Before, during, and after the Sachin era.
I feel old today. I was born a little before the Sachin era, grew up in the shadow of his cricketing career, and will soon step out of this era as the man bids us farewell. Cricket, perhaps like most Indian kids of the time, was the first sport I learnt. I can’t recall the first time I picked up a bat or learnt how to bowl, just as I can’t recall the first time I uttered a coherent sentence or put pencil to paper. I suppose it must be true of a lot of other kids my age, but at some point I wanted to be a cricketer. Spending hours out in the sun, playing with friends from the colony, and fighting over run-outs and scores, a big part of my childhood was spent running between the wickets; besides, of course, having to bear the brunt of the neighbours’ anger when the ball went into their house and I had to go get it because I hit it there. Once into my teens, cricket became less of a part of my regular routine as we moved cities and the new place had no kids my age that I could play with. Besides, my interests shifted to more academic ones, and my only connection with cricket remained the odd one-day match I happened to watch, particularly if it was a world cup match. Or the match summary I read in a newspaper after the fact. The most memorable match, for me, remains the India-Pakistan World Cup match in 2003, and Sachin’s first six off Shoaib Akhtar. I am not much of a cricket fan, but I suppose as long as Sachin played I followed it with some interest, even if I wasn’t playing much. Perhaps it was because I found the man inspiring in all his tenacity and skill, and wondered what it must take to shut out all the noise in the world and focus on the next ball. I aspired, as I still do, to that meditative state.
Why am I writing this? I don’t know, it’s just an impulse borne out of a need to mark the occasion, to make note of it before it becomes part of collective memory. And to place on record the fact that tomorrow and everyday after that will be different from all that has so far been, simply because the only thing constant in my life so far—that Sachin played for India—would have changed. I’ll live in a different world tomorrow, so let me say, on a parting note to Sachin and the times gone by, that I am grateful.