Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Sachin Tendulkar and Sathya Sai - the story of the little master and his 'little' Master

A moment captured during Sachin's visit to Baba in Chennai, January 2007.
Source: aravindb1982
Date: 24th April, 2011
Venue: The Rajiv Gandhi cricket stadium in Hyderabad
Occasion: The IPL T-20 match between Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers
The stadium had been packed to its capacity as it awaited the start of a clash between the home team, Deccan Chargers, and a charismatic team which boasted of having the God of Cricket – Sachin Tendulkar – as its captain. Adding to the excitement and anticipation of the crowd was the fact that it was also the Little Master's birthday! A grand celebration, irrespective of the result of the match, was in order and a magnificent cake had been ordered to celebrate the cricketing God's birthday. Everyone was in a festive mood – everyone except for the little master himself.
Sachin Tendulkar sat alone in his room, a 'Do Not Disturb' sign hanging from the door. He did not care the least for his birthday. Actually, when it came to cricket, Sachin never gave anything else greater importance – least of all to his birthday. However, today seemed to be a day when his thoughts were on something that was BIGGER THAN CRICKET in his life! The God of cricket sat in contemplation of his personal God and Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. News had just spread that Baba no longer occupied the physical frame which had been adored by millions across the globe. The 'eternal' had dissolved into 'eternity' and Sachin had no idea how to react to it. He had been simply devastated and he knew that in the future he would never have the slightest predisposition towards celebrating his birthday. How could he when his 'Little Master' had chosen to exit the world on that very same day?
Sachin was in no mood to be part of the party that day... ( representative picture - not actual day)
Finally, it was time for the toss and Sachin did indeed walk out onto the cricket pitch. A huge roar of applause rented the air as the nearly 40,000-strong audience sighted their hero on his birthday.
However, everyone could sense that he was not the same. No. It was not any lack in his professional ethic. He had shown perfect poise in taking the decision to play despite going through a phase of shock. And all that he said after the toss was,
"I always enjoy playing in Hyderabad and it is a lovely place to play, in front of a wonderful crowd," keeping his intense sorrow deeply buried in his heart.
I do not remember the result of the match that day. But this much I remember that my Cricketing God, Sachin Tendulkar, politely declined any cake-cutting or birthday celebrations that day. Though he seemed to do everything in his routinely passionate manner, he was visibly poignant. Everyone knew that Sachin, for once, was unable to allow even cricket take him over! As reported in the national newspaper, The Hindu, the organizers at the match decided to switch off the music systems and also disband the cheer girls squads from the venue as a mark of respect to the 'departed' Sai Baba. It was also decided to observe a two-minute silence at 3:57 pm across the stadium.
This was all part of the efforts by the cricketing fraternity to empathize with their God and hopefully cheer him up a bit. But nothing worked! Even as the match was completed, Sachin along with his wife Anjali, was on his way to his Master's abode – Puttaparthi.
What happened the next day was splashed across all the newspapers in India - a visibly shaken Sachin wept like a child at the physical loss of his beloved Master. He did not speak even a word with anyone as he sat in silent communion with his Lord. Everyone wondered about this hitherto unknown part of the little master as he broke down, shedding profuse tears. But what seemed as wonderment for the national press seemed so natural for me and any others who had been witness to Sachin’s unforgettable journey with his master. It would require a book definitely to write about everything between Sachin and Swami but here, I would like to recapitulate a few moments which give a glimpse of that relationship.

In communion with his Guru at Baba's mortal remains on 25th April 2011.
Source: aravindb1982
The beginnings of a magical connection
It was way back in 1997 that the connection between the Little Master and his ‘little’ Master was forged. It happened via another little master and cricket legend, Sunil Gavaskar. Sachin considers Sunil Gavaskar as his mentor and guide in ways more than one and it almost seemed like a play of destiny that Gavaskar brought Sachin to his Lord and Master, Sri Sathya Sai. The way Sunil Gavaskar became a staunch devotee and follower of Baba is an altogether different story, with its own thrilling narrative. It would suffice here to say that Sunil Gavaskar, by then, was convinced that Swami was the Lord of his life and he felt that the least service he could do to his favourite cricketer was to get him also to Swami and let him experience divinity.
The magical meeting and connection happened towards the end of 1997 when, out of the blue, Swami told two champion cricketer-devotees, Sunil Gavaskar and Erapalli Prasanna, to arrange an international cricket match in Puttaparthi! What seemed as a nearly impossible proposition indeed, happened on the 27th of December when the Indian XI led by Sachin Tendulkar took on the World XI led by Arjuna Ranatunga in the Sri Sathya Sai Unity Cup match. In the organising committee were EAS Prasanna, Sunil Gavaskar, Alvin Kallicharan, Clive Lloyd and Zaheer Abbas while a plethora of international stars participated.
Sachin had his first meeting with his Swami. I remember seeing him stride into the Sai Kulwant hall in a white T-shirt and blue jeans a day before the match. Swami wanted to ensure that the players are happy with the pitch. He set out in His car with Sachin in the front seat next to the driver and Ranatunga and Gavaskar on His either sides in the back seat! They say that God chooses the perfect time and perfect situation to enter a devotee’s heart. Sachin’s heart was blessed to become a home for Swami on that blessed day.

Post the presentation ceremony, Swami and Sachin had quite a long, intimate conversation.

After making a rousing 82 in less than 50 balls, Sachin led the Indian XI to victory and received the Unity cup from Baba’s hands. He also got the man of the match award. However, the greatest gift he won that way was Swami’s blessings which were conferred on him during an intimate talk on-field and off-field. Though we do not  know what transpired between the little master and his Master on that day, this much is sure that Swami had made a grand entry into Sachin’s heart.
[To be continued…]

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