Born on April 24, 1973, Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 41st birthday this year. Six months since his celebrated retirement, the Little Man’s phenomena will have a lasting effect on the psyche of Indian minds much like another national icon – Mahatma Gandhi.
Old habits die hard. For large parts of the young or slightly older generation who have grown up on Sachin Tendulkar’s cricketing exploits, the last few pages of the newspapers continue to be the first read story of the day. Almost unnoticeably Tendulkar was a part of me and my mornings along with my cup of milk, which eventually graduated to filter coffee. And thus, even as six months have passed since his retirement, every little quote by him catches my attention and his words enamour me.
Tendulkar is slowly fading away from memory; his absence is not really felt in the team. A certain Virat Kohli has expectedly entertained us enough. But Tendulkar, after a certain point, was beyond merely cricket, beyond runs and centuries. He had become an ideology. An ideology of excellence. He could be the brand ambassador of anything – from an energy drink to a gold coin to a pen. If his achievements and work ethics which reflected brilliance with a global reach, his conduct separated him from the other Indian ‘stars’ and elevated him to what Prahlad Kakkar would call ‘the status of an icon’.
Even today, as other stars emerge in the field of cricket, Tendulkar’s words continue to be carefully heard and well taken. The words are well chosen and come from a man who has walked the talk. For a generation that absorbed the Sachin Tendulkar phenomena for nearly 25 years and attained their joy through it, his words are golden and well embellished in minds.
A practice of attributing every quote to Mahatma Gandhi to simply add weight and more credibility would, in times to come, be replaced with, “Sachin Tendulkar said so.” The idea might seem farfetched, but so has been the reach of the Little Man. He completely absorbed the traits of an ideal Indian, a champion at that. He has been a stuff of dreams for many, an aspiration for others.
Gandhi to a certain generation symbolised that aspiration, the complete-being. And thus, he held the iconic status of Mahatma. For a younger crowd, with the passage of time, the Gandhian ideology seems out of place and the figure of Mahatma seems mystic, an emergence out of a mythological tale. Tendulkar has been seen in flesh and blood and thus seems a more realistic aspiration withholding realistic virtues. There was a time when people would boast about being a part of the freedom struggle, of having protested with ‘Mahatma’. In times to come, people will take pride of being a part of the Tendulkar era, of having seen him play. When there are icons, there are ‘I was there’ moments.
Maybe not everyone considers Tendulkar ‘great’. Lesser mortals have often belittled his achievements by calling him ‘selfish’. But even Gandhi wasn’t free of detractors. All it matters to know is to how many did you really matter, and how much did you really matter? To the vast majority of the billion that he did, he is a modern day ‘Mahatma’.