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Screechin' Saa-chin!

columns Updated: Nov 17, 2013 08:43 IST
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Sachin Tendulkar is no more. One of my neighbours, a moderately big hirsute man, has been weeping incessantly since Friday morning when the Greatest Human Being Ever was dismissed by some Indo-Guyanese chap whose name really doesn't matter.

On seeing him cry, my neighbour's wife started weeping too. Their two school-going children, seeing their parents distraught, also started bawling, with their rheumatic grandmother joining in at some point. If I didn't know that they didn't have a cat, I would have thought that their cat had died.

Like my weeping neighbours, the nation at large seems to be in a state of shock. The fact that Sachin will never ever ever come out to bat again hasn't sunk in for most people.

Either they're deeply upset that Sachin didn't reach his century as the media had promised or, worse, they are going about their lives as if nothing's happened.

For a country that is comfortable with the concept of rebirth (and birth, if one goes by the number of people we have despite our inability to find 11 decent footballers), the fact that Sachin is no longer available will be as much of a shock to folks when the penny does drop as it will be for many when people realise that Rahul Gandhi's got married - or has become prime minister, whichever comes first.

Thankfully, because of my innate pessimism and penchant for climaxing early, my brain had already registered Tendulkar's departure when he made the announcement of retiring from cricket last month.

Too see a man once endowed with genuine greatness is still a thing of magic. That's why people still drop by to say hello to Paul McCartney. That's why I continued to drunk-dial Yana Gupta even till some six years ago.

So even if Tendulkar had run out of his 'Sachin-ness' some years back and was running on bio-gas, the fact that we could still tell ourselves 'Behold the man!' (I've avoided the original Latin phrase 'Ecce homo' for obvious reasons) each time he came out to play was worth the embarrassing statistics towards the longish end.

I mean, who talks about the last few Satyajit Ray films or Manmohan Singh's second innings anyway? (Actually, don't answer that last bit.)

The true-blue Sachin-lovers who'd rather be identified as 'lovers of cricket' actually bemoaned the fact that Sachin had overstayed and blighted his aura. This, of course, they stated manfully quoting Sachin's poor recent record and groaning about how his lingering postponed the entry of promising new players.

For me, this way of looking at things, logically correct as it is, doesn't cut much ice. You still cart out a cryogenically-frozen Amitabh Bachchan in movies from time to time not because anyone's expecting him to fling a wad of notes back or say, 'I've got Mummy'.

You get a brimful of Amitabh to encounter a legend. Being past one's prime is included in the package.

So when Sachin duckwalked back at Wankhede for the final time - with Sunil Gavaskar on telly almost ready to break his glass bangles in grief as he sighed forcefully, 'Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.' - exactly 24 years after he had sauntered out of the dressing room in Karachi's National Stadium, it was understandable to consider, if for a few minutes, moving the nation's favourite spectator sport from cricket to something else. (No, sorry, Viswanathan Anand. World champion and Supreme Dork that you are, don't call us, we'll call you.)

But as I look out of the balcony, apart from the continuing wailing from next door, life goes on as usual.

Kids are playing cricket and badminton downstairs, there's Narendra Modi's testosterone-dipped voice coming from someone's magic box, pigeons are indulging in unnatural intercourse, and at home in Mumbai, Sachin's probably thinking of sporting a smart beard.

Methinks that the nation has actually handled Sachin's departure rather well. It's certainly handled it better than if, say, Jayalalithaa or Soniaa, decided to retire from politics.

The media will squeeze the last pip out of this lemon. And in keeping with the philosophy stated in that great bumper sticker, 'It's not god, but his fan club I can't stand', I wish the great ex-cricketer a hearty welcome to a world where, as he'll soon find out, the point is to be seen on television and photographs cheering greatness rather than watching with undulating levels of awe the final process of greatness turn into a ghost turn into a legend.