(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
One of the major myths of society that percolates into our subconscious from the time we are children is that growing old is a bad thing. It’s there in our conversations and in our popular culture. There is a whole industry built around making old people feel younger. You can fight ageing – an inevitable process that has been taking place for millions of years – by applying some chemical cocktail on your face. Why age gracefully when you can make your face look like Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb? We are constantly told that growing old is a horrid event that we must endure until we are able to escape it through the sweet release of death. Being young is where it’s at! Yeah, because who wants financial independence and emotional maturity? Who needs to deal with small problems that can be easily overcome when you can just close the door of your room and blast a song full of profanity to show everyone how angry you are? I, for one, don’t subscribe to this fallacy and can’t wait to grow old. You get to say stupid things and treat people badly without any repercussions. You can make people squirm in their seats and puncture any serious conversation by releasing a loud fart. In fact, my spirit animal is AK Hangal. However, not everybody on twitter shares my enthusiasm about the ageing process. This is most apparent when something happens to someone people used to revere when they were children. People become more aware of their decreasing mortality whenever a childhood icon dies/retires/says something racist. Wait, celebrity x died of a heart attack? WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAPPEN TO ME???!
This was the case last month when Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from one-day cricket. Nothing makes you feel your age than when the guy you watched grow from an awkward child prodigy into an awkward adult genius decides to hang up his ill-fitting jockstrap for good. We could handle the exit of eternal bridesmaid Rahul Dravid or ungraceful retirement expert Saurav Ganguly because we still had Sachin. But now even he’s gone to spend more time not spending any of his money on his family.
If you weren’t born in the 80’s you can’t fathom how important Sachin was to his countrymen. Sachin Tendulkar was a hero to a nation in dire need of one. Who can forget his memorable innings as the brand ambassador of a popular soft drink brand! Or when he launched a thousand bankruptcies by appearing in a credit card advertisement and asking people to go get it! Who even knows how many kids’ lives he saved when he revealed the secret of his energy!
Sachin was the perfect poster-child for the post-liberalisation era. A great icon! He was proof that if you had luck, talent, humility and enough gumption to hire a ruthless businessman to manage your affairs, you too could become so successful that Parliament would pass a special act to prevent you from being exorbitantly taxed on a business transaction. That is also why he doesn’t have to spend his post-retirement years scrounging for money, unlike his predecessors. There are no low budget advertisements promoting ‘English speaking courses’ in his future. No humiliating interviews with Karan Thapar. He doesn’t need to participate in a reality show where he gets paid to be the butt of everyone’s jokes. The BCCI will not dare to even try to rein him in if he does something they don’t approve of. Even troll king and the talking tiger from ‘Life of Pi,’ Bal Thackeray, was more than respectful when criticizing his fellow exhibitor of Marathi machismo.
Living in India and not having had a conversation about cricket is like being a white person in a Karan Johar movie and not being racist. It’s easier to go along than spend the next few hours explaining to people that you don’t think that spending five days glued to a teevee screen watching 22 guys play a sport invented by bored royals so that they could pretend to be athletic might not be the optimum utilization of your time. Being able to fake a conversation about cricket also prevents you from being lynched because in this country, there is no other topic of discussion more important than cricket. We pretend that there is nothing wrong when the whole country stops any productive activity because some people are playing a match, somewhere. We are constantly fed bullshit narratives about how cricket “unites” the country and for a few hours, people take a break from making life miserable for each other in exchange for shouting cricketing advice at the teevee/radio/website hoping that the professionals playing on the field are able to hear them. We have to revere everything that happens on the field and worship those who play on it. Whether it’s movies, politics or sports, India doesn’t accept mere humans. We only have time for Gods.
Now please excuse me while I download a Nintendo emulator on my computer so that I can play all my favourite childhood games and try to recapture my youth.