How do you manage to keep away from the limelight, which is usually focused on the family of a celebrity like Sachin?
Ours is a very close-knit, traditional Maharashtrian family and we do not like too much intervention from outsiders. Like any conservative Indian woman of my age, I avoid coming out in public. All of us, specially my sons Ajit and Sachin, are very private people. Sachin is very quiet and shy and likes to keep to himself. He has excelled in cricket and I am extremely happy for him.
Many people would like to know how he was initiated into the game and what factors helped him reach where he is today. Were you also interested in the game?
Sachin’s father was a cricket enthusiast and he played an important role in making Sachin what he is today. I don’t know
much about cricket. It was only when I got married to Sachin’s bhau (father) and after my sons started playing with other children in the street that I discovered the game. Sachin took to cricket at a very young age. Chhutpun se hee usko to cricket ka dhun savar rahta tha, subah ko, sham ko, khana-peena sab chhor kar bas khelne jane ka tha. (Whatever the time of day, he was always keen to just go and play cricket).
When he was all of eight, he used to go and play at Shivaji Park. Right after school he would keep the schoolbag, grab the bat and take a bus. His chacha-chachi (uncle and aunt) were staying there. I would ask them to give him something to eat, nashta-mithai but food was the last thing on his mind while he was playing.
Whenever I would scold him and ask him to take studies more seriously he would say, ‘‘you don’t worry, khalipili tension mat le ayee’’. He always looked up to Sunil Gavaskar. All his friends would say that they wanted to be as big as Gavaskar. Sachin would keep quiet and concentrate on playing. The day he was selected in the team, the entire family was so happy. It was like a dream come true for all of us. Those who know Sachin know that he doesn’t play for records, cricket is his life.
When people ask me how I feel about his success, all I say is that I am proud of him. He is a very simple boy and not fussy about anything. For me he is still my little Sachchu.
How do you feel when you see him on the pitch? What memories do you have of the famous incident when Sachin was hit on the face by a Waqar Younis bouncer at Sialkot, during his very first Test series? (He was bleeding profusely, but refused to leave the field and went on to score a half-century.)
I don’t see him play at all. I get very tense and nervous, so I always see the highlights the next day. That day also I did not see him getting hurt, but was very scared when I got to know. However, soon I was assured that he was fine and since he continued playing, I felt so proud of him.
You mentioned that Sachin’s father was his guiding force. Most of us still think of Sachin as a youngster and forget that he is himself a father of two. How is he with his children?
He is a very doting father. He doesn’t get much free time, but whatever time he gets, he likes to spend with his family. That is one of the reasons why his social interaction is so limited.
Anjali is a very responsible wife and daughter-in-law, who takes care of us. He may be far from home physically but he is very close to us, he needs to keep talking to his family, specially his children. He likes to go to their school, specially for functions.
I really miss my husband, had he been there he would have been so happy. I am sure Sachchu must be missing him a lot, he loved his bhau and was closest to him.
Today, when I see his kids calling him baba, every time they remember their baba I think of Sachin remembering his bhau.
What message would you like to convey to the mothers of budding players?
Like all mothers I always prayed for what he wanted. I never forced him to be a doctor or engineer because I know he loves cricket and it’s best to let children do what they are happy doing. After all, it’s their happiness that matters the most.
How are your days spent? Don’t you travel with Sachin?
I suffer from joint problems due to old age, so I am not in a position to travel. My time is largely spent in temples and reading scriptures. Even Sachchu is a very religious boy. There is a small Ganpati mandir in Shivaji Park he visits regularly, though not so openly now. He usually goes there well past midnight.
‘Now I am just waiting for him to come back. More than me, it’s my little Sarah and Arjun (Sachin’s children) who can’t wait to speak with him. Every time the phone rings, they think it’s their baba’s call, they run to pick it up. I see Sachin’s childhood days in them all over again.