Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sachin !!!! By Siddharth Bedi

This one is stolen from my friend's blog: http://guftagoo.blogspot.com/2009/11/sachin.html

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The other day someone asked me, “You call yourself a big Sachin fan, so tell me the exact number of runs he has scored till now”
“12000 something and 16000 something”
“Haa ! Sachin fan!”, came the sarcastic reply.
“OK. how many centuries and half centuries”
“well 40 something and 90 something”
“What the hell! How do you call yourself a Sachin fan dude”.

That got me thinking, introspecting.

I don’t remember how many 100’s and 50’s He has scored
But I know, it is way more than anyone else.
I don’t remember the runs he has scored
But I know that no one will be able to reach those numbers in my life time.
I don’t remember what shot he played to which bowler, on what ground against which opposition.
I simply know that the shot must have given me immense pleasure, thrill and excitement.

And I think that is all what Sachin is all about. For me, it’s not about the numbers it never was. He hardly raised his bat when he reached the 17000 mark recently but you could see the joy on his face, in his body language after he punched the ball through the off side for a boundary. And that is why me and probably numerous others watch Him.

When he comes dancing down the pitch, it is as if the seconds move slowly. As soon as you see that aggressive stance, then the legs moving, the heart beat literally stops. There is that deadly mix of fear and excitement - something that Michael Douglas would have felt in Basic Instinct. It never feels the same when other numerous other batsmen do the same.

There are plenty of shots like the cover drives, straight drives, sweeps and paddle sweeps, gentle nudges and the on drives – which are replayed time and again. But there are those some special ones which are at top of the mind – fixed permanently there. One being the upper cut off Shoaib Akhtar in World Cup 2003. There had been some boundaries hit before that, but may be that shot “opened the floodgates”. I remember, watching it at Lolly’s place where we friends had gathered to watch the match. Oh, we jumped off our seats – again the fear followed by ecstasy – all in a matter of seconds.

Then there was the ferocious pull off Andy Caddick against England. It went soaring past the boundary – not of the ground but of the stadium. I was sitting in at Bulls Eye, doing some DI problems for CAT, which was some 9 months away(Damn!! ). That shot “opened the floodgates” of sms’s, prompting me to calculate the percentage increase in sms before and after the shot. Of course, I literally ran back home after the class.

The next one is a six of Fleming at Sharjah. It was not a sweetly timed straight batted shot over the bowler’s head but was intended to hit hard. It went soaring over the long on.

All the three were seen on TV. There was one special one seen live. I was sitting just to the left of deep mid wicket at PCA, Mohali. It was a full pitched delivery and I saw the ball move in 2 directions. First, it moved perpendicular to my line of sight and then a few seconds later, moved back in exactly the opposite direction as if it had hit a wall – Action and reaction. I don’t know why, it was beautiful to watch.

There was a beauty even when He got out on 99. It was the beauty of sadness. I have never seen Fifty Thousand people at one place absolutely silent. It was amazing – the spell that He cast. It seemed like the shrieks of the Pakistan team was swallowed in that silence. Half the stadium had their hands on their heads, the other half on their faces, just showing the sad eyes.
This silence was also the sound of shattering of one of my dreams to watch Him raise his bat Live – in front of my own eyes and applaud Him. It is tough for such an occasion to appear where He raises His bat if He has not scored a century so technically numbers are involved here. But the dream is just to see his bat raised – possibly in His last match. I wonder what will that be like – the last match. May be all the flood lights will get automatically turned off and a light will appear from the skies directed in the center of the ground which will follow Him as he walks to the pavilion, one last time. Meanwhile the dream still remains.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar: Worshipped by Hindus as a living god

As Sachin Tendulkar completes his 200th and final Test before retiring from cricket, the BBC's Rahul Tandon explores the phenomenon of Hinduism's living gods - a label that has been used to describe the cricketer.



If you ask anyone in India to describe Sachin Tendulkar the answer you will probably get is that he is the god of cricket. The 40 year old, who is a devout Hindu, does not like the phrase. He recently told his adoring fans that he "is not a god as he makes mistakes and gods do not", but that had little impact on many of his disciples, because Sachin for some is an example of a living god.


How do you become one? Nobody seems to know, it just happens. The public choose you when they think you have supernatural powers.



During Tendulkar's penultimate Test match at Eden Gardens in Calcutta I met Sudhir Chaudhary from the Eastern Indian state of Orissa. His whole body was painted with the colours of the national flag and at the bottom were three words: 'the god of cricket'. Like a true disciple he follows Tendulkar wherever he goes. Sudhir has given up his job, some would say his life, to follow the man. When I point out that Tendulkar does not want to be called a god, he just shrugs his shoulders and says: "It does not matter. For me he is one".
Sudhir Chaudhary
As a Tendulkar fan and a Hindu, I have always been intrigued as to why my favourite player has been elevated by some to a divine status. It is a question I put to his friend and the man who is writing his official biography, Boria Mazumdar. He says: "It is a bizarre kind of thing but it is a very Indian belief. It happened with the Mahatma Gandhi and also with Swami Vivekananda."



