When I met Tendulkar...
“When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.”
? Paulo Cohelo
I always wanted to watch a sporting event live. While watching a cricket match live was in my priority list, I had never thought even in my dreams that I would get to witness the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, where I would get to meet celebrities and even the God of Cricket. This is how one of the most memorable events of my life unfolded:
When one of my colleagues asked me whether, by any chance, I would like to work with an international sports channel during the inaugural Indian F1 GP, I could not refuse the offer. It was a much awaited event which would bring the craze of F1 into the country.
The only problem in doing so was that the channel’s team wanted me to join their group from October 26 which meant for the first time, I would stay away from home during the festival of Diwali. However, I preferred the GP over fireworks for a change.
On October 26, I reached the hotel where the delegates were staying and I was welcomed by a representative from the Italian sports channel. After a short conversation, I along with two other gentlemen left for Buddha International Circuit (BIC) which played host to the event.
On reaching the Buddha International Circuit, we fell short of words on seeing the amazing infrastructure. The amount of work that had been put in to develop a world class track was clearly visible.
The race began on 30 October. I was now used to the screeching sound of tyres with racers all across the world testing their flying machines at a minimum speed of 200 kmph. I was aware that some celebrities would be coming to attend the inaugural race and thus fancied my chances of meeting a few of them. I did not carry an autograph book with me, so I folded sheets of A4 paper and then tore them into several pieces which were good enough for autographs.
Separate buildings were allotted to separate teams which read Team Building 1, Team Building 2 and so on. It was 2:30 pm when I noticed a large group of media persons standing outside Team Building 05. I wasted no time in reaching the entrance of that particular building, where anxious reporters were waiting for someone.
In a while, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone came out of the building. I thought of taking his photograph, only if there wasn`t much chaos. But something unusual happened. Ecclestone came out and none of the camerapersons moved from their places and their machines remained glued at the entrance. Someone else followed after which there was huge chaos. Reporters began firing questions to someone I couldn`t see as they brushed me aside and their equipments made it even more difficult to see what was happening. But what followed next was a major surprise for me.
Wearing a white shirt and denims, there he was, standing right in front of us as I mumbled, `Sachin Tendulkar`. Despite being an ardent cricket fan, I had not watched a live cricket match inside a stadium till that time. I used to often think whether I would ever be able to see Tendulkar play on the ground; forget having him stand in front of me.
And now there he was – in flesh and blood, right in front of me. I grabbed the opportunity as Tendulkar shook hands with fans around him. The hand that would soon score 100 international centuries gave me a firm handshake. The race which had to start in another 15 minutes became irrelevant for me as I had experienced the most memorable moment of my life and needed some time to come back to reality.
There was pandemonium all around as people spotted Sachin and encircled him within no time. The security officials had a tough time scattering them as fans rushed for a photograph, an autograph or a hand shake. The Little Master waved towards the crowd that chanted “Sachin! Sachin!” But the batting legend refused to give autographs considering the number of fans.
I had fancied my chances of getting an autograph, but he refused. Tendulkar even glared at a few of fans who repeatedly asked for autographs. However, just before entering the pit lane, Sachin blessed a little girl with an autograph after which he immediately vanished inside the pit lane to flag off the event.
I looked around and the crowd was left astounded as they couldn’t believe they had just met the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar! Some of them, including me, were disappointed to an extent since we didn’t get an autograph but a hand shake wasn’t bad either.
I also met Shahrukh Khan, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean), Rannvijay Singh, Lucky Ali and Imran Khan, but meeting the Little Master was a dream come true. It was a day when India joined the list of those few countries that had the privilege to host a F1 race. It was a day when German driver Sebastian Vettel once again proved his mettle. But for me, 30 October 2011 was a day I would cherish throughout my life for a very special reason - it was the day when I met Sachin Tendulkar.
Now that he will retire after playing his 200th Test against West Indies on his home soil in Mumbai, cricket will surely miss the batting legend. But I consider myself very fortunate to have met him, even though it was at an another sporting event and not cricket.