Sachin, you turn 37 today. That was my first thought when I woke up today. That it's your birthday. Another year has gone by and your greatness has increased exponentially along with it.
That you are a God is an accepted fact now. There are no two ways about it. To hear anything against you is nothing less than blasphemy, and in fact quite a rare occurrence because nobody in their right mind would ever say anything against you.
That after 20 years of International cricket you still have an untarnished reputation goes a long way to show us the kind of person you are. That even after all this time you still remain as humble, as polite (even shy sometimes!) as ever doesn't come as a surprise anymore. We have come to expect that from you.
But you know a lot about expectations don't you? For almost 20 years now you've been this solid mountain of ever growing expectations. The more you achieve, the more we expect. And no matter, how ridiculous these expectations are, you still find a way to make that dream come true for us.
That's what you do. You make dreams come true. In this country, where dreams can be a mere luxury you are the dream we can afford to dream. We have been living through you almost. I wonder how that feels. Knowing that every time you come out on the pitch, there are a billion people who are praying for you; that every time you mistime a hook shot (not very often) the entire nation collectively skips a heartbeat and that every time the umpire raises that finger the gloom permeating the air is so thick you can almost smell it.
[It's entirely possible to walk in a room and gauge whether Sachin is still playing or not without asking, there are always indicators]
I remember, when 6 years back somebody gifted this huge poster of yours to me. I shrieked like I'd lost my mind. It was beautiful, you were beautiful. I tacked it up right in front of my bed, so that every time I went to sleep you would be the last thing I looked at. And every time I woke up, the first thing. So it was, for almost 5.5 years, till my brother accidentally ripped it. I remember looking at it and feeling as if somebody had shredded my heart. I was so broken that my terrified family offered to buy me two more. My look of disgust was answer enough. It would never be the same. And I also realized, I don't need it anymore. I can just close my eyes and picture your face, that heartbreakingly innocent smile shines right back at me.
Sachin, you mean a lot to us. All of us. If there ever was somebody, anybody that unites this horribly fragmented nation it's you. It isn't any exaggeration to call you a beacon of hope, a symbol of unity, a flag of peace. You are all that, and more. There isn't anybody in this country who can inspire such hope, such oneness as you can. You have the ability to inspire emotions that are becoming latent. I never knew the meaning of happy tears till I saw you score that double century (the first man to do so in an ODI) but you taught me that even I am capable of selfless love. And it's not just me, for many, to come home tired and watch you smack that ball straight past the bowler just washes all the exhaustion away. The degree of respect, the amount of love and the sheer volume of pride you receive is mind boggling.To know that you are one of us is what makes us feel contented. And you still are, that's your greatness.
I don't know what was going on your in your mind when you stepped on to the cricketing arena at the age of 15. You have single handedly achieved what entire teams are incapable of and after all this time you still thirst for more. That's what sets you apart.
Only one thing eludes you and us, the ODI World Cup. To lose it in 2003 was traumatic, but the blind optimism that only Indians seem to possess still makes me feel that we will do it this time, this time. And you will do it for us. I know you want it more than any of us do. And I'll pray for you.
Happy Birthday Sachin, may all your dreams come true.