Saturday, 16 November 2013

SachinTendulkar: an ode to India

Finally, the moment arrived and ended with one of the finest speeches that sent India rolling into tears. Sachin Tendulkar in his final words thanked everyone as a cricketer, father, son, husband, brother, student and a disciple. 

His sense of gratitude was pervasive and touched the chord of everyone who heard him. So far he entertained people with his bat, but today when he spoke, he stood higher than any of his records, and his words were far sweeter than any of his centuries.

No living human being has been celebrated in modern India the way he has been.  For the world a great sportsperson was retiring but for Indians the country’s greatest inspirational figure was calling his day.

Like a God’s idol or a picture that occupied a space in every Indian household, Sachin remained in the heart of every Indian during the last 24 years. In Dharavi, one of Mumbai’s largest slums where humans put up with extreme odds in their grueling battle for survival, Sachin’s name brings about a smile in the face of children and adults alike. Prakash Jodgankan, an elderly Dharavi resident tells me: “ Sachin gave me joy and hope. He has made a name for himself in the world and represented the country with so much dignity. If he is not God who else is? ”

Aziz Menon, a Mumbai based journalist tells how Sachin rallied the entire nation behind him whenever he would walk into the pitch to bat. Cricket united India more than anything else, he says, and Sachin was the unifying force of around 1.2 billion Indians.   

When Tendulkar arrived at the world stage,  India as a nation was going through a turbulent phase. The economy was in tatters, communal violence had plagued the nation, ethnic and regional tensions were on a rise.  The country was loosing direction in every sense.  Tendulkar through his magical batting on other hand was simply on a rampage and pitchforked himself as an international star– it mesmerized Indians and gave us a sense of hope. Here was someone from a country that was making its way up with a massive burden of history, suffering and  struggling to provide a better life for its teeming millions.

Sachin’s career also coincided with India’s story of economic liberalization.  He heralded that era of brand endorsements and he practically endorsed everything.  Prahlad Kakkar, a man behind most of Tendulkar’s ads since 1992 tells that Tendulkar stood for courage, hope and confidence, and he brought out those values in the brands he represented. He said: “ Tendulkar didn’t represent a brand but brands represented him. He showed Indians that you don’t have to be corrupt to be successful and he was very sincere in everything he did.”

Tendulkar’s ads almost act as a timeline of India’s recent history.  People can simply relate to a point in their life in the last two decades by simply looking at those ads.

The tales of Tendulkar’s hero-worship are uncountable. By his own account he says he has met many people who fasted for him whenever he went to bat. His sister fasted every time he went to bat.

What Tendulkar leaves behind: it is just not records that he made in the cricketing arena but more importantly for Indians he leaves  behind a legacy that is rooted in a character built on a strong foundation of great Indian values.

His farewell speech was a reminder that not everything of our values and traditions are nonsense, and great things can be achieved if  you are true to yourself, your family the people around you. He taught Indians to believe in themselves. 

Sachin Tendulkar is a cricket legend but his career is also an ode to India at large.