Indians have a keen sense of devoutness; they are ever eager to plant idols on pedestals and worship them. In our brazen and chaotic times, contemporary stars provide us a sense of solace that can be seldom derived from things around us. We cling to them with devotion, for in the cerulean expanse of nationhood there is an aching dearth of shining stars – our guiding lights.
While our southern brethren have spared no amount of silver to make temples for silverscreen sirens, we have collectively as a nation decided to deify at least one chosen one – Sachin Tendulkar - in whose glory we sing a unified hymn of greatness.
We simply call him God.
But to venerate is one thing... and to follow quite another. Not follow in the sense of tracking a career or delight in watching well timed or beautifully curved shots. That seems to be a national obsession.
Follow him, in terms of what we have chosen to learn from him or his universally acclaimed persona.
Sachin has been hailed not just for his conquests on the cricketing field, but for the person he is. The Gentleman Cricketer.
Tendulkar’s conduct - in these 24 years that he has been in the public glare - has been mostly impeccable; and it is truly praiseworthy that he has come out unblemished in his personal and social life despite the unrelenting limelight arching over his every move.
To begin with, we could learn from his patriotism. The national flag that he never fails to carry on his tours is but a symbolic gesture of his heartfelt feelings for his country.
His sense of duty and hard work are other characteristics that beg emulation in all spheres of life.
Pakistan legend Imran Khan pointed to ‘focus’ as being his greatest quality. As a nation, do we need to set priority on burning issues that are crying to be redressed than lose our way in the din of political debate that as much deflects attention from core problems, as it is hollow and high decibel.
Also belief... Sachin was a little boy of about 10 when he told his father that cricket would be his career, and that is remarkable in a country that makes sports look like a bad career choice.
Though commercialisation of cricket is being criticised, I would still vote for the entrepreneurial streak in Tendulkar, who set a benchmark with the ground-breaking Rs 100-crore deal with Mark Mascarenhas.
Tendulkar may have been born in red-taped India, but is a product of post liberalisation. He showed how sportspersons could become brand values. And how making money should not be a dirty word, especially if it is hard earned, honest, and not at the cost of the sport itself.
If nothing else, it is lure enough for parents not to cringe when a child shows interests in games instead of just academics.
For the gentleman that he is, we can learn a lot about how to conduct ourselves.
The retirement saga was becoming a murky whirligig, with every Tom, Dick and Harry giving his opinion on when the Little Master should hang up his boots.
Undoubtedly, giving up cricket would have been the hardest decision of Sachin’s life. It is possible that he was so emotionally wrung that he chose not to call a press conference or address the media.
Perhaps, silence was easier. And a wise choice, yet again.
Britain’s Michael Vaughan commented that Sachin’s 100 international centuries are like Sir Donald Bradman’s Test average of 99.94. Neither will be bettered.
With all his unbreakable records and the unachievable feat of a hundred hundreds, Sachin has no choice but to accept being conferred immortality.
Eternal remembrance is sometimes assigned to the lot of blessed mortals or those favoured by fortune. It is when the like of Sachin wear their immortality lightly, do they truly illustrate why they are so worthy of being placed among the pantheon of unforgettables.
That is perhaps the biggest lesson.