You know you are aging when your boy wonders hang up their boots. Especially a certain boy-wonder-who-has-stayed-just-a-bit-beyond-his-expiry-date called Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
This morning the Indian Express had a shot of him striding into a sunset of sorts. Tendulkar has announced that he is finally retiring from all kinds of cricket with the upcoming 2 tests against the West Indies to be his last. Its likely that he will have his swan song in his beloved Mumbai, with the record 200th test (far ahead of anyone else) to be played in November.
100 centuries in Test and One-Day-Internationals. A mountain of runs. The superlatives will continue for quite some time.
For me Tendulkar was the face of our sporting hopes. As a nation we had never won anything on the world stage till that magical World Cup Cricket win of 1983. Being a 14 year-old at the time, I was dazzled. Though we did not have a TV and I never saw a match, I followed avidly in the papers.
And so it is not surprising that as a home-sick college student I would be struck by reading about two wonder boys in Bombay - Sachin Tendulkar and his friend Vinod Kambli when they set a world record for school cricket with 664 runs in 1988 (Tendulkar helping himself of 324 of them). Later, while visiting Germany in 1990 I came across an abandoned English newspaper lying on a bench in a railway station. It talked about how a young prodigy Tendulkar had scored a century. In England. At Old Trafford. This was an era where draws were the norm. Losses were common. Wins of any sort meant massive amounts of fire-crackers being burst. As a boy in school, on the rare occasion that we heard crackers being burst (outside Diwali of course) we would ask each other... 'what happened?'. Today every wedding procession, every politician, every small festival has crackers popping. And any momentous event will be spread by social media in real time.
So it is a very different India in which the era of S.R. Tendulkar is drawing to a close. Twenty four years of playing at an international level is a remarkable achievement. The burdens of being the icon of the nation for so long must be just as challenging as dealing with keeping a body at match-fitness after 4 surgeries and countless innings.
But this young India is also one with an eye to the future.
The first thing my son Enoch told me this morning (he had managed to get the paper before I did) was: "Yuvraj is back!" Tendulkar's retirement was an afterthought for Enoch.
Fame is a fickle mistress it seems. Farewell sweet prince. May your willow rest in peace.