This is one rare occasion i was a witness to, more so was a catalyst to make it happen. A Historic moment for Indian sports, no doubt. It wouldn’t have been possible without the tip from Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh who had invited grandmaster V Anand & we at Press Club who had invited the Mumbai players from Indian cricket team in 2000-01.
I look up to both of them. One who revolutionised chess in India. His commitment, loyalty is seen time & again. And i don’t believe that if an Indian who believes he is a true Indian needs to have residency in the country to prove it. Unlike other many award winning personalities who are so ashamed to be called Indians, Anand is rarity.
Cut to, Date – April 2, 2011. Sachin Tendulkar will now go on the field with the aim of achieving the historic landmark milestone -100th century. May god help him fulfill this milestone. Many hours from now we will know exactly what happens. I don’t know if Indians realise one important point -most Indians aspirations, desires, very high expectations are carried on these broad but a human’s shoulders. He is one among us, though more talented with lot more money & lot more skills. But he too has his own PERSONAL goals, which often get mix, blurred or diluted with those of a billion people -who are from different socio-economic strata & more so absolutely varying incomes.
Let’s all wish him luck. This boy is special to me. I am sure he is to many more billion people. But i can say i’ve seen him grow on the field-From school to now. I’m immensely happy that i contributed a small happiness in his life. In 2000-01 i happened to be the first lady joint secretary of Mumbai press club & turned out in India. Our elected panel was of sports journalists. My best friends have been sports journos. It was to be one big challenge & some fun too.
Till then Press Club Mumbai was one spooky, dark, shady watering hole. There were plenty of dance, item numbers. Our panel was first to come up with various interactive events. The path-makers rarely get recognition. But we started a trend that has caught on to hold face-face with famous personalities, politicians & sportsmen.
One such was to felicitate Indian sports team. The senior sports journalists got it all organised & around 12 noon Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar was to lead a team of 7 people. I was told i would felicitate them. What i wasn’t told was that the then official, a sports enthusiast (now he’s no more) late PV made a secret deal with Vishy to alllow only him to give the bouquet to Sachin. So small people think & they got away with it.
Meanwhile the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MPS) officials got a whiff of our plans & called on with a scoop of an idea. Although the MPS & PC are neighbours & we need to ideally be civil & warm with each other, journalists are most political. So there are constant fights & threats of filing suits.
Now they too had an ace up their sleeve, MPS had invited the Grandmaster of Chess V Anand. Wow! I wanted to meet Vishy as much as i wanted to meet the Indian team. The MPS suggested why don’t we get the 2 masters together? Brilliant Front page news for this nation. And from what i knew, till then they had never met each other.
I know Sachin is hard pressed for time. He is in fact a stickler for time & doesn’t like to hang around for too long at events. So when i called Vishy, PV & gang, they said that “No Sachin is a busy man, Neeta you can’t do this. Also we haven’t taken his permission.” I said look “We are creating history. We are getting the 2 grandasters to meet for the 1st time. Pl ask him & i’m sure he won’t say no. even Anand is a v busy man MPS has agreed to keep him waiting. But these sports journos they could’ve been good baniyas. Vishy convinced the others who were accompanying Sachin. I stood at the gate doing fielding with Marathi journos from MPS who had convinced Anand.
What the Marathi journos learnt in the interim period was Anand’s wife is a HUGE fan of Sachin & she was dying to meet him. Believe me it was as if the Universe had conspired to get us this treat.
Meanwhile i called all photogrpahers including wire agency friends. They were kicked. Especially, those sports photographers who knew Sachin. They reassured me “Kahi kalji karu nakos, tyala amhi patvun deu.”
Then came the fleet of cars. And this little man Sachin got out. All frenzy, chaos & pandemonium broke out. I was of course pushed into the iron railings…
The MPS journos shouted “neeta Sachin la aan ithe.” There was jostling for space, shouting. Both are shy & polished, but both are smart, they know this was BIG news & cooperated. And the great historic moment took place.
For the first time ever, India’s 2 best, most talented sportsman came together. Face-face in black & white as you see it. This was the picture for front pages across India, picked up by wire agencies & flashed across the globe. I’m proud of this. I’m excessively satisfied, my contribution isn’t about giving only flowers to Sachin.
