Monday, January 28, 2013


The day the music died

On 20 January this year, at close to 8.15 – 8.30 am, Kartik- a good friend of mine, finished the Mumbai Half-Marathon. Three hours later, the fiancée of another good friend, Darshit, had finished the full. I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who acknowledged, saluted and were inspired by the feat of these extraordinary men and women. I was there, albeit fleetingly, at some place which seemed close to the finish line, to cheer the spirit of human beings pushing themselves beyond their limits. To celebrate the champions and winners, from 15 to 50, who redefined endurance, and to commemorate the infinite manifestation of that magical phenomenon called Sport. One couldn’t help but remember those legendary lines that Sunky had spoken, on what I always believed was my stairway to heaven, regarding the hold that Sport has over our lives- “When Roger Federer wins, a part of me wins”. Touche. How ironic then, that a little less than a month ago, the man, the legend, who introduced me and a whole generation to this parallel universe, had said Toodle-oo.

They say some of the greatest lessons in life are learnt outside the classroom. I couldn’t agree more. Sometime in the summer of ’96, I saw Sachin play for the first time- India vs. WI in the Wills World Cup. I guess it was like being born again- for an era started that evening, and the boy learned rebirth. In 1998, the desert storm happened.  Twice. The boy learned to believe in miracles. Chennai 1999- Sachin left, leaving the Indian team 16 to get. They couldn’t, and the boy learned despair. Centurion 2003- the 75-ball 98 that left even Paksitani fans cheering, the high-schooler learned wizardry. Sydney 2004- Sachin scored a pain-staking double century while stubbornly refusing to drive, the soon-to-be college-kid learned perseverance. From 2005-2007, Sachin went 17 innings without a century, before what worshippers refer to as ‘The Second Coming’, and the undergrad learned faith. Cape  Town 2011- Sachin scored a century in one of the greatest sporting duels, with Dale Steyn bowling like a demon, and the B-schooler learned the value of experience. Gwalior 2011- 200 not out, the young adult learned perfection. And Mumbai 2011- World Champions, the just-convocated manager learned the meaning of dreams coming true.

These are but a sampler of the smorgasbord that Sachin has left us behind with. One that transcends both nations and sports. I will never forget how my heart went out to the look of joy turned to despair on Tatiana Kashirina’s face at the London 2012 Olympics when her record-breaking lift of 332 kgs was unbelievably bettered by the superhuman efforts of Zhou Lulu. I will always remember that evening in August 2011 when Man United battered Arsneal 8-2. It had not been the easiest of times at work, and that Sunday evening was a reminder that serves me to the day- no matter how low things may seem, there will always be matches like these that will make everything else seem insignificant. And whenever I do, I will always have a diminutive Bombay lad to thank.

You will say, there are still tests to look forward to. I will agree, but ODIs were what elevated the man from genius to God. I always maintain that we were born into a generation of Heroes as far as test Batsmen went and Sachin was the First among Equals (Lara, Ponting, Dravid, Kallis). Three of the Heroes have already become idols in the pantheon of test greatness and await the other two as they journey beyond the twilight of their careers. But ODIs- this was the arena built and owned by Tendulkar. He finished as the top run-scorer in 2 World-Cups and a close second in the third that India eventually won. There has to be some kind of law that disallows anyone from just calling it a day without allowing their worshippers any time to get used to life without them.

This was not the way it was supposed to happen. There should have been a farewell series. Against Pakistan, against England, against Australia, against South Africa. A farewell where nothing would have mattered except that Tendulkar would bat. For nothing seems to matter in cricket anymore anyhow. A series that should have gone on for a week, a month, maybe a year. Where every ball bowled would have been a reminder of the challenges that life has been throwing at us for the 10-20 years that we’ve seen Sachin bat. And where every stroke he offered would have served as a sign to tell us how we’ve overcome most of them and every dismissal a harbinger of our failures. And most importantly, a series to remind us that Sachin has been with us through it all. And now we must learn the greatest lesson of them all- to learn without the teacher. And to somehow explain to those that come after us, what ‘Sachin kitne par khel raha hai’ was like. Time to become, as the song that I’ve had on repeat for the better part of an hour now goes, a generation lost in space.

There will be some stolen days of test cricket yet. Which will serve as reminders of the idyllic five-day experiences that have taken me from Patna to Delhi while visiting Roorkee and Calcutta on the way, that have taken a country from the nineties to the noughties to the 2010s and that have taken a generation from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. But they will be at best, like those much-loved ghosts of Hogwarts- a pale imitation of life, to quote the best of them. I have always believed Harry Potter to be other great institution that has defined our generation, and that therefore December 23 2012 was nothing short of the soul-sucking Dementor’s kiss- there is life yet, but for what.

As the song (somewhat) goes, I can’t remember if I cried, though I felt like the widowed bride…
And something touched me deep inside the day…
The music died.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Hat-tip.

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