The Special One


It was an ordinary day. The alarm which pleaded me to do my stretching was put to snooze. TANGEDCO was punctual as usual as the fan came to a halt at six o’clock sharp. I dragged myself to the bathroom as I cursed the families of whomsoever-responsible-for-the power-cut. I swallowed a bit of Vicco paste whilst brushing that made me puke. The tongue-cleaner overdid its job and my tongue bled a bit. The pipe was leaking a bit. I tried to fix it. And it leaked more. I tried again. And it couldn’t hold it anymore—it broke.

Yep, it was an ordinary day.

 The Hindu said India was playing Bangladesh today and Sachin Tendulkar needed one more ton to make it a ton of tons. That should’ve lighted up any cricket fan’s mood but he’s needed that one more ton since last year and the news about his hundredth almost seemed like weather report these days. I mean, we have waited too long to believe if it would come at all.

(However, there was that glimmering optimism in me and in every Sachin-fan, who never lose faith in the maestro.)

The Bus:

After fifteen long minutes it came, honking unnecessarily as it stopped for us to get in. I resorted to the last row of my college bus where my seniors usually chitchatted about the girl in the front row or politics or cricket or something else, depending upon their mood. But they seemed to have a mood-out today, as everyone looked glum and wired up to their headphones and immersed inside Britannica Encyclopedia-sized books.

I tried to make one of them talk, so I poked him and said ‘He’ll hit it today’

‘Ada poda, I have my practical’s today, who watches them play anyways? Hope they don’t lose against Bangladesh,’ he said drily. But then, he was not to complain, four test losses in England and Australia (plus both the ODI series) and the fact that Sachin couldn’t get that hundred throughout the tour didn’t help much in sustaining the interest. And Asia Cup is not World Cup, is it?

The College Auditorium:

It was lunch break at the Film Festival on Disability. Many sighed relief after the first session of the movie screening ended and one wryly said that the organizers of the fest had a disability in screening interesting movies.

Santhosh, a fellow Tendulkar fan, and I were following the toss on Cricinfo Mobile. ‘Are we batting?’ I asked.

‘Yeah’

‘Dammit.’ Batting first means we will have to miss the Indian innings which would get over before the film fest gets over.

‘Who won the toss?’ asked a random dude. The tone with which he asked told me that he was an ‘intermediate follower’.

(Cricket fans are classified into three types:

1. True Fanatic—the ones who would paint their faces with tri-colour and dole out statistics like ‘Sachin doesn’t have an ODI century against Bangladesh,’ after telling them the toss result.

2. Intermediate follower—the ones who ask ‘Who are we playing today?’ after knowing the toss result.

3. Indifferent onlooker—the ones who ask you to ‘pass the curd’ after asking for the toss result.)

Post Lunch:

The combined effort of the curd rice, the inexorably boring film and the Air Conditioner knocked me out and woke up only when Santhosh told me that Sachin was on 47. Two balls later we did silent fist-pumps as the girls, who sat behind us watched weirdly.

The restlessness grew as Sachin went past every single run after his fifty.

Making the pilgrimage:

At tea break, he moved on to 82 and I was kicking myself for coming to college today. He cannot miss it from here.

‘Was this the day millions like me was waiting for? Was it today that he will reach that magical monument?’

‘But after all, should it come against Bangladesh? The occasion is nothing special, is it? At least, it should come against Pakistan, no?’

‘Or will he get out in the nineties again? Hmmm… he should. He should score it against a better opposition and on a better occasion’

‘No, he’s come so far again, he should get it’

The voices in my head made me want to watch the match so badly. I was asking everyone for a laptop with internet connectivity or a phone with 3G. Where was technology when you needed it the most?

Then came Saran. ‘I guess the match is being screened at the hostel,’ he said.

But the entry into the boys’ hostel (for some godforsaken reason) was a strict no-no and moreover we were in the risk of losing the day’s attendance if we fail to sit throughout the final session of the fest. We gave it a thought.

Five seconds later, me, Santhosh and Saran ran like mad-dogs (MSD, if you’re looking for a cricketing simile) towards the boys’ hostel TV room. Obstacles are bound to come on your way when you are on a pilgrimage. And we too had a few in the form of two good-looking girls, one of our department staff, a random dog and, of course, the hostel wardens. We paid attention to none, as we barged into the TV hall to see at least seventy five of them bunked their classes and immersed on to the TV.

As it happened…

There were vivas, guest-lectures, practicals, meeting up with girlfriends and all other important and not-so-important stuff. But everything was abandoned and the students started pouring into the TV hall. ‘Dei, even for world cup we didn’t have this much crowd da,’ a random hosteller told me.

He was on 88 and Raina took a single off the last ball of the 36th over to keep strike (or not allowing Sachin to take strike). And that was one of the major crimes Raina had done in his life. It was understandable that hostel-crowd swore at Raina but didn’t know why they insulted his family and his descendants.

89.

He briefly ran for a non-existent single and quickly turned back into the crease, as the fielder threw the ball at the stumps. ‘Oohs’, ‘aahs’, ‘whadhe-f***-was-he-thinking’ and ‘phews!’ as the replay showed that a direct hit could’ve made us wait a bit longer for that feat.

98.

Nail-chewing; swallowing the Adam’s apple; that weird rumbling of stomach and all other customary ‘nervous nineties’ symptoms were collectively exhibited by the steadily increasing crowd.

Forty first over, ball one: Shakib Al Hasan to Tendulkar. Dot. There was a suppression of a deafening roar. Second ball was a dot too. Same reaction. The third ball… and… dot again! ‘Dude, please hit it fast dude, I have to submit my Record note,’ another random hosteller made a desperate plea. There were even worse cases, like one guy wanted to pee badly. ‘My bladders are bursting.’

The Moment of Pure Joy

I don’t know if there’s something called ‘pure’ joy as ‘joy’ itself is unadulterated. But that few minutes after a single was taken off the fourth ball of the forty-third over, was well, beyond description. It was that moment where you do not have control over yourself and your vocal chords, especially if you belong to the ‘True Fan’ category.

The noise was deafening as he lifted his bat and the helmet skywards… yet again. Random people hugged me. Saran, now in the ultimate altitude of excitement, removed his shirt and ran around the hall. The hostel warden who probably came to stop the mayhem stood still, watching the great man. Santhosh and I sneaked out of the hostel as the warden stood gaping at an emotional Tendulkar on TV.

The Special One

I could see people (read: Tendulkar fans—which is almost everyone) around the campus expressing the excitement that they held back for a year. ‘You know, only Ponting has more than 70 hundreds in cricket’ ‘Dude, you think he can even come near him?’ ‘No chance. He is chanceless, man.’ The bus was bustling with discussion about the magnanimous accomplishment by now.

Of course, it is an individual accomplishment unlike the World Cup but the joy that results out of any Tendulkar hundred is collective. No other individual can break the monotonous routine of people across the nation, belonging to various states, cultures, age-group and all other segregations. All these lines get blurred when they watch him bat.

The day was not ordinary anymore as I watched everyone celebrate as one with ‘the one’. The Special One.

Salutations!
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