October 26, 2008

The day Sachin gifted Rs.12 crores for The Great Indian Dream!

The world has been written about Sachin, but this is something that has gone completely unreported. That’s how Sachin wanted it to be.

It was 2003. Without much expectations, my team had gone to Sachin to invite him for the launch of my book, The Great Indian Dream. He obviously was busy but he kept the copy of the book. One fine afternoon in 2004, we were overjoyed to receive a call from Vinod Naidu, then the Director of Worldtel, informing us that Sachin had gone through the book and wanted us to meet him. We had no clue what was in store for us. My colleague Deepak Shah went to meet him and what followed was a dream come true for anybody. Yes!! The Master Blaster had agreed to endorse our Great Indian Dream Foundation advertisements!! An association that lasted for 3 years!!! At that time, the market rate for a Sachin Tendulkar endorsement was Rs.4 crores per year and he had decided not to charge a penny for the same from us. Not just that, he had decided to give us one day to shoot an ad film with him too. And that’s where I met Sachin. A day that will forever remain etched in my memory. I was to shoot the ad film myself and (with my wife and son) had reached an hour early – completely unable to control my excitement. Like all thoroughly professional people, in the most unpretentious manner, in a simple crushed looking shirt, Sachin landed up right on time at 10 am!! Our shoot went great… not just because along with cricket, Sachin had also mastered by then the art of acting and given lovely first takes, (those who have never realised this fact consciously should try and remember his ad for Pepsi with the Big B some years back; it was tough to say who was better... at least in that ad!!) but more because Sachin was in love with the lines he had to say. He believed in the lines – he made that very clear to us – spoke out each word from his heart, and we all knew he was most genuinely involved. After all, how many times have such big people – in all senses – on their own offered to campaign for a cause without any kind of returns whatsoever.

There were three things that I would perhaps never forget from that day’s meeting. First... Those days, Sachin had taken a few breaks from cricket due to his tennis elbow. Even on that day, he was in evident pain. And he was hurt the way media doubted his reasons. There was pain in his eyes when he was explaining how bad the pain could be and how impossible it was to play with that pain. And I knew he would not even bother to explain it to any media person – the hurt in his heart, more than the elbow, was all too clear. Second... We had asked him if he would want to change his shirt. He said he didn’t want to, as the ad was for the masses and he wanted to look like the man on the streets rather than Sachin the celebrity. And finally, we of course wanted to give a press release about this great philanthropic act of his; but Sachin requested us to not tell the media about it, since he was doing it more for the cause of India and from his heart rather than for any publicity (and at that time he had no clue that one day I would start a magazine of my own and reveal it all here). I remember his parting words; he told us, “Do anything for the cause of making India free of its ills and I am there with you guys.”

Before he was to leave, his son Arjun, daughter Sara and wife Anjali too came down to the sets. We had a small cake cutting ceremony to thank him and like a little kid, he enjoyed the cake (and the carrot and orange juice) and asked for more of it since he couldn’t hide the fact that he loved the cake too much. We were too thrilled. After he went home, we sent across another of the same chocolate cake from the Taj Mumbai for him! And yes, most of you might have seen the print campaign of The Great Indian Dream Foundation with Sachin in it (at least FEMA noticed it and promptly sent us a notice for it, wanting to know how much foreign exchange we made through our foundations activities!!!), but not the related TV campaign. The Foundation couldn’t manage enough funds to go for it. But I must write the lines that Sachin so loved and spoke... He said, “Let us work towards an educated, healthy and poverty free India... You may say I am a dreamer... Let me not be the only one... Come share the dream...” And he ended by saying something that he would say for nothing else – and for no money – but the dream for a better India. His ending punch line was, “There’s more to life than cricket!!!”

I don’t think anything can better describe the real greatness and humaneness of this man whom the entire country so loves. I wrote about his gift of Rs12 crores on the heading, more to grab the attention of you all towards his great deed than for the monetary value of what he did. It will be too demeaning of me to even try and quantify the value of what he did for us for the sake of the dream of a better India. As they say, some things in life are priceless…

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