Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why 'sach' a hype? Tendulkar and the 1980's kids

(I just heard Harsha Bhogle articulate something similar much better today on TV, but here are original and equally heartfelt thoughts I had drafted earlier this week. Have used "I" and "me" here only because over time I have learned not to speak for others, so let me speak just for myself.)

Sachin Tendulkar defines my childhood in many ways.  Obviously he was the Master Blaster, a divine combination of the Gavaskar (The Master) and Richards (The Blaster).  He was flamboyant, elegant, beautiful, destructive, and had an aura of invincibility under any situation.  He was a thorough gentleman and a role model for an entire generation - even my mother would agree.  As he walked back to the pavilion for the last time, he definitely evokes a lot of nostalgia - all the matches watched together with dad, brother, friends, neighbors who let you in because you couldn't waste time climbing 3 flights of stairs, or unknown countrymen on the streets, buses, trains of Thane-Mumbai.  My best friend from childhood was at Wankhede yesterday - to 'soak in the enormity of the occasion', to 'cherish some of our best moments growing up, one last time', and 'saying a final goodbye to our childhood' (in his words).

Yet, some people ask - He is only an entertainer. What real value does he contribute to the nation?  

Now, you see, India in 1980's and early 1990's was very different.  I don't remember it as a confident nation as it is today.  My father's generation came out of acute poverty and was busy procuring basic necessities - job/business, home, schooling, first car for their families.  We were repeatedly told in schools that India was a developing country, unlike the top countries like USA, USSR, Japan, etc. People looked up to everything foreign with awe and admiration - be it chocolates, toys, electronics, or Olympic/Tennis/Soccer stars, Scientists/Entrepreneurs or regular people in general.  There was nothing Indian that was the World's best, and very few Indian things were World Class. As I grew up reading, fascinated about NASA or Bill Gates or the sky-scrapers of Manhattan or Japanese automation, I developed a sense of crazy nationalism that one day India should be the world's best, No. 1, On the top of the world. 

Our cricket team too reflected the country's psyche - Tigers at home, pussies abroad.  When shit flew into their face, all they did was collapse. Except just ONE person in his early 20's who faced up to McDermott, Qadir, Hadlee, Alan Donald, Waqar-Wasim, Warne and not on dead dust bowls home, but on fiery pitches of Perth, Sydney, Durban, Nottingham.  Only one person who screamed "World's Best".  Only one person who carried the load of the entire team, single handedly destroyed the opponent.  And only one person we all could hope from, because one he was gone, the team collapsed within minutes. This person - our Sachin or apla Tendlya - was the only one who showed us that "It's possible", that Indians can be No. 1 in the world. And that you should "Follow your dream". His attitude on the field, and behavior off the field was something most of us tried to emulate, either in our day dreams of becoming the next Sachin, or in the careers that we would eventually choose. 

Perth 1992

During that period, there was definitely a lot of disruption happening in Indian industry (Reliance's Jamnagar plant, the IT sector, or Indian diaspora's success in world finance in NY and Software in Silicon Valley), and India as a country just blossomed after 1990.  But all this isn't as well telecasted as a sports match. Sachin also preceded some other symbols of national pride. To put things in perspective, most people fell in love with Sachin almost a decade before they heard of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, or India launched PSLV, or Pokhran-2, or when most of us felt "India was shining". Sachin was the public face of Indian success years before news of Indian borns becoming CEOs of major corporations or Tatas buying international companies became a regular feature. 

Today I can walk confidently in International offices with no inferiority complex what so ever.  Of course the credit of this goes to thousands of successful Indian businessmen, executives, scientists before me who created the positive stereotype and respectability.  But just like Sachin is credited to influence a generation of fearless Dhonis, Yuvrajs, Kohlis, Sachin's contribution to inspire a generation of confident 1980's born Indians, can't be underestimated.

Whether you agree with me or not, Apla Tendlya will remain a special part of my childhood, or who I or some of my friends have turned out to be.
Vs. Australia


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