You can never get a goodbye just right. No matter how well you plan it, reality always falls short of imagined perfection.
Take India’s farewell to Sachin Tendulkar. It seemed flawless. Even Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, was impressed enough to say that “India showed us how to treat a hero”.
He was right, up to a point: His reference were the crowds that had played their part till the last ‘Sach-iiin Sach-in’. The fans were determined to give their hero the send-off he deserved and they did not short-change him. It was a fitting tribute to a 24-year-long love affair that is unlikely to end even though it may get tempered. The atmosphere at the stadium was unimpeachable. It was what it should be: Celebratory.
To add to Sammy’s impression, the government of India chose that moment to award the retiring cricketer with the country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
The pieces were coming together. India had achieved the impossible: It had got the goodbye right.
But no sooner than the last spectator left the Wankhede that the baiters and the haters decided it was time to end the bash and begin the bashing. Sorry to disabuse your notion, Sammy, but, in India, not all know how to treat a hero.
The chief grievance was that Sachin was awarded the Bharat Ratna ahead of X, Y and Z, which is clearly his fault and deserves the demeaning that such comparisons lead to.
The grouses varied from why others had not got it first to why he was not a worthy recipient anyway to doubts about his contribution as a cricketer. In some quarters, the contention was that his statistics were grand only because of his longevity, ignoring the fact that he had achieved the said longevity. Old graves were dug, outdated discussions were had and a legend was knocked around, all in a bid to bring down a hero because they could.
There is a nasty glee with which some Indian opinion-makers have slotted themselves as the anti-populist – they use no filter as they hammer on the pedestal that someone has dared to spend some time on. Super-achievement is the criteria they employ: Succeed at your own risk – the demolition squad is watching.
What I find particularly perilous is the cult following such truculence, even vitriol, gathers among the young and impressionable. It becomes cool to be cruel, as social media platforms have often revealed. And the cycle of despising greatness gets perpetuated.
A measured perspective (like from this UK magazine, Spectator) that separates the hyperbole from the appreciation can be a breath of fresh air amidst the over-the-top gushing. Instead, those who don’t praise decide to deride. No-holds barred.
Tendulkar, the cricketer and the person, has shown nothing but dignity and humility despite the chaos and the hype. His patriotism and passion have never been as visible as now, when he finally let his words and not his bat do the talking.
His awareness of his own fortune is particularly noteworthy. Consider what he said during the press conference on Sunday: “I would also like to congratulate Prof CNR Rao — it’s a great honour to be named alongside him because his contribution to science is immense. It’s just that cricket is played in front of thousands, what he does is not like that, so I want to congratulate him.”
Evidently, the arguments that dismiss Tendulkar’s appropriateness as a Bharat Ratna recipient also discount the man’s grace.
The rabble-rousers are few and far between but they are loud. They are clever too. They latch on to someone’s glory for their own 15 seconds of fame. It is almost parasitic and usually unproductive, this tendency to provoke without pause or cause. And even one ear is too many for their protests to fall on.
I usually block them out but this time the damage has been done. Not to the Tendulkar’s legacy – it would take an army – but to what could have been a wonderful aftermath to a well-deserved party. Now, the champagne appears laced with some bitterness.
The author writes on popular culture, cricket and whatever else takes her fancy. She tweets @abbykhaitan
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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2013 19:11:38 IST