Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Tendulkar Formula

Becoming a Legend not due to talent, but inspite of it.

Tendulkar bends to respect the sport one last time.

Truth be told, everything that has to be said about Sachin Tendulkar has been said.

The beautiful footwork, that scarred elbow, a deluge of records, that drought of captaincy, the inhuman humility, the calculated aloofness, a time machine that takes us back, the guide who shows us the way forward.

Everything has been analyzed.

The billion worshipers, the dozen odd slimy critics, the tap on the pitch, those glances at the sky, the son who was born, the father who we all lost, what team mates feel, what opponents were made to feel. Centurion, Perth, the curly hair, that straight bat, the heart wrenching raised arms, that impish little squat.

Everything has been discussed.

In videos, in songs, in 140 characters, with rhyming words, on television, and inside our heads. Through meaningful gifts like the chants of Sachin Sachin , and irrelevant gestures like the Bharat Ratna. Overpitched and short. Straight down the ground, and lapped behind the stumps.


The hours trapped practicing inside a net, and those moments of complete freedom on the pitch. The ability to open, the inability to finish, the nervous nighties, the mighty friends and that crazy little painted rascal who today must be feeling where do I go from here? Who do I paint on my chest?

Hold on.

Where do we go from here?

A middle aged drunk asked the same question as I crossed his table after the day’s play at Wankhede. We were in a popular eatery, both wearing the Tendulkar Jersey when we really should have been wearing our suits and ties. I paused and turned.

I guess he saw a bit of him in me, and this provided the confidence to try a response. But before I could say anything, he shook his head to cut me short. So I shook mine as well. Sometimes no words are needed.

An hour ago, a journalist from The Washington post did need an answer. She was writing her first story on Cricket and had run into me and my friend outside the stadium. So we discussed Tendulkar’s significance in our lives with her for about half an hour. And then she demanded an answer.  “How would you feel tomorrow? Where do you go from here?”

So far we had given the standard responses. Then that question.

Where do you go from here? How is tomorrow going to be like for you?

I knew there is a clich├ęd answer somewhere. But I could not find it.

She knew little about Cricket, but obviously she had come prepared. Someone in her office, or perhaps an enthusiastic taxi driver had told her to ask what people will feel tomorrow. That will get you the story mam, I imagine the advisor would have said. A good angle.

Emptiness? She prompted. We shook our heads. A connect to your memories from your childhood? Absolutely yes, but complete no.

We gave her some words, and then went our way. So is that what remains to be discussed about Tendulkar, I asked myself.  Where do we go from here?

Well, truth be told even this question has been covered a million times. Possibly more.

And then I saw it. Like a magic trick explained. A freaking 25 year old magic trick explained!

Not the applause that comes at the end when the magician takes a bow. Not the curiosity and joy during the performance. Not the mechanics of the trick. None of that.

The secret was right in front of us. We were just too high on the marketing steroids about his records, the longevity, the talent, the pressure and all that.

They had all been saying it. His seniors, the juniors, the illustrious peers. They kept saying he taught a lot of them the same trick. And we? Well we all thought that the lesson was only for cricketers. We were just mere fans. Seat numbers in stadiums, fingers on remote controls at home.

Non-cricketing sporting greats agreed. They said that is how they come to define Tendulkar. So we thought that it was about sports, if not cricket alone. Not you and me with our spreadsheets and elevator pitches.

We let it slip away like an undercurrent, mistaking a floating treasure for debris. For decades, we watched him Live on television in the mornings, and in the highlight package in the night. We kept asking ourselves How many did Tendulkar score? How many did Tendulkar score? When we should have been understanding how Tendulkar scored the runs.

What would you feel tomorrow? The journalist had asked.

Beyond the commemorative stamps, the ugly wax statue of a wax statue, and them damn rose petals - the last few days were like a funeral. People in mourning turned up to celebrate the life and times of a departed. Sure, the memories trigger one’s tears - but the strongest emotion – the emptiness – the longing - comes most from what the person stood for.

The message that each one of his shots carried. The Tendulkar lesson. His formula.

The love of the game.

The passion.

Those blinders that kept him going.

Not the still head and the balanced body.

For a better part of our lives, we were selfish enough to extract the joy out of our Tendulkar experience. Thanks for the Sachintainment, the giant electronic boards at the stadium aptly flashed when he was dismissed for the last time. Thanks for the memories, the posters screamed.

When we should have been saying Thank you Sachin for teaching us.

We should have been selfish to learn from Tendulkar instead of simply enjoying him.
Not the straight drive down the ground when the flood lights are lit, but the thousand practice shots on the evening before.

The scale and scope of our dreams are not the same as Tendulkar’s but we can still use his approach. Musicians, photographers, Investment bankers.  We can have our own net sessions to improve. We can discuss every irritating detail to death before a match. We can be competitive. We can change our way when the body refuses to listen. Every day, every match, every beautifully paced innings. Everything for our dream, whatever shape and size it is.

Someone made a great observation that Tendulkar’s life was a perfect storm - The undeniable natural talent. The understanding family. The lucky break.

I think it is at that point, post the arrival - when most blooming Genius’ fall through the cracks. In Tendulkar’s case, it was that very point when the real Tendulkar actually turned up. A day before that ball crashed into his face, he was just some selector’s leap of faith. After that he was, and remained till this week- Sachin Tendulkar.

While geniuses  frequently let ego trump the love of their craft, often leaving us with question on what could have been - Tendulkar remained Tendulkar. He became what could have been. He fulfilled the promise.

A genius not because of his talent, but inspite of it.

 If his life and method was a book, it should be called The Genius’ Guide to become a Genius. The shortest book one would ever read. Five lines. Identify your passion. Work at it. Learn about it. Respect it. Love it. A book that would demand a lifetime of reading.

Today this evening, as eyes turn moist, I wish I could return to that drunk middle aged man in that cafe and that journalist outside the stadium to give a proper answer.  Where do you go from here? How is tomorrow going to be like for you?

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I start applying the Tendulkar formula to my life, and I wish you do too. Enough time has already been wasted. Who knows, there may be a magic trick deep inside of us?

Thank you for the formula Sachin. Now, can you suggest how to stop these tears?

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yogesh said...

We hope this post wont be your last one on Sachin.

Keep writing on him.

Anonymous said...

a knot. a big knot in my throat. and a strong, withheld wetness in my eyes. i refuse to call it tears, for that they are not.
Thank You, for ... what do i say , being you? writing this? thinking this? For making , i believe, so many of us feel what i feel right now. the strong emotion, just short of rage, devoid of any anger yet strong and felt in i perceive as if in every cell of my body and mind. I can't bring myself to utter the name , for I fear , God forbid , disrespecting The Man. But. Sachin. Sachin. is all i can say. A million bows with a head held high and a heart beating strong.
Yes, tomorrow oughta change.

Respect, Mr Parab. Keep writing.