Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This Is My Sachin Story.

It was 6:17 p.m. on the 11th of November, and I had just woken up. The tickets for Sachin Tendulkar's last test match in Wankhede had gone on sale at 11a.m. that morning. I had been trying to get to the tickets page and buy them on the KyaZoonga website until 3:30 that afternoon, but the website kept crashing and the page failed to open.

I was diagnosed with dengue 4 days ago. I was recuperating well until the morning of the 11th. That's when the high fever returned. Regardless of my condition, I sat in front of my desk during all my wake hours. And thus, at 3:30 I had to stop my efforts to get the tickets and sleep.

I needed rest. But I wanted those tickets.

When I woke up, I had lost all hope to be able to get those tickets. I figured they'd have all been sold out, I was late. I made my way to my desk where the browser window had the KyaZoonga Twitter tab opened. I read their reply to someone saying the tickets were still available. And so, the mad frenzy, the scramble to get the tickets, the mad pressing of the F5 (refresh the browser page) button, the multiple attempts in multiple tabs and browsers to open the website, started again.

It was 8:57 p.m. when it all went through and I had a soft copy of the tickets on the screen in front of me. I had goosebumps on my skin, and tears building up inside me. That's when it sank in, I will be watching Sachin play one last time.

I first read that Sachin was retiring on TOI's Twitter feed, one evening while I was in Pune. So very sad. And that made me sad. It read:

I didn't read the article that evening. It was only in the next 2-3 days when I read further tweets about how Sachin's last test would be in Mumbai, at the Wankhede, did I realize that he is still playing 2 more games and then retiring. That was the moment I felt the desire rise inside of me, I had to go to watch Sachin play, one last time.

I haven't been an avid follower of the game lately. I have never known the stats, all the players, the venues, the schedules of the games. I've been aloof from all of that. And yet, every time I knew there was an India or Mumbai match, the question of how Sachin played, was the first and only one I had. May be that has something to do with the fact that I've been born and brought up in Mumbai. But I think it has more to do with who Sachin is and has been.

After India's victory in the 1983 World Cup (which literally no one expected), cricket became a sensation. Cricketers became superstars. But soon, the stars who had led the team to the great victory, started retiring. In 1989, a 5-feet 5-inch 16-year-old kid by the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, made his cricketing debut against Pakistan. And the world noticed.

Inning after inning, he showed the cricketing community and the billions back home, why a 16-year-old was included in the team. He was the hope every Indian held on to when there was a tough situation. Soon, the sensation grew, and he was given nickname after nickname, from 'The Master Blaster' to 'Tendlya' to the 'God of Cricket'. He shattered record after record, and became the hero. His comebacks were already inspiration stories. His humility and patience are un-matched. His respect for the game, unparalleled. He was a real the gentleman to the gentlemen's game.

He was the knight in whom the country trusted. And he did prove their trust right. He was whom the country relied on. The country believed in him.

Like others around me, I don't remember where I was when Sachin played every one of his dozens of magnificent innings. But I know how I felt every time I saw him play. He made me happy.

I very strongly believe that sport is more about the technique and the rules than anything else. The way Sachin played, was a reflection of just that. It is when you see him play, hit the most difficult of shots with the least amount of effort, perfect timing and incredible footwork that you realize why he has been termed the 'God of Cricket'. And it's all of that that kept me in awe of the cricketer, the man, the person that Sachin Tendulkar is.

But, even after being successful in purchasing the tickets, I was still unsure if I would be able to watch the match, or if I would have to give away the tickets I had bought with such efforts. I fervently hoped at that moment that my fever wouldn't exist the next morning and I could go to watch the match on the first day, the 14th of November.

I don't know what healed me, but since the morning of the 12th, I was completely fine. Mom joked that "Sachin God healed my Setu!" And I couldn't help but wonder, 'Is that true?'

I was able to be there to witness the God's glory one last time, on the 14th. And I stayed there after half the crowd had lost hope that they'd get to watch Sachin bat that day. I stayed there, hoping it'll be like the match at Eden Garden's, the last week. I was lucky, and it was.

I had never imagined an Indian crowd would erupt when one of India's set, good batsman departed for 43. On that day, we did. The grand entry, the Guard of Honour were a show of the grandeur this demi-God deserved and had earned over the course of 25 years.The crowd erupted every time his bat hit the ball. The square drive, the straight drive, the drive through cover, and every stroke of his bat, were a show of how he kept a billion people entertained and hooked for over 2 decades, with pure cricketing pleasure.

I couldn't help but smile all through my return journey from Wankhede to home, kept talking about how amazing each moment of the day had been. And it was, the best day of my life.

It was that day when I finally realized why people believe in deities. It gives them hope, and makes their hearts lighter.

I had seen Sachin play live before, in an IPL game, back in 2011. But, it wasn't even close to how it was on the 14th. It was a display of love and affection of the people of the city he calls his home, Mumbai and the country who he has represented, India.

I gave away the tickets for the rest of the days to friends who equally wanted to see him on the field one last time. I saw him score his half century, saw his final goodbye speech, watched him pray to the 22-yards pitch that made him who he is, one last time, all on TV at home, and I could feel how Wankhede what my friends at Wankhede felt, what every fan in the country felt.

An era of cricket ended that day (16th of Novermber, 2013).

