Sach is life…

“We all knew it was coming, then why Sachin do you still produce this numbness?” tweeted Harsha Bhogle as the little master announced his retirement from international cricket. Another headline in my local South Indian newspaper read, “Sachin retires; India hurt”.

With this news, our currently distraught country was once again emotionally united, momentarily forgetting Asaram Bapu’s shocking exploits, the plunging rupee and the tumbling government. The BJP used the move to their advantage, stating that under the UPA government, the rate of unemployment is so high in the country that even Sachin is out of a job now.

 

This feeling of not being enthralled by a maestro anymore is one that the Parsi community will experience more closely when Zubin Mehta decides to hang up his baton—though he might experience some technical difficulty in doing so.

 

At an age when most sportsmen decide to call it a day, surgeons begin theirs. I think it is because of the longevity in our community that we have more doctors than sportsmen—unless you consider Bridge a sport; then, the doctors would surely be outnumbered. For us surgeons, life begins at 40, but by the time we acquire surgical dexterity, thanks to its prevalence in the community, Parkinson’s is around the corner to wind things up.

 

The world around us is changing hurriedly. The good old days of starting a career after acquiring a reasonable education are over. The minimum age for entering beauty pageants was 18 not long ago. Now, it’s zero. At an age when it’s impossible to even differentiate one baby from another, I wonder what the selection criterion for the winners is… may be the diaper round!

 

Then, by the time you’re 3–5 years old, it’s time for Jhalak Dhihla Jaa and Indian Idol Junior—little kids dressed in shimmer and shine swinging to the latest Bollywood numbers with their middle-aged mothers and aunties in tight blouses and sweaty underarms cheering them on. From the age of 7–10, kids are busy cooking away in MasterChef, desperately agonising over how the cheesecake got burnt ahead of its time—probably just like they did!

 

Some argue that young talent should be harnessed quickly. How else would we have Michael Jackson, Beethoven and, whether you like it or not, Justin Bieber! But in science, success comes much later. Most Nobel laureates are in their ‘60s. In medicine, it takes even longer. The human body continues to forge ahead of those trying to conquer it. With advances in technology, the body comes up with newer diseases to treat. The more skilled you become, the more an ailment distorts the anatomy. As drugs get potent, viruses mutate. The more keys you have, the tougher Pandora makes it to open her box. You can never really catch up.

 

I believe that for most average people like myself, there are only about 30–40 years in one’s life when you can work really hard, with the same intensity and gusto. Fortunately or unfortunately, those years also happen to be the same to begin and devote to a family, a society, a community and a nation. Truly successful people live these in equal proportion, spreading happiness while they’re at it. Sachin did that almost effortlessly, bringing a smile into our hearts in a way no one else could.

 

Any professional has much to take from Sachin Tendulkars’s career. Not particularly known for his quips and quotes, he once famously said, “If people throw stones at you, turn them into milestones” after overtaking Brian Lara as the highest scorer in Tests in 2008. It is grit and character and not God-given talent that predict success. The hours of net practice, the rigorous routines at the gym and an unwavering discipline in diet have resulted in his consistency over 24 years, while other more flamboyant colleagues have come and withered away. His childlike passion has gone beyond borders and nations.

 

Most of us are happy scaling Everest; Sachin was done with that a long time ago, mounting for himself higher peaks in the pantheon of international cricket that only he would summit. He was grace under pressure. His cricket was purity and joy. That is why mortals like us referred to him as ‘God’. He gave us technique, aggression and composure. He was balanced both on and off the field. His humility kept us grounded. My wife keeps telling me, “Don’t be so humble, you’re not as great as he is!”

 

So, then, when is it that one decides to retire from what one has done so passionately for the better part of one’s life? First, one has to realise that there are some people who will never retire: the Gujarati stockbroker, the Marwadi real estate agent, the uncle at the counter of an Irani Café, the manager of Central Bank (if given a chance) or the young veterans who play snooker at Wodehouse Gymkhana. Ratan Tata did but we hope Dinyar Contractor and Bomi Dotiwala don’t. Soli Sorabjee did but we hope the Soonavalas and Udwadias don’t.  Sachin, too, has decided to take his next, new job in a place where there they have no retirement age—the parliament.

 

Sachin once said in an interview—in his high-pitched shrill voice that sounds much like Lata Mangeshkar’s now—“At 18, you’re not young anymore.” From an early age, at important phases of our existence, we are faced with decisions we have to make, judgments that will alter the course of our next chapter. And in between all this drama, life will throw its own set of googlies. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the legend’s splendorous spirit on how to play them with vigour and enthusiasm, dexterity and courage. When the entire nation had an opinion of what shot he should play, he took the final call on artfully driving the ball along the ground or arrogantly orbiting it out of the stadium.

 

One of the great paradoxes of our life is that we are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of those choices.  So when you’re making big choices in life, think far into the future and ask yourself, “Can I live with that?” The Mumbaikar in Sachin did that on his own terms. For a career as glorious as his, looking back is so much more infinitely rewarding than looking forward. And as the Master Blaster has decided to dedicate his final test match to his mother, we salute the Parsi in him.