Article By : Vikrant V Singh
Fare thee well, my own true love
We’ll meet another day, another time.
It ain’t the leavin’ that’s a-grievin’ me
But my true love that’s bound to stay behind.
It ain’t the leavin’ that’s a-grievin’ me, but my true love that’s bound to stay behind. Bob Dylan said these words. Yet, sitting there in the North Stand at the Wankhede, not fifty feet away from a shouldered Tendulkar waving goodbye with the tri-colour, truer words couldn’t have sprung to mind. And sure enough, after all the runs, all the centuries, all the injuries and all the sweat and all the tears, a hero of a nation walked out to the middle – alone and unaccompanied, adorning the white armour that he first wore when he didn’t have an inkling of the deification to come – brought himself down and paid his respects to the pitch that started it all, bidding farewell to his own true love that’s bound to stay behind. And all around him, thirty-five thousand people wept.
This article will not talk about the records or the statistics. It will not discuss his best innings or his greatest centuries. This article will not engage in the futility of defending Tendulkar against foolish detractors and critics who are now, doubtlessly, out of a job. This article will talk about an entire country’s unified love for one of its sons. And this was love. This wasn’t merely admiration or respect. Tendulkar wasn’t someone’s favourite cricketer like Brando is someone’s favourite movie star or like Pink Floyd is someone’s favourite band. This was true love, pure and simple, unadulterated and indefatigable. This article is about a boy who, at sixteen, began his endeavor to occupy the hearts of a billion people. And twenty-four years later, when the boy bid farewell to his love, a billion people bid farewell to theirs.
Let’s cast our minds back to when we were children. We could become anything we wanted. We had dreams. And these were dreams untouched by the troubles of reality. There was no one to tell us we couldn’t be something. The future was wide open. And then, without ever being aware of it, we grew up. Other people started telling us what we should and what we couldn’t be. We became rational. And we packed up all those dreams and we locked them away in a distant little place called childhood. We were in desperate need of someone to show us that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. That’s what Tendulkar did. It was never just about the cricket. It was about hope. And we lived his dream with him. His success was our success. His failure was our failure. His joy was ours as was his pain. In January of 1999, we played Pakistan in a historic test match in Chennai. Tendulkar, with an excruciating pain in his back, soldiered through to a heartbreaking 136. We lost the game by 12 runs. Tendulkar was inconsolable. He sat in the team’s dressing room for hours, crying. And we cried with him. It was never just the cricket.
I come from a generation of kids who picked up a cricket bat because of Tendulkar. It is this generation that missed classes when he was batting. It is this generation that drank Boost because it was the secret of his energy. It is this generation that skipped school and went for cricket coaching instead. It is this generation that wanted to master the straight drive. And it is this generation that will miss him the most. We grew up with Tendulkar. I don’t know how to watch cricket without him. And I’m not sure I want to.
A hundred centuries. And I wasn’t there for a single one of them. But I was there when he raised his bat for the last time. One wonders what the Master will do now. Here is a man who has devoted the better part of his life to his sport, who has toiled tirelessly for his love and for his nation, who has grown up in the glare of the critical public eye only to become this country’s favourite son. He lived his dream for twenty-four years. What will he do now that his dream is done? Well, I don’t know. I imagine he will sigh a short sigh, sleep twenty-four years’ worth of sleep, and dream another dream.
“Goodbye” – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, 16th November 2013
Goodbye, my hero.