Like many who have just heard and shed a tear over what can truly be called one of the most gracious, one of the most humble, one of the most touching and overwhelming of speeches ever to be made in the history of sports, the only idol that I have had since I first began to realize my presence in this World is Sachin Tendulkar.
The dictionary will run out of words if we were to include every little aspect of his life that made him the man he is, whether it be the hard work, whether it be the dedication towards his passion, whether it be the sacrifices that he has made over three decades of his life, whether it be the dream that he has pursued since the time his brother introduced him to the game of cricket or whether it be the humility with which he has carried himself around the entire globe upholding the hopes and wishes of billions the moment he stepped on to that cricket field, which is no short of a Mecca for him.
My first memory of him goes back to the 1992 World Cup, where I can still imagine him playing a shot over the point fielder to a short pitch delivery bowled to him during a match against New Zealand. Sachin says that it has been a love affair that he has been committed to and will continue to do so. The little did he know then that it would be a love affair for the millions and billions who would continue to do just the same for the rest of their lives.
With each day of cricket, my love for the game and more importantly the man, grew leaps and bounds. When he used to score a century, I felt like I was the one who had achieved something great. When he used to get out on a duck, I wouldn’t feel like eating the whole day, until my mother would make sure that I didn’t miss any of my meals just because Sachin hadn’t been able to score on the day. I still remember an incident.
It was my summer vacations that were going on. Well, to tell you the truth, these summer vacations used to be days which me and my brother always used to look forward to, as this was the time when the cable connection would be reinstalled in my house, just for the vacations so that we could see the matches that India used to play overseas. On other occasions, the cable connection would be cut, as my mother didn’t want her kids to be distracted from their studies.
I still remember, my vacations were coming to an end and there was this test match that was being played between India and West Indies. On the last day of the vacations, when the cable connection was supposed to be cut, Sachin was batting on 80 or 90, if I remember correctly and he was moving closer and closer to yet another century.
Suddenly, the bell rang. My mother opened the door and to my uttermost disgust, I could see the cable guy standing right outside the door, who had come to cut the cable. Without realizing that Sachin was batting, my mother, as always, asked him to get rid of the connection. Bound by the contract, that me and my brother had with my mother of getting the cable installed for just the vacation period, we didn’t dare to utter a word.
As the cable was being cut, my brother came over to my mother and asked her to see something. He brought her to my room where I was lying on my bed. My mother thought that I was sleeping and asked my brother as to why he had brought her to the room. My brother said, “Maa, kush is not sleeping, he is crying.”
My mother got worried and asked my brother, “Why? What happened? Did you guys fight?”, to which my brother replied, “No, Maa! It is because Sachin is batting and you asked the cable guy to cut the connection.”
It was then my mother realized how important a man of such a short stature playing a silly game like cricket had come to bear such an immense importance in the life of one of her sons. She asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me that you wanted to see him bat?”
“Maa, we have this pact that the cable would be around only during our vacations. How could have I asked you to break the pact? After all, Sachin, being the man of principles that he is, wouldn’t have wanted me to go back on a promise that I had made to my mother.”—I was hardly 12 or13 years of age then.
My mother was so moved by my reply that she immediately called up the cable guy and asked him to reinstall the cable for a month more. For a mother nothing can be more fulfilling than to see her children happy and she knew that my happiness was in watching this man bat and making a century the very day. To conclude the story, Sachin did go on to make a century in that innings.
I am sure that you guys too have such stories with Sachin playing the part of a protagonist in each of them. He was not just a player who used to represent India in the cricket matches that our country played with the few countries who managed to be ruled by the mighty British empire. He was much more than that.
He was a symbol of pride and honour for the Indians who could now claim to be ready to take on the World. He was the hope and aspiration of millions who were ready to go the distance while watching this young man play. He was truly an idol from whom so much could be learned by just watching him conduct himself in such a gracious and humble manner, whether on or off the field.
For me, he was everything in my growing up years. It was he, who inspired me to perform in the best manner I could, whether I was representing my school or college cricket, t.t. or badminton teams or whether I was just playing a local gully cricket match. It was he, who taught me that a sportsperson should think in a collective manner first and then on an individual level, which later taught me that it was more important to realize that it’s not just only about a man but the entire society that we happen to be a part of.
It was he, who gave me the motivation and courage to think about accomplishing the improbable. It was he who taught me that it was extremely important, in fact most important to respect your parents, elders and the people in your life because of whom you are what you are. It was he who, when I used to become arrogant after having won a tournament, brought me back to my feet.
I can go on and on with my stories related to the great person that Sachin Tendulkar is. For me, whether he plays any more cricket or not, it doesn’t matter. I have had only one idol all through my life and will continue to do so for the remaining years that I have in store with me. The only thing that I would like to tell my idol, when and if I get a chance to meet is,
“Thank you Sachin for having had the kind of impact that you have had during my growing up years. If you were not there, I wouldn’t have got a chance to witness a man performing the values and principles that my family had taught me, being lived by a man whom I have always admired.”