On the morning of September 28, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the world's most feted batsman, walked into his new Rs 76 crore, three-storey home on Perry Cross Road in Mumbai's Bandra suburb. Accompanied by his mother, wife and two children, Tendulkar distributed sweets to slum children who waited outside the seven-foot-high walls to pay homage to their cricket god. A home of his own has been one of Tendulkar's special dreams. And he was thrilled to have it finally come true.
But there is one dream the nation has been waiting for to come true ever since Tendulkar scored his 99th hundred during the World Cup at Nagpur against South Africa on March 12: his 100th century. It will be the crowning glory of a career that has spanned 22 years and 33,076 runs (Tests and ODIs) and 199 wickets (Tests and ODIs).
And there is another that the master blaster doesn't speak of much: To help provide quality, affordable education to the eight million children who are out of school. At Mumbai's Yash Raj Studios on September 18, he spent six hours offering cricketing tips to underprivileged students from across India via satellite, raising Rs 7 crore in donations to be spent on an estimated 140 schools in India that lack facilities like libraries, drinking water, specialised teachers and toilets. The organisers, Coca-Cola India and Charities Aid Foundation, hope to replicate the project every year to include more schools across the country. Next year, the figure could double.
At 38, after 22 years in the game in which he has smashed most batting records, he is not done with cricket. Excerpts from an interview with Deputy Editor Shantanu Guha Ray of India Today.
Q: Will anyone in India talk cricket after the whitewash in England? Perhaps not the best time to start this school project?
Tendulkar: I have said this before, defeats do not depress me. They motivate me. I know I did not get too many runs in the series and had to return hurt. But one series does not impact my game. One loss does not take away my fans.
You are raising cash for 140 schools this year. Next year the figure is set to double. This could mean a lot of time away from the game. In India, these efforts often get politicised.
It all depends on you. If it's selfless, then no one will point fingers. If efforts to do social work are couched in selfish motives, then they will die a premature death. Why would my efforts get politicised? I have values I inherited from my father. He helped many. Anyone, even a postman knocking on our door would get a glass of water and some sweets. I want students to rush to school every day. They should feel happy going to school. I must ensure that they have facilities.
So you want to do in education what Anna Hazare is doing to eradicate corruption?
He's doing his work, I am doing mine. I don't think our efforts should be compared. This isn't a I versus him race.
Interview: Sachin TendulkarWill social work take up most of your time after cricket?
I have not announced my retirement. I am doing something along with my career as a cricketer.
What prompted your sudden focus on children's education?
This is not a recent thing with me. In fact, I have been thinking about it for some time. I think more than corruption, ensuring quality education, drinking water and proper sanitation to millions in India is a bigger challenge. We have set a high goal of a corruption-free nation but are resigned to lower expectations when it comes to education. We have the world's largest number of children who do not have access to education. I don't understand why. Schools across India do not have teachers, libraries, playing grounds and even toilets. I do not want to see empty classrooms, empty libraries. I do not want to see cattle grazing on fields meant to be cricket or football grounds.
And the girl child...
We have one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. There are over 200 million illiterate women in India. This low literacy negatively impacts not just their lives but also their families' and the country's economic development. A girl's lack of education also has a negative impact on the health and well-being of her children. Tell me, why should a girl return home after the first class because there are no proper toilets in her school?
Does this bother you because your daughter enjoys certain privileges at school?
She does and so did I. That's how we both know what others miss out on. It's not just about education. It's about bringing the underprivileged into the mainstream. I want to do it. I call it a new chapter in my life.
As a student, did you enjoy any special facilities?
The only facility I enjoyed as a student was when I was allowed to represent Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and granted permission for special classes.
Your celebrity status will lead to chaos if you were to visit a slum.
I could visit when the city sleeps. I would like to visit them unannounced.
What if the Prime Minister calls upon you to perform a bigger role for the country?
He hasn't called me yet (laughs). Maybe he wants to see me playing some more cricket. I will see when the call does come.
[Reproduced From India Today. © 2011. LMIL. All rights reserved]