Like the millions of die-hard fans of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar,Pune-based Raju Gaikwad too is waiting to see his god play the last two Test matches of his career. A bank employee who takes home a modest monthly salary of Rs 20,000,Gaikwad cant afford to buy a ticket and watch Sachin play live. He will watch the matches on TV,like crores of other fans.
But what sets Gaikwad apart from the other fans is his unique collection. He has over 20,000 photographs of the legendary cricketer from the time Sachin started making news. It was 1988 when Gaikwad fell in love with Sachins batting style,and ever since he has not only collected the sports stars photos but also enlarged and laminated them and even made several interesting collages.
I was nine when I first saw him play. From that day on,whenever I have found his photo in any magazine or a newspaper,I would cut and keep it. The collection kept growing and with that grew my fondness for him. When I began earning,gradually,I started finding ways to store the photos, says Gaikwad,a resident of Camp.
Among his huge collection,Gaikwads favourite photos include one in which Lata Mangeshkar is clicking his photo and one that shows Tendulkar with Sehwag,both wearing boxing gloves. There are also two different photos in which he is wearing a different attire. While one shows him wearing dhoti and a Maharashtrian cap,the other shows him in a Saudi Arabian attire, he explains.
Due to his financial background,says Gaikwad,even buying a magazine and newspapers has been a problem at times,considering he has family of five to take care of. Gaikwad lives with his wife and three children at his house consisting of one room and a kitchen. The small house has the cricketers photos all over it. Somehow,I have managed to accommodate my collection despite lack of space, he says,adding that he has exhibited his collection in Pune,Pimpri-Chinchwad and Mumbai on different occasions.
The year 2002 holds a special place in Gaikwads heart. This was the year when Sachin had visited Pune to play an India-New Zealand match at the Nehru Stadium. That was the first time I saw him face-to-face. He saw my collection and appreciated my efforts, recalls Gaikwad,adding that the cricketer even signed one of the photographs for him.
In 2005,Gaikwad got the permission to exhibit his collection at Nehru Stadium but the display was open only to the cricketing team of India and Sri Lanka who were at the stadium for a match. This time,apart from Sachin,other cricketers too saw my collection, says the die-hard fan with pride.
The announcement of Tendulkars retirement left him disappointed. It was bound to happen some day. First he took retirement from T20 and then ODIs. Perhaps he wanted to give his fans some time to prepare themselves. I am unhappy but the news did not come as a shock, says Gaikwad who is eagerly waiting for the Kolkata Test starting November 6 and the Mumbai match to be played from November 14 to 18.