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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Making of the Master, in a quiet Mumbai neighbourhood

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha  Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, November 06, 2013
First Published: 00:50 IST(6/11/2013) | Last Updated: 14:32 IST(6/11/2013)

The office traffic pouring into the Bandra Kurla complex every morning flows past a line of nondescript housing colonies that were built in the late 1960s when the area was still a mosquito-ridden swamp.

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One of these housing colonies is Sahitya Sahawas. The name gives away its origins as a home for writers. The nine buildings here are named after famous Marathi poems. The colony has been home to several past presidents of the annual Marathi literary conference, winners of the Sahitya Akademi award and one Jnanpith laureate.

But the most famous resident of Sahitya Sahawas is not a writer. He is Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin spent the first 28 years in Sahitya Sahawas. He grew up among many giants of modern Marathi literature. Here lived three writers who fashioned the modern short story in Marathi: Gangadhar Gadgil, KJ Purohit and Arvind Gokhale. There were scholars of the caliber of YD Phadke, MP Rege R.B. Patankar. The legendary poet Vinda Karandikar was a resident.

Most of the writers who settled in Sahitya Sahawas wrote in Marathi, but the colony was also home to the great Hindi writer Dharamveer Bharti and the enigmatic Satyadeo Dubey.

His neighbours saw Sachin grow from a toddler with an unruly mop of curly hair to the little boy who worshipped John McEnroe to the young cricketer who lugged a kit almost as big as himself to the brilliant batsman who lit up the world of cricket. I once played a local cricket match in a team led by Ajit Tendulkar, who sent his little brother to open the innings. The opposition made jokes as a boy only a little taller than the stumps walked in, but their laughter was replaced by respectful silence once each ball hit the middle of the bat.

Sachin has often spoken of the stabilizing influence of his family, which kept him grounded even as the world went into raptures about his extraordinary talent. It is this training that ensures that he never loses his temper on the field, takes every match very seriously and is the first player at the nets before even a Ranji Trophy match.

The values that he absorbed --- hard work, honesty, decency --- are in some ways markers of a Mumbai that is a far cry from the city depicted in popular culture: the glitz of the socialite world on the one hand and the violence of the underworld on the other. Sahitya Sahawas is quintessentially part of that Mumbai.

I met Sachin in London before the 2012 Oval Test. He was to hand over passes for the match to our group of friends. He chatted away for close to an hour, but then suddenly said he had to leave for the team meeting that was to begin in ten minutes in another part of the hotel. He did not want to be late. I think what he meant was that it was important for seniors like him to be on time, so that the juniors would learn that team meetings are sacrosanct.

The residents of Sahitya Sahawas decided to have a small celebration with Sachin after he scored his hundredth international century last year. He came early so that he could visit an ailing childhood friend, went to the homes of a couple of senior residents who could not come down for the celebration, posed with wide-eyed kids who could not believe that their hero was actually back, and ate the simple meal that was on offer.

Sachin retires from international cricket in November. December is the month when an annual cricket match is played in Sahitya Sahawas, a match that he played even after he became a Test cricketer. The pitch will be rolled. The ground will be watered. The teams will be selected. It would be great if an old resident of Sahitya Sahawas joins the game after a gap of two decades.

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha is an executive editor with Mint


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