My Sachin story isn't about the great encounter I had with him, because I didn't have one. I haven't been lucky enough to meet him in person, yet. But my story is the story that hasn't been told. It's a story of what hope and desire does to a person, even if it comes from a very simple desire to watch his idol play, one last time. My story is about how belief fixes everything and makes it possible for you to achieve what you want to. My story is of the joy I know each of those who went on my tickets, for the rest of the days, felt. My story is of the difference the Master made to the lives of us all. And even right now, I have goosebumps remembering the smallest memory of that event, right from the daily searches from October 12th about when the tickets would go on sale, to trying to get the tickets for roughly 10 hours, to being enthralled with how our dear Tendlya played, to the euphoric moment when Sachin returned to the pavilion, at the end of the day, after scoring an unbeaten 38.

Thank you, Sachin. For the cricket you played. For the memories. For the hope you instilled in our hearts. For being a true hero. For being someone I can look upto. Thank you Sachin, for everything.

Sachin's records probably won't stand forever, like they didn't of those before him. There'll be another hero who'll make heads of bowlers turn and make another billion hope. But, I can say that with utmost certainty that no sporting star ever had the love that Sachin Tendulkar does, and no one probably ever will.

This, is my Sachin story. Thank you, Sachin!

P.S.: If you haven't seen this video already, make sure you watch it. It's Google's tribute for the legend, with music by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Swanand Kirkire. I cry every time I watch it. Every time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Of Bombay Talkies and India.

Disclaimer: This post doesn't have much to do with the Bollywood movie Bombay Talkies (except the few references cited), and is neither a review. It's a much broader take at the lack of acceptance of Bollywood movies and their preachings in the lifestyle of India.

I don't watch many Bollywood movies, and that's for a simple reason. They are simply not good enough for me to want to waste my time on them. They are boring, pointless, excruciatingly painful to sit through (I was forced to watch Ready, twice, during my Mumbai-Pune bus journeys, so I know). Most of them are the same lovey-dovey romantic flicks, or action movies inspired from Rajnikanth, or just some dumb story with a big banner actor.

In the last couple of years, I've come to enjoy movies that have a good story, or that teach me something or the other. And as I kept exploring more Hollywood classics, I realized, no Indian movie comes even close to how the movie is made, what it portrays, or how it is written and acted out. They seem plain bland, at least to me.

And then it hit me, there actually are some good movies that India has produced too. And they were commercial successes. And they had profound messages. Then, why didn't those messages translate into any real change in the way India sees, does, perceives things? Even though there are so many movies, (movies after movies in some, cases) that share and preach the same ideology?

The last Bollywood movie I saw was, in fact, Bombay Talkies. (It's one of the most beautiful movies ever made, by the way.) There's so much that the movie offers us to learn from! Bombay Talkies, was completely about the stories the directors wanted to tell, to show the effect of the 100 years of Bollywood on the lives of India. And it's beautiful. You can see the trait every director leaves in the story they set to tell. It's simple, and yet profound. It talks about the importance of being truthful, to yourself, to those around you, to those you love, and every so subtly. And yet, that truth, is exactly what is lacking in this deceitful country of ours.

If our lives are so influenced by the glitterati and their habits and love affairs, why don't we take away a page of learning from the great role they just did? If Amitabh Bachchan is a God to so many of his fans that line-up outside his home, every Sunday evening, how many try to be as humble or respectful of time that he is? He too lives in Mumbai. He too faces the same traffic that you and I do. And yet, he is almost never late to any event or shoot.

Ever wondered what kind of a place this world would be like, if all those fans took learning something from their stars or their roles, just as seriously?

3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, Aarakshan, all talked about the sorry state of the education in the country and how it is desperately calling for help.

Swades blatantly told me that our country's culture, that we drag into every debate about the progress of the West, is the reason we are being held back. It also taught me that it is determination that gets work done.

Nayak, Rang De Basanti taught me that to change the system, you've to get into the system. How many people, after the watching movie, still complain about the system without having the slightest desires to take it up in their own hands?

Singham, No One Killed Jessica, taught me that no person is too big to be spared for a crime he/she commits. All it needs is determination to fight.

Chak De! India, Paan Singh Tomar, explicitly uncovered how we treat our sports stars, our national pride, if they're not cricketers.

Lage Raho Munnabhai so simply explained to us the meaning of Gandhi-giri (and no, what Baburao Hazare does, isn't Gandhigiri).

Lagaan talked about equality, abolishing casteism.

OMG! Oh My God, showed us how almost every religious establishment and so-called religious guru, take advantage of our blind faith in God for their personal benefits.

All these movies (almost all, if that pleases you) created a stir at the Box Office. All these movies were well-made movies. All these were movies that exhibit what India should be divulging from what India is. And after watching every movie, everyone that came out of the cinema hall, just wanted to do something big in the same very direction. And every time, one hour later, it all fizzles out.

Truth is only a word written on the coins minted, and the judicial logo. Education is in a worse place as it was before all the movies. So is the penetration of casteism, racial discrimination, and gender inequality. People still go to temples and ignorantly term and curse everyone who doesn't as an idiot. Gandhi-giri is believed to be what Arvind Kejriwal does. No youngster wants to be a politician. More so, politicians take the citizens for even more a ride! And surely, no one can even consider saying that the Indian 'culture' is inapt and out of time, in the current century.

If this is the effect Bollywood has had on India, that it can't raise India from its so static and orthodox customs and traditions that keep India bogged to the bottom, what's the point of those 100 'magnificent and successful' years? Hasn't the success been only movie producers' and the actors' who've earned by millions? Oh right, the movie-goer earned some entertainment and a few more idols to worship.

It makes me sad every time I see a good Bollywood movie, because the movie will only stay a movie, a piece of entertainment. No one will ever see it as anything more, even though they'll know the message. And that, for me, only exemplifies how much of a failure the world's second biggest entertainment industry, the Bombay Talkies, is.

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