Robert Johnson immortalized crossroads. He apparently sold his soul to the devil and was rewarded with a prowess that would make him immortal. It’s a good deal for even if you are cursed to spend eternity in hell, the company will be one for keeps. Sachin Tendulkar didn’t have to trade his soul with the devil to attain immortality, he earned it on his own terms through countless hours of practice. But the landscape of a common man’s crossroads differ vastly from and those of an icon’s. While all of their achievements and adulation seek to inject into them a feeling of invincibility, retirement injects into them a dreaded feeling of mortality.
Retirement is never easy, even for those who have clocked in and clocked out for years on end just for the sake of a paycheck at the end of the month. Even the clock, which one seemed to move at the speed of a snail, loses all relevance. But a chosen few beat the fate of a normal existence, choosing instead to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Icons aren’t normal people, which is why they consistently seek to push the inevitability of normal farther and farther away.
No longer will the morning alarm usher in a training session. The camaraderie of the team bus and the dressing room will become memories in an instant. A normal day will not include walking onto a field to thunderous applause or casting a spell on countless faces. How is even possible to replace the magic with the humdrum? The ordinariness of normal has to finally be dealt with. The tickets and hotel rooms aren’t booked, the plumbing at home needs repair and the kids need help them with homework. You keep reaching out for your phone, thinking its ringing. As Rahul Dravid put it in his retirement speech ‘I lived in a cocoon, so to speak. I lived in a surreal world, away from reality in some ways.’
The sheer magnitude of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, which isn’t too far away, is perhaps not being realized as yet. It’s like parents who know that their daughter has leave home one day but fall to pieces when the moment finally occurs. Life isn’t designed to prepare us for farewells.
Careers such as Sachin Tendulkar’s come once in a lifetime and the least we can do is bask in its twilight. And see him draw a thunderous applause when he walks onto the field, with the mind and enthusiasm of a cherubic 16 year old in a 40 year old body.
For it is on his wings that we flew, it is his name that we prayed, it is through his dream that we lived so many of our own.
Happy 40th, master.