Saturday, October 12, 2013

This Is Just Enough To Recall My Entire Boyhood

It was January 2006. India was playing its 3rd test match against Pakistan at the National stadium in Karachi. It was the final test match in the series, where the last 2 matches had ended in a draw. Naturally, the 3rd test match had aroused a lot of attention and the need to follow every ball was higher. We were a group of friends who followed cricket like a religion in a very religious residential school in Mysore. Contrary to the kids of today, test cricket was our favorite sport to watch, enjoy and learn. As stars would not align in our favor, the final practical examination for biology was scheduled for 31st January. It happened to be the 3rd day of the last test match. We were in 12th standard; a phase which we were told by every elder who spoke to us, as a turning point of our careers. If something goes wrong, we would have to sit and cry for the rest of our lives. But we were too naive to understand that and put it ahead to watching Sachin and Laxman belt out Pakistani bowlers in the deciding test match of a historic series. The school had strict rules but couldn’t stop our collective urge to watch Sachin bat that day. 

The only channel that came on the only television set we had in the dormitory was Doordarshan. With the Holy Trinity’s blessings, the test match was aired live on DD 1. The 4 of us took a deep breath and in the name of Guru Maharaj, ventured on to do the most heroic deed of our lives- Defying the principal’s orders and the final exam of 12th standard, we set out to watch Sachin and Laxman play. Unfortunately, the principal saw us sneak out of the classroom and followed us all the way till the dormitory without uttering a word. I was the first one to reach the tv set and switch it on. It was Danish Kaneria bowling to Sachin Tendulkar. Kaneria bowled a maiden over to Sachin. It was a joy to watch Sachin defend with a straight bat and the front foot as steady as the Karachi fort itself.

With the end of the over, the advertisements came on. I looked around to find the rest of the team to discuss Sachin’s defence. But I could see none. How could that happen? I turned around and found the principal staring through the entrance door and the rest of team which accompanied me standing by his side, their heads hung in shame. I had watched the entire Danish Kaneria over without realising that my fellow comrades have been caught and the principal had not uttered a word until I gained my worldly senses back. It was shocking to comprehend the situation back then, it is shocking even today- because what followed after that was uncontrolled misery. We were paraded like criminals in the school and made to kneel down in the hot sun for over 2 hours until the principal’s heart melted. 

Sachin got out for 26 to a low bouncer from Mohammed Asif in that innings. When we got the news of his dismissal, during our punishment period, we winked at each other. We were happy that we dint miss an opportunity of watching him score a hundred. I know it was cruel of us. But Sachin’s knocks had to be seen live and enjoyed.

Sport by its very nature is enigmatic. It builds camaraderie among men- it’s a philosophy that is easily understood by the masses.  The great proponents of sport become one with it and it is hard to differentiate between the two. You can’t take boxing out of Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Ali out of boxing. Agassi and Tennis are in-differentiable. In Pele’s achievements lay football’s rise. Without the one there isn’t the other.  Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was cricket in India and Indian sport was limited to just Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar for a long long time. It is tough, very tough, to perform to people’s expectations every day for 24 years. Ask a politician in India on what he has to face in his 5 year term and you will get your answer. 

Tendulkar sent chills down the spine of people who watched him perform every single time. There was hope that a tiny man would walk out of the dressing room when the score card for India read- 2 wickets down. He will walk in and weave his magic we thought, every time he came into bat.  And He did not disappoint us. Sometimes He did. But that was only because of our greed to turn him into a man with supernatural powers. 

I was in office when I checked my twitter feed in the afternoon of 10th October. It came as a shock. No, not my appraisal ratings, but the retirement announcement of Sachin Tendulkar. I for one, like many others had believed that whenever Sachin hits a century, I would perform well in exams, in assignments and would get good grades. That belief has come true many a times. That series of Pakistan in 2004, where Sachin was at his demolishing best against Shoaib Akhtar and company, I scored the state highest marks in 2 subjects of my matriculation exam. Yes, I will attribute it to him. One of the finest teachers to have taught me, Rahul Kini, from the same residential school in Mysore had told me- “The secret of all success is Joy”. And Sachin’s batting brought Joy to millions of followers of cricket and in turn led them to success in their walks of life. 

There was hope when he took this stance. There were prayers rendered.

The retirement announcement did not sink in. It brought memories of yet another cricket heist pulled back in school. It was Ashes 2005 and we the cricket loving bunch were caught watching tv, skipping our dinner.  We were promptly taken to the Correspondent Swamiji of the school. It was a grave offense, where in we had broken some well laid out ground rules in a gurukul like school. The establishment couldn’t fathom us breaking rules to watch England and Australia play.  The Swamiji was considerate. If it was for anybody else, we could have been suspended from school and our parents would get scathing letters of our rebellious behaviour.

But the Swamiji asked- “Why do you people like watching cricket so much?”

We replied- “Swamiji, it makes us happy”

Swamiji shot back- “You know, I stopped watching cricket some 20 years ago when Gavaskar retired in 1987. There is nothing left in the game now”

I instantly replied – “Swamiji, we’ll stop watching cricket the day Sachin retires”. It came out of me without any thought or provocation.

Swamiji had nothing left to say. He smiled and asked us to go and have dinner, for it was too late in the night by residential school standards.

I was admired for my quick witted answer that saved our lives that day. But I for one was not very happy. I knew that day would come when I will have to keep my promise. More worrying was imagining a day when Tendulkar would no longer walk in at number 4. He had become an addiction. The day has finally arrived. The nostalgia made me write this post.

How can I, a small drop of water in the vast ocean of admirers of Sachin, pay him any tribute? How can I return anything for the joy that his straight drives have given me? An uncle who lives down the street named his son- Sachin. I asked why? He said- “Sachin ke taraha desh ke liye kuch karega mera ladka”.

Dear Sachin,

This is a thank you post for giving me and a million others the Joy that we cherish. I don’t know if you would read this post or not. What I do know is that every time I read this for the rest of my life, it would bring me happiness remembering those days of desert storm where you gave Shane Warne the nightmare of his life, the world cup of 1999 where you came back 3 days after your father’s funeral to hit a magnificent century and the world cup 2003 where you hit a heroic match winning 98 against Pakistan.

This is just enough to recall my entire boyhood.