On Sachin and the Bharat Ratna

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SRTOne would have thought, at least I certainly did, that people would at least wait till the tears dried on the cheeks after Sachin’s heart-wrenching final moments on a cricket field before starting the snark and the snap, now that contentious issues like whether he should retire (which I believe he should have in 2011) are no longer germane.

I was wrong.

When I heard that they were giving Sachin the Bharat Ratna, I felt “Finally. Someone who deserves it. I am sure everyone will agree this time a government award is most appropriate.”

I was, once again, wrong.

Apparently, Sachin Tendulkar, we are being told does not deserve the Bharat Ratna. No not because Rajiv Gandhi and Morarji Desai have won it and we wouldn’t want Sachin to be in the same list.

No. It is because Sachin Tendulkar somehow does not make the cut. Qualitywise.

Because he is 29th on some ranking prepared by ICC. Or because his career average, is less than Kumar Sangakkara.

Yes.

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My Sachin Story

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All of us have a Sachin story. For a generation and perhaps even more, he is the thread that runs through so many of our memories. Of faces, people, blurry TV screens, sleepless eyes, cheers, gaalis, of sitting-at-one-place-and-not-moving-lest-we-jinx, clenched fists, pumped arms, spilled Pepsis, crumbs on shirts, smiles, tears, desperation, and elation.  This is why all of us feel that we know him, and if time spent simply looking at someone and of being invested in his success is a measure of intimacy, then I suppose many of us would accept that we are closer to him than we are to quite a few cousins and uncles.

It’s strange really, this kind of personal relationship with an abstract entity, abstract in that we do not really know know him. Kind of the relationship those of faith have with God. No wonder then that that word is used in association with him, so often. No wonder that his passing leaves many empty, as if the string has been yanked out and our memories are now bouncing free, like colorful beads on the floor, and we fear that some of them will roll underneath the bed, never to be found.

As for me, little old me, I don’ t think that will happen.

But for that, I need to tell you my Sachin story.

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Guide To Writing A “Farewell To Sachin” Article

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Now that Sachin has, and some may say finally, retired (somewhere Afridi whispers “Never say never…never say never again”), it’s time for a deluge. Of  tribute-reminiscences in newspapers, blogs, and websites. Having written a few of these tribute-hybrids, for Sachin (when he retired from one-days) and for Dada (several times) and for Dravid (once), I think it would be better if, instead of writing yet another of these posts, I wrote a little guide-thingey for the mandatory Sachin post, that you know and I know that you know you are going to write, as a full-fledged blogpost or just a lengthy status message or note in Facebook.

First of all, let’s start off with the contrarian, critical tribute. Like painting a mustache on the garlanded picture of a recently-deceased or loudly screaming  “Shuru karo Antkashari, leke Prabhu ka naam” at someone’s funeral, this is guaranteed to get you attention, some of which might be unwelcome, but hey it’s all in good fun. It’s tough to best the masters like Kesavan and Aakar Patel in this regard, but just because Sachin is a batsman does not mean that Amay Khurasiya can’t be (factoid: he replaced Sachin in 2001 when he got injured). Since Mukul Kesavan has already done the “He didn’t retire early enough” angle, you are advised to take some other route. Like Sachin never having won games for India (an hour at Statsguru and voila this one is done), like being selfish and records-focussed (take the same stats as the previous one, but this time extrapolate to a motive,) or if you want to be truly original, how Sachin’s career reflects the typical Marathi manoos’s journey through life (but write this quickly, because Aakar Patel will beat you to it if he already hasn’t by the time you have finished reading this sentence).

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Great Moments From IPL Season 6

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Towards the end of “Lamhe”, Sridevi’s character says something on the lines of “If our ultimate fate  is sadness, then why bother with life? It’s the moments, the beautiful moments that make life worth it.”

My feelings about IPL are kind of like that only. If the ultimate fate of the tournament is the happiness of the powers that be, the cricketers and the advertisers, then why, as a simple person, do I watch? Why do I care?

It is because of moments, peerless in their simple yet spectacular beauty, that stay etched in memory. These are moments you would scarcely believe, like attack ships on fire off the the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. [Reference]

So here they are, a collection of my favorite moments from this year’s IPL. So far.

1. Yusuf Pathan’s batting:  As a long time KKR fan, there is nothing as delightful as watching Yusuf Pathan flailing his bat in the air, hoping against hope that the ball hits some random edge and flies to an unguarded corner of the field.  But beyond the delight, what makes these moments significant is because his continual presence in the team has become an anthropomorphism of  Bengali business philosophy. Which is lovely because Bengalis, and you can look at our sterling industrial record, are amazing at entrepreneurship. Let me explain why I say this. One of the tenets of Bengali businesses is to invest Rs 10, and then if things go south, to throw Rs 1000 after that Rs 10. Which is exactly what KKR does with Pathan. Having paid over 2 million USD, they are reluctant to cut their losses and make him warm the bench, instead playing him match after match in the hope that God will have mercy and make him score some runs. But as we know, God supports Chennai Super Kings (even plays for it) and so even though Yusuf keeps batting like an aunty at a family picnic, KKR keeps playing him, showcasing to the world the way we Bengalis do business. I am waiting though for the match where he scores a paltry 30, at which point of time, KKR (like any true blue Bengali) will take a bite of biskoot, say “Bolechilam tomake” (Told you so !), feel smug about this little victory and continue to play him for ever, thus completing my metaphor perfectly.

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The Opening Ceremony

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The IPL, as we all know, is characterized by good taste and subtlety. The opening ceremony of this year’s IPL stayed true to that spirit of understatement, with an aesthetically choreographed show that brought out the essence of what the tournament is all about.

Being held in Kolkata, the birthplace of the Indian Renaissance and the home of Kobiguru, it was but natural (and poetic) that the ceremony should begin with one of his works being recited, in English, by Shahrukh Khan, as Bengali as Ilish maach and nolengurer sandesh.

I might have been carried away but I could not help feeling that somehow, somewhere, we were celebrating the cosmic connection between these two brand ambassadors of Bengal, one who brought the Nobel Prize to Bengal and one who brought the IPL cup. What made it even more poignant were the words “Where The Mind is Without Fear”, capturing brilliantly the state of Kolkata and Bengal today, where those who forward cartoons are celebrated by being thrown into jail, and where those who dissent are tenderly called Maoists.

Truly magical.

And as East-European “Bideshinis” , clad in traditional Bengali skimpy-wear and fake smiles, cavort to Shahrukh Khan’s emotion-drenched voice, one cannot but feel how happy Rabindranath Tagore would be, up in heaven, looking down at the spontaneity and honesty of the performance below.

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Retirement

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History books, and I am talking about the ones prescribed for us in school, tell us simple stories. Like how Gandhiji brought us freedom.Like how non-violence made the British leave.

Not that we complained—after all the last things one wants in late teenage life are complexities, especially of the type that can come to bite you on your ass during Board exams.

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