Remember the Pepsi advertisement? Everyone in the video wore a mask with a picture of Sachin Tendulkar on it. The idea affected a plenty, and we saw people flaunting it like a badge of honour.
Remember the MRF bat? Everyone wanted to own it, like you cannot score runs without it, like it is a magical wand that casts a spell on the bowler, like it is a prop to start a ritualistic ceremony.
When they batted in gully cricket, they pretended to be Tendulkar. Even though they did not wear a guard, they acted as if it discomforted them, just to replicate Tendulkar. They wore a steel band and rolled their wrist because Tendulkar did so. They looked in the heavens after reaching hundred because Tendulkar did so. Tendulkar, in other words, became a practice.
You praise Tendulkar and they smile at you. You bash Tendulkar and they take it so personally that they will try to erase your existence, for it is the Tendulkar inside them that you have hurt. You simply cannot do that. If you did so, time made sure you regretted, for the man himself cannot emulate his 100-hundred majesty even if he takes a rebirth.
Well, it goes without saying that when a home crowd stood in adoration as a batsman from the visiting team walked towards the 22-yard surface, you knew it was Tendulkar. When the fans were more nervous than the one in centre stage, you knew it was Tendulkar. When the opposition thought twice before sledging a batsman, you knew it was Tendulkar.
If anything, he demanded admiration.
And after all these years, it has not changed a bit. As we drink Pepsi, it still reminds us of the long, curly-haired Tendulkar. As we walk past Shivaji Park, the aspiring cricketers still remind us of him. And, at times, we call one of them Tendulkar just to feed our memories.
We still wear jersey No. 10 with Tendulkar etched on it. We still want to own that MRF bat. We still chant ‘Sachiiiiiin-Sachin’ at the top of our voices. We still rejoice watching videos of his batting on YouTube. We still shed a few tears imagining him lifting the World Cup. Some emotions in life do not wither, do they?
Whether some of us went on to become Tendulkar or not, we still stand in front of a mirror and imagine playing a straight-drive off Brett Lee. We still shadow-practice playing a paddle-sweep off Shane Warne. We still dream of flicking an in-swinger off Wasim Akram. We, while strolling to our offices, shimmy down and send one over the sight screen off Saqlain Mushtaq.
No matter how old we grow, the Sachin Tendulkar inside us will never fade away.