Sachin Tendulkar who retired from all forms of cricket in November 2013, turns 46 today. (Image credit: Facebook)
When one mentions Sachin Tendulkar and cricket to an Indian fan, his/her first reaction is excitement and awe. Tendulkar’s exploits on the cricket field and the sheer magnitude of the numbers amassed have transcended culture, language, region, religion and united a diverse billion Indians into one. When it comes to batting and cricket numbers, Tendulkar is the benchmark and the gold standard. All this makes him larger than life. On screen, Tendulkar evoked reactions of love and joy for the fans. Many expressed desires to meet him in person. Many yearned for a selfie or a photo with him. Many wanted a photo which they could frame in their home and tell their children and parents about their ‘I was there’ moment.
Not many get a chance to take personal photos and interact exclusively with Tendulkar. Very few of the privileged have a chance to have a photo with him. One of the few ‘privileged’ is the writer of this article. It was December 3, 2016, and it was during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. However, the meeting with Tendulkar was planned a week ago and it all started with a call from the Sports Editor.
I was enjoying a mini-vacation in my Sasural which is Mathura. It was November end and winter had set in. The Sports Editor called on November 30 and said during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, my main task was to shadow Sachin Tendulkar, which was basically to coordinate with his manager, escort him from the room and to the program venue where he was going to interact on December 3. In addition, I was briefed to do two stories on Tendulkar.
However, disaster struck on December 2. Dense fog enveloped entire North India and all trains were delayed. My morning train was cancelled and I decided to wait till evening in the hope that there would be no fog. However, by 4 PM, the fog had not dipped and I decided to head by road to Delhi. Visibility was zero and I took the Yamuna Expressway, which is filled with danger. A normal three-hour journey took me close to six hours as the car crawled at 40 km on the expressway, where normally cars travel in excess of 100 km, in the hope of avoiding an accident. I somehow reached Delhi and after a sleepless night, I headed to the venue in the morning for my ‘shadowing’ with Tendulkar.
Meeting with God
After reaching the venue, I find out that fog did not spare Tendulkar and his flight from Jaipur was delayed. There were fears that Tendulkar’s event would be cancelled. I felt my moment would be gone. However, a call came that Tendulkar arrived early in the morning and was resting. The time of his event was pushed back slightly. My Sports Editor gave me the contact of his manager and asked me to coordinate.
The manager told me that I had to come at 1:00 PM to guide Tendulkar from the main foyer of the hotel to the summit venue. After waiting for three hours, I got the call from the manager to come up and escort Tendulkar. As I stepped out of the second floor, I waited. Tendulkar emerged from the room. He saw me and with a smile, he told me, “You are Siddharth. Let's go.”
I smiled back at him. But, as I smiled, there was an ache in my chest. It was perhaps the feeling of suppressing my fan moment. Here, standing just beside me in the lift, was Tendulkar. Everybody’s God of Cricket. I was just beside God. I told the manager, “Sir, I have a big favour to ask you. This moment will never come in my life. Can you please take my photo with Sachin sir?” The manager said, “Yeah, sure.” I posed with Sachin, who offered a tired smile. I took a photo. My ‘I was there’ moment was done. I had finally found a photo that I could frame in my home and tell my daughter and grandchildren in the future.
After we emerged from the lift, there was a sudden surge in the crowd, almost close to 90. Everybody wanted an autograph or selfie with Tendulkar. I could sympathise, having been on the other end of the line so many times. However, I had a job which was to ensure Tendulkar got to the venue safely. Had I botched up, I would have lost my job. I pushed many away, did not allow them to come close. Some persisted, but I luckily held my ground. Tendulkar went to the hall where he was to give an interaction. However, I had captured the moment.
I watched him for 24 years as a cricketer. However, I saw him in the flesh for the first time. That was my Facebook status when I uploaded my photo with Tendulkar. Even today, three years later, just like Tendulkar’s records and cricket, the happiness quotient only increases. That is proof that when you meet God in person, you DO feel happy. Happy Birthday, Sachin Tendulkar. Thank you for making me privileged.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author in this article are personal. News Nation does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the organisation or its members.