Sachin Tendulkar’s 'Boss' in Kolkata

Sachin Tendulkar (left) with Harshul Goenka. Every time India are in Kolkata, Tendulkar leaves a few match tickets at the hotel reception. Photo Courtesy: DNA

By Derek Abraham  

You’ve got to watch it to believe it. Heart-warming is not the word; nor are humane, touching or moving. Let’s just say Sachin Tendulkar was being himself.

We are talking about a two-minute video dating back to April 24 this year when Tendulkar turned 40. Mumbai Indians were scheduled to play against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Eden Gardens that day. But Tendulkar had a special guest to attend to — special in every sense of the word.

Over the past 25 years, Tendulkar has touched a billion hearts. However, unlike you and me, Harshul Goenka, 22, is not just any other Tendulkar fan. The Master calls his “greatest fan” as “Boss”. 

“Boss”, as Harshul is fondly called, is differently-abled. He is certainly Tendulkar’s favourite fan. The Master has played cricket with him in the lobby of the ITC Sonar in Kolkata. Again, you’ve got to watch it to believe it, comprehend it.

Tendulkar removes his match bat, gently takes the wheelchair-bound Boss’s left hand and helps him grip the handle. And just like your elders stood beside you or behind you, lending a hand, the Master helped Harshul hit a few ‘sixes’. The hotel staff lined up a few ‘bowlers’, each of whom was only willing to go on bowling.

“Sachin is God,” Rajni Goenka, Harshul’s mother says. And then comes up with a gem. “Even Google can’t come up with an adjective to describe him. My son adores him and Sachin does everything he can to keep him happy.” 

Here’s what Tendulkar has done for Harshul. Every time India are in Kolkata, he leaves a few match tickets at the hotel reception. It was no different this time. Harshul was there at the Eden. On all three days. The sun was beating down hard, but it didn’t matter. Harshul sits right at the end of the BC Roy Clubhouse enclosure, in front of the barricade. “People keep celebrating and they get up. That spoils his view. He doesn’t like it so he sits right at the front,” Rajni explains. Even the cops know Harshul. No one messes with him. Not even his home nurse who accompanies him to the matches. “Boss refuses to even wear a cap in this heat. And when his help tries to put it on, he doesn’t allow him to!” Rajni laughs. “He is tanned by the end of the day’s play.”

When did Harshul first meet Sachin? “November 14.” This time, it’s Harshul who’s replying.

“He’s fond of anyone associated with cricket,” Rajni chips in. November 14, 2011. India were in Kolkata. It was the second Test against the West Indies. “I met him and he gave me his shirt,” Harshul says, excitedly but slightly incoherently. “Speak softly, beta,” Rajni says. Harshul agrees. He has met Sachin five times so far. 

“Sachin is the greatest. No one will beat his records. I told him that. He is the best. I have his videos. I will watch those after his retirement,” Harshul says, this time with a lot of emotion. 

Harshul is a die-hard Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) fan and was sporting the purple and gold jersey when Tendulkar gave him a batting lesson. “Sachin asked, ‘will you support me?’ Harshul said yes, but he also made it clear that he was a KKR fan,” Rajni informs. Tendulkar laughed out loud.

Harshul is now a celebrity. Shah Rukh Khan adores him. So do Brett Lee, Gautam Gambhir and Sourav Ganguly.

In fact, four corporate box seats are always reserved for Harshul, his mother and two attendants whenever KKR play at the Eden. “But it’s tough to go all the way up. Also, he doesn’t enjoy sitting in the box. Harshul enjoys the view from the first tier,” says Rajini.

Harshul says he’s been watching Tendulkar since 1991.  Rajni laughs. “He was born in 1991!” she says.

So where did Tendulkar play his best ODI knock? “Gwalior. 200 not out vs South Africa.” Harshul knows most of the Master’s records. “I love all his knocks. He is the best. He will give me his bat soon,” Harshul says.

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)