Sachin frantically calling up Bhajji just before the commencement of IPL V –
“Aila, Bhajji, we have a problem on our hands. Arjun has suddenly started saying since yesterday that he wants to shift to Bengaluru and wants me to move to RCB. He says that his genetic shortcomings can be overcome only if we move our base immediately.”
Bhajji – “Oye what’s the problem in that Paaji? I will captain MI. We won the CLT20 without you no?
The deafening silence on the other side reminds Bhajji of the silent stare that MSD used to give him when he did things that he shouldn’t have been doing (like bowling darts). He flinches but only for a second. He knows that he can always get back in people’s good books and silently thanks R Ashwin for giving him this conviction.
Bhajji – ‘But what does Arjun mean by genetic shortcomings? Genelia is married to Ritiesh now so that’s Ritiesh’s problem no?’
Sachin – ‘Arjun says he read some article somewhere yesterday and he is deeply affected by it. He says his Dad is a Marathi who has no voice in Mumbai’s culture ..’
Bhajji – ‘But Paaji isn’t he right about your voice?’
Sachin ignoring Bhajji continues – ‘.. and his mom is a Gujarati and Gujaratis only care about making money and no intellectuals come from their ranks. This unique combination puts him in a really shameful position in his own eyes.’
Bhajji – ‘waise to no cricketers come from their ranks either.. hahahah.. sorry sorry please don’t mention this to Neeta bhabhi.’
Sachin – ‘He is asking me to move to South India immediately, preferably Bengaluru or maybe even a Thiruvanathapuram where he can be cured of this defect.’
Bhajji – ‘Paaji, what do you mean by moving to South India? Mumbai is in South India only no? One advice! Go anywhere but Thiru.. Thiru.. you know what I mean, I never get these South Indian names. But Sree stays there! He stays in that state! His mere presence even closed down their franchise.’
Sachin – ‘But going to RCB means taking Kingfisher flights. That team is going nowhere, literally.’
Bhajji – ‘Paaji, I have got a brilliant idea. Arjun wants South Indian culture no? Let’s ask Neeta bhabhi to buy more south Indian players. That will make him happy and you don’t have to move either.’
Sachin – ‘You want another R Sathish? After going through all those pains to finally rid of him? Maybe we can think of R Ashwin. Looks like an intellectual, bowls like one, fields like one and runs like one too.’
Bhajji (cursing himself) – ‘On second thoughts that was a very bad idea.’
Sachin – ‘Arjun actually wants to move to South India so anyway it was a non starter.’
Bhajji – ‘hahaha yes Paaji. Talking of starters the idea would put me in a soup too.’
Sachin – ‘Bhajji stop this PJ session right now. I don’t want to move out of MI. So give me some ideas to convince Arjun about not moving.’
Bhajji – ‘Thaand rakho Paaji. Where did Arjun get this crazy idea from?’
Sachin – ‘From some silly article that said that South India is a better place to stay than North India.’
Bhajji infuriated – ‘Who says so? We north Indians are so jovial and peaceful. Just bring that guy to me and I will slap him harder than I did Sree. I will tell him ‘boss mat ungal karna with us.’
Sachin suddenly perks up.
'Can you say that last sentence again?'
Bhajji - 'Mat ungal karna with us?'
Sachin -‘Yes, that one. Eureka!! Bhajji, you are a genius. I know what to do. I am going to shift from Bandra to Matunga. That place is full of South Indian Brahmins. They have authentic Ddosa and Sambur. Arjun can go to Carnatic music classes daily and listen to all those intellectual discussions at Café Madras on Sunday mornings. I promise I will surely come for your retirement function which the BCCI has been talking about organising for a while now. Why are you looking so shocked? You don't believe I love you more than Jammy? Anyways! Gotta go and call up my real estate broker to buy one lane in Matunga.’
Bhajji (inadvertently) saves the day again and emerges as an ace trouble ‘shooter’ for Mumbai Indians as he manages to keep Sachin in his beloved Mumbai.
I watched your press conference today teary-eyed on one of the news channel websites and though I had promised myself that the words ‘second fiddle’ or ‘overshadowed’ won’t appear anywhere in the piece, the irony wasn’t lost on me that before the presser video they showed an ad featuring Sachin Tendulkar promoting Castrol GTX.
The press conference, as expected was low on theatrics and high on content reflecting the type of Cricketer you were and the way you conducted yourself on and off the field for more than 20 years, with honour and dignity.
You have always reminded me of the Taanpura in Hindustani classical music. Taanpura is a stringed instrument found in different forms and different places. You too went through your career playing different roles and batting at different positions. The Taanpura is unique in both it’s musical function and in how it works. It does not partake in the melodic part of the music but it supports and sustains the melody by providing a colourful and dynamic harmonic resonance field based on one precise tone, the basic note or key-note. Also, it is not played in rhythm with the music. Its tempo is independent of the music it supports and the speed of playing may vary throughout a performance or remain relatively constant, at the discretion of the player.
You were the undisputed harmonic resonance on the basis of which the Indian cricket team produced some outstanding music. Your presence was always taken for granted but your absence underlined your value. Taanpura is derived from ‘Taan’ which is a virtuoso technique used in the vocal performance of a raga and ‘pura’ meaning ‘full’ or ‘complete’. To borrow from Jerry Maguire, you made the team complete.
My 8 year old daughter knows that Tendulkar is my favourite player but she also knows that you are the player I respect the most in our team. And you have earned that respect by being on that cricket pitch for the longest period of time than any batsman has ever spent in the history of Test Cricket. You have earned it by sheer grit and determination. You have earned it by showing that success is 1% inspiration and 105% perspiration (well you did perspire a lot). You have earned it by not attracting even a whiff of controversy throughout your playing career.
And now you won’t be around any more. I understand the inevitability of champions coming and going. But you have spoilt us by always being there in times of crisis, by making us believe in the impossible. And you spoilt us by getting us to believe that nice guys don’t always finish last. Let me behave like a spoilt brat one last time to demand a better farewell for you. I know it won’t work but then we too won’t remain spoilt for too long.
.. “Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit”
These words by Rabindranath Tagore capture the very essence of you. Our minds were without fear when you were at the crease. Now we will wonder.
I will take this opportunity to wish you all the best for your future and signoff by giving you the biggest compliment that I can think of. Dear Rahul, I wish and fervently hope that my kid grows up to be like you.