitational pull. Yet, like the obsessed Nilambari of Padayappa, I re-read and re-watch Sachin’s farewell speech, again and again. Ideally, like a true cricket fan, I could watch his batting exploits in YouTube, handpicked by experts and fans alike.
I’m reminded of the Kabir doha “Guru gobind dou khade…’ that roughly translates as follows: “My teacher and the God have manifested before me, whom would I pay respect to now? I’d bow the teacher first, for he showed me the path to God!” Given that I’m a mere mortal, it is only natural that I adore Sachin, who drew me towards cricket, more than cricket itself.
After all, cricket is only a game, probably played and witnessed by fools, as Bernard Shaw once remarked. And, Sachin has only retired from the game. It is good to remind his fans that because we have been reacting as though we won’t be seeing him anymore. Surely, he will remain connected with cricket in some way, commentary, perhaps? But who is Sachin, if not the batter he is? Grudgingly I admit that a part of us has withered away for good.
Sachin has personified some of our finer feelings in life – hope, respect, passion, dedication, humility, celebration, joy, love. Most of us have personal stories involving Sachin, which he wouldn’t know of or care for. The “upper cut” innings against Pakistan in 2003 World Cup – when I relentlessly chanted the Maha Mrutyunjaya Mantra (for immortality) throughout Sachin’s innings, simply because that match had to be won for us to stay “alive” in the tournament. My mother once happily announced that she had one thing in common with Sachin – she was also suffering from tennis elbow. Considering that he’d recovered well (and how) we reassured ourselves that mother would be fine. Hasn’t he become a point of reference and reverence for a generation?
With each of his innings, there was a life lesson to be learnt and assimilated. How to channel your ability with interest and vice versa, how to keep the flame glowing, how to be at your best, how to give your best, how to be down but not out, how to never take success to head, how to grieve, how to groan, how to be supremely passionate, how to enjoy a friend’s success, how to come back, how to be stoic, how to lose gracefully, how to be self aware, how to respect anything that’s worth your respect, how to be a willing student, how to lead by example, how to assert yourself in a group, how to envelop your team and the nation in your ego, and how to unify a diverse country like India. Ah, endless, the lessons in longevity, mental toughness, in endearing stability and spiritual ascendance. His bio on Twitter says it all, “Proud Indian.” Classy.
Surely, his entry was a bit of a fairytale, all rosy pearly. But, he had his share of thorns and whales too. His success was ours, his failures and injuries were only his. The compulsory drama-lovers that we Indians are, we eagerly lapped it all up. Every single time people predicted his end, he bounced back like a rubber ball thrown against the wall. Perhaps that’s what his critics wanted too, to always see him with a bat in his hand. This time, it was not to be. We shall miss the pleasure of mutual love – he loved to bat, we loved to see him bat. Oh, what joy does that little man with a broad bat bring to us!
The brilliant farewell speech proved what we all knew him of, a simple, passionate, talented individual, who has become one with a billion hearts. Even a prepared speech could not have been as fluent and heart-tugging as his extempore speech. A classic speech from a middle class bloke – thanking his dad, mom, brothers, sister, wife, children, coach, doctors, managers, teammates, people and the God! It was so him. Come to think of it, he had not mentioned any sob story from his life, and yet we all cried, in acknowledgement of the precious precious memories. My personal regret is that I never watched him live in action and his last test was not in Chennai or elsewhere against a tougher opponent, with due respect to the overtly sweet Windies team.
Honestly, the swashbuckling Tendulkar had long given way to a mature, sedate Tendulkar, whom we could never accept wholeheartedly, though we did. It’s not really about the dizzying heights of the peaks he has conquered through his game, it is about how he has remained himself despite his claustrophobic achievements. A true jewel of India, indeed. On another note, Sachin being a ratna doesn’t mean other sporting heroes are any less. But let’s not even argue on the fact that he has captured the nation’s imagination like no other person, let alone sportsman, has in the history of India. (Cue: bring in Gandhi, Patel, Bose, Dhyanchand, Vishy, Milkha, Dravid, Army men, Dr. Kotnis etc and call me names. CHECK: Intellectual remarks. CHECK.)
Even though I know that age has caught up with him and I wished for his retirement plainly to avoid seeing him getting out to ordinary deliveries and wannabe bowlers, it’s getting really difficult for me to accept the reality now, his absence from cricket. It’s like the baritonal Kal dev (God of time from the Mahabharat series) snatched away the half eaten chocolate from a sugar saturated kid. But thank God for sparing us from too much pain, he didn’t retire from it all at once, that would have been catastrophic. He merely phased himself out. I was wondering, what if we were nuked out of all the technology, with no thing to latch on, except a few Indians for company. May be we would exchange each other’s Sachin memories and build a new life, for peace.
Here goes the Roark envisioned by Ayn Rand – short in stature, curly haired (not orange), with a hint of tears in his bright eyes and a sad smile befitting a teenager, the one who couldn’t believe that his life between the 22 yards in 24 years is over, the one who would continue his usual batting training even after retirement. You couldn’t stop him even if you wished to. The Sachin Tendulkar legacy shall continue. Fare thee well, master – take a bow.
Sachiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin, Sachin. *Clap. Clap. Clap.*