It is hard to believe that cricket’s ‘boy wonder’ has turned 50! I am writing this on his special birthday, with my heart puffed up with parochial pride—Aamcha Sachin from Aamchi Mumbai is dominating media space, with fans and commentators falling over backwards to laud the man who made cricketing history.
There is hardly any major recognition Tendulkar has not bagged, including the country’s highest civilian award—Bharat Ratna. But for me (not being a cricket aficionado), Sachin’s larger than life persona goes well beyond statistics and accolades. There is something deeply moving and relatable about his spectacular story. Sachin is synonymous with success, stability and sobriety. Sachin is as wholesome as a millet bhakri (a humble Maharashtrian staple), even though as an established global gourmet and foodie, his personal vote goes to Japanese cuisine.There is not a trace of the ‘bad boy’ sports star about our boyish ‘Tendlya’ (an affectionate Marathi pet name). He is well-dressed, well-behaved and well-mannered at all times. Nobody has seen him tiddly, forget drunk. He has not been involved in any romantic lafdas (a Bambaiya word that means scandal), even though Bollywood assiduously courts him. Sachin portrays the original, goody-goody family man, always accompanied by his wife Anjali, who never leaves his side.
Since retiring from cricket, he appears far friendlier and more relaxed than during the old days when his characteristic aloofness generated negative comments. Having watched him play at different venues, from Sharjah to Wankhede stadium, I have never ceased to be awestruck by his cool. Many moons ago, we were in a hotel elevator with other team members just before the match was to start. While the others were chatting amiably with invitees to the match, Sachin kept his head down and refused to acknowledge fans in the hotel lobby. I remember thinking it was rather rude of him, at the time. Today, I know better—such is Sachin’s focus and commitment to cricket, he refuses to expend even an iota of precious energy on social greetings, choosing to conserve every bit of it for the game.
My son Aditya respects Sachin to another level. So, for Aditya’s 40th birthday, I could think of no better or more meaningful gift than a Sachin memento. I decided to be brazen about my ask and routed the request through Anjali. To my absolute delight, a personalised, signed jersey was delivered on time, accompanied by a sweet note. That same jersey has been beautifully framed by Aditya and enjoys the pride of place in his room. Frankly, even I was surprised by Sachin’s generous response, and thanked him profusely when we next met. He smiled and shrugged it off—I think he instinctively understood just how much that jersey meant to Aditya. Behind the social reticence is a man who understands his own worth as an inspirational figure for millions across the world.
When the stadium reverberates to lusty cries of ‘Sachin, Sachhhhhinnnn’, the legend knows they are cheering for a hero they worship as a demi-God. He cannot let them down—it’s a question of faith…. of belief… in one man’s ability to transform a game into a quasi-religious experience. No other sportsperson in India has been able to touch so many lives nor scale such unimaginable heights of fame and glory.
What makes Sachin, ‘Sachin’ is not all that difficult to decode: It is his own small family. Plus, his parents, brothers, a sister and the two people who were equally cherished as family—his coach [Ramakant] Achrekar sir, and his agent, the late Mark Mascarenhas. Sachin makes it look so easy to be Sachin. But hey—that’s what gourmets say about the best sashimi, too.