Sanjeev Sharma will have a busy morning on Friday. Like he has been doing for the last 24 years,the water pump businessman from the middle class neighbourhood of Tilak Nagar,West Delhi,will scan the dailies for articles on Sachin Tendulkar. The clippings will be carefully filed by date and placed in a cardboard box. The box will then be placed alongside dozens of others,weighing,in Sharmas guestimation,perhaps half a ton in total. The boxes lie alongside posters,bats and other memorabilia in an 8×8 foot room that is Sharmas shrine to Tendulkar.
Only once he is finished does he join his family for another rite morning puja before the framed portrait of the goddess Lakshmi,tucked away rather more discretely in an adjoining room. Sharma says his wife doesnt mind his eccentricity which occupies a significant part of their tiny four room apartment. She knew she was marrying a Sachin fan, says Sharma with the beatific smile of a true devotee.
Perhaps the 38-year-old isnt Tendulkars most devoted fan,but he certainly is representative of the type. The pressures of running his small business and providing for his young family means Sharma cant follow games across the country. But he hasnt missed any ODI,Test or Ranji game in the capital. He attended the 1991 game against South Africa at the JLN Stadium as a 17-year-old and the 2005 ODI game against Pakistan just before his father passed away. Soon after the death of his mother,Sharma with wife and two young sons in tow,watched the 2011 Test against West Indies.
While most fans make do with seeing their idol from a distance,Sharma got to meet Tendulkar early this year. Tendulkar had come along with the Mumbai squad for a game against Services,and Sharma,lugging a case of clippings,had pushed his way to the front of the queue. Once he gained an audience,he tried to present a cheque of 10,000 rupees but was gently rebuffed by Tendulkar,who instead,autographed the back of the cheque. He returned it telling me he only needed my best wishes. But I wanted him to take the cheque because that was all I could afford to give him for all the happiness he has given me, says Sharma.
With news of Tendulkars retirement,Sharma is confused. Both as to his role and that of the Tilaknagar shrine in which the autographed cheque of Tendulkar occupies the pride of place. I have two sons who are 6 and 9. My family is growing up and at some point my sons will need extra space, he says. But after a moments thought he says fiercely,That space has always been for Sachin. It will remain his place.