'A supernatural power'
But, I ask, why does it happen here so much? Boria pauses to think and then responds: "What is a god it is just a belief. Have you seen God? I have not.
"But it's like a supernatural power that you seek refuge in to give you strength and hope. And that is what Sachin has been to many Indians and that is why some have elevated him to a demi-god."
Sachin's mother-in-law, Annabel Mehta, agrees. Originally from Birmingham, she now lives in Mumbai.
She says: "For many people in India life is hard and they need something to help them escape from their mundane and daily existence. The cricketers and the movie stars do that, so some Indians try and thank them by worshipping them."
Even the media hails Sachin as God

India is a complex and at times contradictory society. A mixture of the old and the modern, the spiritual and the materialistic. Mumbai, the city of dreams, represents all those characteristics.
It is wedding season here and 24-year-old Afsa is getting married. She is a Muslim and is out celebrating with one of her best friends, Sonia, who is a Catholic. The drinks are flowing and so is the conversation.
A boy stands with a Sachin Tendulkar poster in the holy Ganges River as Hindu priests and cricket fans perform rituals for the Indian team in Allahabad, India. (2011)
So do these two young Indian women find the concept of worshipping humans as gods outdated? Their answer is an emphatic no, and they also say it is not just a Hindu phenomenon.
Afsa tells me: "Look, we the young are very educated now. We form our own opinions and this does not make us backwards. I think this actually helps unite this very divided country."
A poster depicting cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as God during a Gudi Padwa procession 
on the occasion of Hindu New Year, in Mumbai in 2011
Sonia, who is listening carefully, is nodding her head in agreement. She smiles as she tells me that her friend's cousin who is an actress in South India has had a temple built so her fans can pray to her.
"That is mad," I say. Without a moment's hesitation she says: "It is a bit crazy. But look at the fans of [Canadian singer] Justin Bieber, the Beliebers. They believe he is a demi-god . Nobody calls them backwards and they even build shrines to him and that is the same thing."
The potential to be divine
Her comments reminded me of what a friend said to me when I told him I was looking at this subject.
"It is obvious," he said. "Hinduism has thousands of gods so a few more will not make any difference."
It was a simplistic view but was he right?
Professor Shubhada Joshi is the head of the philosophy department at Mumbai university. She lives in a traditional extended Hindu household in the suburbs of Mumbai.



When I asked her what she made of my friend's theory I expected her to laugh, so I was surprised when she said that was right.
Cricket enthusiasts cut a 39-kg cake, with a 39-foot cut-out of Sachin Tendulkar 
near the Srikalahasti temple  to mark the ace batsman's 39th birthday. (2012)

"Having another god does not matter here," she says. "And you have to remember that in Hinduism we believe that every human being has the potential to be divine.
"There is nothing wrong in it. Ours is a culture where we even worship the inanimate... Like the Himalayas and the Ganges."
Some have compared the worship of humans here as similar to the place that saints hold in Christianity. Professor Joshi disagrees: "It is more than that," she says.


"In Christianity all the saints emphasise the path of Jesus is supreme, whilst in Hinduism the saints will say there are many paths. Once you admit that you give the people more freedom to choose their gods."


If you want to see the clearest example of a man who has been elevated to a god like status, then Shirdi, 300km (186 miles) from Mumbai, is the best place to go.
It was where Sai Baba lived in the 19th Century. A simple man, he was a fakir or a wandering holy man. He never claimed to be a god but has become one.
Every day thousands of his followers come here to pray to him. The young and the old, men and women, the rich and the poor.
Many have taken days to walk here. Their faith is moving. Ajay More, a member of the temple's executive committee, tells me that if you believe in Baba you will get what you want.
"If you want to be head of the BBC, just sit in front of the idol of Baba with a pure mind and it will happen," he says.
When I tell him that makes no sense, as Baba was a man not a god, he looks at me like I am mad and says: "That is because you have no faith."

The people around him nod their heads, including a man who is one of India's chief justices. When I ask him how he feels when he comes here, he says "energised" and "spiritually fulfilled".
Others describe how their lives have changed since they started praying to Sai Baba. For many its materialistic, they are now more wealthy, whilst others say their health has improved.
In spite of that I do not believe that Sai Baba is a god - I think he was a good man. And Sachin is special, but that clearly does not mean he is god.
But in this complex and divided country, these and other demi-gods do have an important role to play.
Because Sachin Tendulkar and Sai Baba unite people of different faiths in a country where religion often divides them.
Sachin Tendulkar is addressed as the god of cricket by his fans but a village in southwestern Bihar has already started worshipping him as one by installing his statue. Bhojpuri actor and singer Manoj Tiwary and Kaimur district magistrate Arvind Kumar Singh  unveiled a life-sized (5.5 feet) statue of the Master Blaster at Tiwary’s village Atarwalia, in Kaimur district, Bihar.