Anand’s wife’s happiness knew no bounds. You could see she was ecstatic smiling from ear to ear. After the initial shouts, “Sachin pll look, ikde bagha, Vishy, Ananad pl look here, 1 more shot” there was hushed silence. For 15 minutes it was as if the world had come to a standstill. The 2 grand masters spoke. Anand’s wife told him how she admires him with a broadest grin. Have you seen Sachin blush. Oh…sooo cute. Embarrassed, happy & he told Anand “I admire you & Its an honour to meet you.” both were polished, humble & thrilled to meet each other.
As promised the photographers said, “One big black & white photo for you is a promise neeta. You gave us the photo of this century.” I don’t know of this century, but surely of this lifetime.
The press club members & my panel officials were sour. Life is like this. MPS got no credit in English newspapers, yes elite attitude; But they got huge credit in Marathi papers.
Thereafter i have witnessed some of the rare historic moments of Sachin Tendulkar. A man most special to me. In the Year -1998, Australian team led by Mark Taylor had come to India after 11 years! Wankhede stadium was overfull. It was a one day international match. People had climbed the trees and the India-Australia match had begun. Saurav was opening. After 17 Saurav got out. The spectators were from across the country. There was such cheer i was shocked. Saurav was angry, but he couldn’t do anything. I was as usual inside the press box. The journalists too were thrilled, with the exception of 2 Bong reporters. I asked Vishy, he whispered, “Arey silly. now is Sachin’s batting. Warne’s bowling for the first time against Sachin on Wankhede. This IS considered THE biggest tussle.” I saw the smile on my face too.
I luuuuuuv Sachin period. No one can say anything against him. I have my ups & downs but i’ve NOT seen this man change one bit….still the same-Humble & polite.
Suddenly there was silence. A small man with medium frame walked in with his bat…all of a sudden the crowds went beserk. Wankhede had come alive. There was only one name being called out. “Sachin Sachin…cheers…Sachin Sachin…” then as the lad walked to the crease, pin drop silence. First ever ball Warne bowled to Sachin there was thunderous applause. I haven’t seen crowds so mad. The bat in Sachin’s hands looked like a mere tooth pick. Total #pyaar. He is sheer magic to the eyes.
There was dhamal inside the press box. This contd for good 98 runs. And Sachin got out. I mean i’ve gone to even Ranji trophy matches, international matches, but i have never seen what i saw that day. Suddenly Wankhede stadium was emptied in few minutes. The spectators had lost interest thereafter in the Indian team’s result.
I was baffled. Here is this lad, the whole country thinks they own him, feel him wanted. While its exhilarating, it’s scary for this man. He will always have to live out other people’s dreams. Problem is he has been aware of this & imagine the weight of a nation’s expectation that Sachin carries on his shoulders. Stupid criticism levelled against him like he scores a ton & India loses. This is all ridiculous & lose talk.
Now whenever i see Sachin, my memory rewinds to the late 80s. A short teenager curly haired was playing Harris Shield & my nose for news had made me run to the play ground. Dammit a world record by two youngsters who’s friendship was equated to Jai-Veeru of Sholay. None other than Vinod Kambli & Sachin Tendulkar. Cute fellas. One whose socio-economic & cultural background was from Vikhroli slums -Vinod. while the other lower middle class poet’s son – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Soft spoken, shy, a smile that can partially compete with India’s dhak-dhak Madhuri, Sachin had begun winning friends, well wishers in high places & many a heart. He was young, eager to play, had immense energy & enthusiasm that could have been matched to that of a warrior.
Initially Sachin too wasn’t used getting disturbed or repeating questions to our channel in hindi. He would ask in his soft voice, “Me attach marathi it bollo na, ata parat bolayacha?” I could bully him him then, ofcourse politely. Telling him how its a Hindi bulletin (Aaj Tak) on DD, national news channel . He would comply.
Now he’s grown big -in stature, he is hard pressed for time & there are just too many names to remember. Earlier he would hang on in the dressing room & talk us all. Now life has changed. I too don’t cover sports anymore.
But back then Sachin’s rules were stricter. He would bite his lips shake his head if ever i tried talking to his wife Anjali. I’m surprised how times change. Today she talks happily to media. More so he allows once in a while, earlier that was strictly private. Yet he is firm about allowing or not the media. He recognises the photographers & more so respects them. He knows how they spend time on the field, toiling like he does. With each one he promises a photo treat & remembers each one.
I wish he achieves this milestone today. He deserves it. While i know somewhere in this world there’s another Grandmaster with his wife will be sitting up & watching his innings.