Like any kid growing in the 1990s in India, Nishad Pai Vaidya idolised the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. On June 2, 2012, he finally came face to face with the great man and shared a few words. In this article, he recounts numerous experiences over the years and his tryst with Tendulkar.
Growing up in India in the 1990s, I was no different from the millions of Tendulkar fans. And like any Tendulkar fans, my biggest dream was to meet my idol – a dream that became a reality on June 2, 2012!
The famed writer Paulo Coelho was bang on when he wrote: “When you want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”
Over the years, there have been a few occasions when I have seen Tendulkar, but never got a chance to talk to him. I first saw him in November 2004 when India and Australia were involved in an intense battle on an infamous turner at the Wankhede Stadium. The first day was a near washout as only 11 overs of play were possible. As a 14 year-old, it was my first experience in the stadium and was waiting to get a glimpse of my hero. He didn’t contribute much with the bat in the first innings, but there was one incident during the Australian innings which will remain etched forever in my memory.
I was sitting in the Garware Pavilion and Tendulkar took his position at third man, very close to the stands where I was seated. Sensing an opportunity, I cried out excited: “Sachin!”. The Maestro turned, spotted me in the crowd, smiled and waved back. Wow! That wave left me delirious and excited. I could go and tell my friends that Tendulkar had waved to me alone in the midst of hundreds of people!
The next time I saw him in action was after a gap of five long years, when India and Sri Lanka clashed at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium. Virender Sehwag smashed a thrilling 293 and Tendulkar also sparkled with a fluent 53. At the end of Day Three, I was standing at the pavilion gate with an autograph book in hand. In the distance, I could see Tendulkar surrounded by an army of kids, all demanding an autograph from the maestro. I approached the convoy and with shivering hands and stretched the autograph book towards him. He looked up and smiled, but couldn’t sign because the kids had surrounded him. They didn’t leave him till he sat in his car and the security had to move them away. It was a moment I would rue for a long time.
Then came the biggest moment - till that point. As India lifted the World Cup on April 2, 2011 and Tendulkar was chaired when the Indian team did the lap of honour around his home-ground, I was amongst the 40,000 odd lucky people to witness the historic scenes at Wankhede. As Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s match-winning six sailed into the stands, I decided that the ticket was worth preserving and an autograph from Tendulkar would make it a treasure. Destiny took its course from thereon.
More than a year later, on June 1, 2012, my good friend Lohitash Sirsikar called me and told me that Sahitya Sahwas- the place where Tendulkar spent his childhood days – was hosting a small gathering to honour its most famous son. Sahitya Sahwas houses a number of eminent Marathi writers and poets – the maestro’s father, the late Ramesh Tendulkar, being one of them. Lohitash’s grandmother, Mrs. Malti Sirsikar also has a flat there owing to her contribution to Marathi literature. As luck would have it, he was put up there for a few days and came across a notice that announced the function. I instantly grabbed the opportunity to meet him the next day at the specified time.
As I made my way to Sahitya Sahwas, I was filled with nervous energy. A lot of questions went through my mind… “Will I get to meet Tendulkar? Would I be able to get my 2011 World Cup final ticket autographed by Tendulkar?”
As the clock ticked eight, a small gathering waited for the superstar – whose growth they had witnessed from close quarters. The host announced, “Kindly settle down. Sachin arrived 15 minutes ago and we will only start when all of you’ll take your seats.”
Lohitash and I had grabbed two seats well in time and had no worries in finding a good spot.
A few moments later, a smiling face appeared and the crowd stood up to welcome the master. It was a remarkable evening and the whole essence of the ceremony was that of a man coming back to his roots. The usually reticent Tendulkar was evidently at ease in the presence of people who have watched him all his life. His childhood friends and neighbours recalled stories of his early days – “the days when it all began” as Tendulkar said.
As the ceremony drew to a close, a small crowd – mostly kids - gathered around him with miniature bats and cameras. In a spontaneous move, I worked my way through the crowd and came with striking distance of him. As luck would have it, he was still standing on the small stage. It was symbolic because, I was looking up to him while trying to grab his attention. I stuck my World Cup final ticket out. “Ohh”, he said, and greeted me with a “hello.”
As Tendulkar took my ticket and autographed it, I said “I was there.” He nodded and I continued, “I am a budding journalist and hope to interview you someday.” As he returned the ticket – one that had just become a collectors’ item – he said “Yes, good luck!”
I added, “Sir, the last year you were given out due to a wrong replay against Deccan Chargers, I spotted it first.”
Tendulkar’s eyes lit up, “Oh you were the one! I remember that incident. Donn frame hote, eka madhe me hotho (there were two frames and I was there in one of them). Good, good.”
I replied “Ho, mee baghun surprise jhalo. Magh mee article lihun website la pathaula. (Yes, I was surprised and I wrote an article and sent it to the website).”
He continued to oblige other people with autographs and as the crowd built up, I felt I had to go. He hardly gets a moment of privacy and I had to play a small part in not burdening him further.
Just before leaving I said, “It is a pleasure to meet you.” He acknowledged it with a smile and continued signing more autographs.
As I walked away, the whole moment started sinking in. I had finally met the man who has remained my hero for years. It meant the world to me as he has symbolised India’s dreams on the cricket field and is a role model par excellence. Not many people get the opportunity to interact with him and shake his hand, and I was one of the fortunate ones to do so. My excitement level hit a fever pitch as I picked up my cell-phone called every possible person – my parents, relatives, best friends etc.
The God-sent opportunity has given me tremendous hope for the future. There will be tough times, even challenging ones, but faith in one’s ability and talent can take you through. Although, it was destiny that helped me meet him, the underlying message was a huge lesson. Dreams ultimately do come true and my meeting with the legend is evidence of it.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)