***

The God of a hundred things

There is something troubling about a culture that makes gods out of human beings, says Nissim Mannathukkaren of The Hindu

It is not often that you see “God” cry. That is why we were in for a shock when it happened. Perhaps, it is not so shocking, after all, as he was crying for another God. When last April, Sai Baba, the “God on Earth” passed away, Sachin Tendulkar, the “God of Cricket” shed tears. An unprecedented moment missed by the otherwise carnivorous media. The master of all that he surveyed in the cricket field, whose longevity in the game is acquiring divine proportions, showed his mortal side when he broke down like a child. The God, after all, was human, and needed as much divine intervention as possible, like other lesser mortals. Maybe, it was an intimation of the long, one-year mortal struggle for the hundredth hundred.
But after the milestone, for which the nation waited, first with excitement and later with frustration, Tendulkar has duly reassumed his godly status and a grateful nation, beginning with its richest citizen, started paying its obeisance. While a celebration is justified, there is something deeply troubling about a culture which makes humans into gods, and which puts people on pedestals to be worshipped. For, it glosses over all blemishes in its quest for the godly.

Blind to blemishes
Thus, while there were glowing tributes to Tendulkar reaching the century milestone — with comparisons to the great sporting achievements of Roger Bannister, Bob Beamon, Lance Armstrong, and so on — there was a deathly silence about the inexplicably slow innings that brought the hundred (100 of 138 balls, his second slowest One-Day century), which eventually played a part in India's defeat and eventual exit from the tournament. The milestone, which had become a millstone around the neck, could be achieved only by sacrificing the interests of the team. For once, Tendulkar's oft-emphasised “serving the country” line clearly did not hold good.
A more serious outcome of the culture of humans as gods is the intolerant attitude towards criticism that it fosters. Thus, Tendulkar, who usually lets his bat do the talking, combatively declared after the milestone, “I will decide when I need to retire.” As if selectors, who can drop a player before he chooses to retire, do not matter at all! A growing cacophony of voices, including many respected former players, and Tendulkar himself, seem to believe that the decision about his future in the game has to be left to him alone.
What could be more dangerous for the game than to put an individual above it?

More bizarrely, and worryingly, Tendulkar argues: “When you are at the top, you should keep serving the country instead of retiring.” This is unprecedented, for, again, it is he who will decide whether he is “at the top”, not the selectors, or experts. (In remarkable contrast, Rahul Dravid points out: “Maybe sometimes these things are better judged from outside. As a player you will never admit to weakness, to a slowing down of skills. You're not trained to admit these things.”). Tendulkar, in a strange twist, calls the critics, who call for his retirement, selfish.
What kind of a sporting culture, religious community and ultimately, democracy can we build if we ban rational debate, criticism and dissent? Sai Baba, reacting to the increasing number of revelations against him (on the Internet), had once said: “Internet is like a waste paper basket. Follow the ‘innernet', not the Internet.” While Sai Baba's involvement in social causes was commendable, the (unproven) allegations of financial fraud and sexual abuse of followers, including children, are far too serious and numerous to not to have been investigated by the authorities.
But ours is a culture in which the mighty and the powerful supplicate, literally, in front of godmen, and no less an authority than the Prime Minister of the country issues letters in support of beleaguered godmen!

New-age religion
Religiosity amongst the urban upper and middle classes, as surveys indicate, and contrary to received wisdom, has been increasing in recent years. But this religiosity, as scholars have shown, is different from that of the past, for, it is one which has become a part of individual choice rather than a forced requirement. The focus is more on gods who are more individually accessible and catering to personal needs. More importantly, this new religiosity is perfectly in sync with material wealth and consumer culture. Thus we have a proliferation of godmen and spiritual gurus specifically popular among the affluent classes in the time since India has arrived on the stage of global capitalism.
It is in this culture that Tendulkar becomes another god to be worshipped, a consumer brand that sells hundreds of things and, ironically, a follower of godmen himself. Tendulkar's canonisation as a deity in the Indian public consciousness thus has been made possible by a combination of factors like rapid commodification and mediatisation of society, religious ethos, nationalism and sporting culture (or the lack of it!). Therefore, to reduce, as some have, Tendulkar's recent aggressive pronouncements on retirement to compulsions of the brand that he has become, is too simplistic.
Tendulkar's phenomenal achievement should be an occasion for a balanced and critical reflection of his contribution to cricket and the nation, and more importantly, the state of sports as a whole in India. It should not become just another exercise in worship of the cricketing god which will push the contributions of other cricketers (like Rahul Dravid whose part in landmark test match victories has been undeniably far superior to that of Tendulkar) and other sportspeople, or the structural rot that characterises Indian cricket and the pitiable state of sports under the carpet.
The mightiest of achievements is ephemeral and written in the sands of time. Let us not, in celebrating Tendulkar's extraordinary skills and dedication, continue to worship him like God.

***

Sachin Chalisa: