When Sachin Tendulkar batted, time stood still. India almost stopped to watch the Master in action. He has retired now, but nothing has changed. The loudest cheers are still reserved for him. His birthday is not merely an occasion, but a festival. Cakes are cut in offices, at cricket grounds in schools and colleges as millions of fans celebrate this special day of their icon.
The Wankhede Stadium turns into a massive party on April 24th as the Bharat Ratna soaks in the love and adulation amidst the chorus of ‘Happy Birthday, Sachin’.
What does it feel like to be loved by millions? We, at iplt20.com, requested VVS Laxman, Tendulkar’s former teammate and a long-time buddy, to capture this emotion for us.
Like the good old days, the two legends got going as they discussed everything from cricket to healthcare.
VVS Laxman: Happy birthday, Sachin. You are 45 today, but you look as fit as ever. How do you feel?
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: Don’t go by the looks, Lacchi. I feel like a 25-year-old with 20 years of experience.
VVS: I can assure you that he is looking exactly the same as in 1996 when I saw him for the first time. How do you recall the memories you gave to the millions?
SRT: It has been a brilliant journey. I was talking to some journalists and they were talking about the Desert Storm knock. It has been 20 years and time has simply flown by.
VVS: I was very fortunate as I was the non-striker and you did not even register that I was the non-striker as you were in your zone that day.
SRT: In fact, I got shouted at when I got back home. There was some kind of misunderstandings as we looked for some quick running runs. My brother shouted at me for shouting at you in the middle. He told me, ‘what are you doing? He is your teammate and he is supporting you and you are shouting at him’. I apologized and I told him that it would never happen again.
VVS: I can assure everyone that it was one of the best knocks. I was there in the middle and he had taken it upon himself to get India to qualify for the final.
You have fans all over the world. How does it feel coming back to Wankhede and celebrating your birthday here?
SRT: This is a special venue as this is where it all started for me. Right from the time I played my first first-class game, to playing the World Cup final, and also (playing) my retirement (farewell) game. I have thoroughly enjoyed the support of the people. I have received support all over India. Fans have even traveled overseas to support the Indian team. It’s a blessing. I treasure every moment I have spent here.
VVS: After your retirement, you seem even busier. Tell us about the various initiatives you are involved in?
SRT: It has been quite good. I cannot complain about anything. Occasionally, it has been hectic. There are various initiatives I have been involved in. I am the UNICEF ambassador for hand wash and it is a critical issue here because people take their health for granted. It is about a simple issue of washing your hands before eating meals, after visiting washrooms. Even when a mother feeds her baby, we need to spread the message to wash hands so we stop diarrheal diseases. Every year one lakh lives are lost and we need to bring the number down and save every child.
The other initiative is of spreading happiness. There are villages without access to electricity and we go there and use solar lighting to light up their houses. It is nice how the transformation has taken place from the pre-light day and post-light days; their whole life changes. It is difficult to imagine this in 2018 but they don’t have access to electricity. I am also supporting ‘Swachh Bharat’ and ‘Road Safety’ as they are critical to our nation.
VVS: Your fans will like to know how did you celebrate your birthday?
SRT: The day started with my mother’s blessings. I then met the fans who had collected outside my house. I posed for selfies with most of them. I think selfies is the new form of autograph today. Sometimes, you don’t have to sign but you still have to get your picture clicked.
I then launched my company’s website (srt10.in). In the evening, I spent time with some cancer patients from the ‘Make-a-Wish’ foundation. It was a good pacy day. We then had a team meeting where we planned against you guys.
VVS: All the best, Sach. It has been a privilege playing alongside you. You have been an inspiration and you continue to inspire us even though you have retired.
Sachin contributed a lot when he represented the country, playing cricket and he continues to contribute through his various initiatives. Thank you very much. Have a great year and a lovely life. I am sure you will continue to spread happiness.
SRT: Thank you so much.