When I was twelve years old, I fell in love with a sixteen year old boy. I first saw the picture of that curly haired boy in the sports section of a children’s magazine called “Shuktara.” It was love at first sight. Adolescence was in full bloom. Fluctuating hormones made the love intense and I started spending sleepless nights thinking about that boy. I went to the nearby stationary shop and bought a colourful scrapbook, my mom thought I bought it to make my biology herbarium sheet whereas I used it to stick pictures of that boy after cutting it from newspaper and magazine articles. Soon posters of Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were replaced by poster of my new love whose name was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
I declared my undying love to my classmates and soon there was trouble in paradise as few other competitors erupted in no time. All of them claimed to be in love with Sachin. However I was adamant not to share Sachin with anybody. He was mine and only mine. Sachin became the centre of dispute and soon I was not in talking terms with couple of other “Sachin lovers” in school.
So far my love had no idea about me. Precisely when I was thinking of writing a ‘love letter’, a golden opportunity knocked. My cousin came and gave me a ticket for a one day match in Eden Gardens. She had five tickets for the match. It was decided that my uncle, aunty, my two cousins and I will go for the match. On the previous night of the match I couldn’t sleep out of sheer excitement. Early in the morning we woke up. I wore my best dress and secretly put some lipstick (In our house girls below eighteen were not allowed any make up even in weddings or festivals) however I committed that sin as I had to look pretty that day.
Eden Gardens was brimming with excitement. The match was against Sri Lanka. We stood in the queue to enter for about an hour and then settled in our seats. My heart was beating fast. The two captains came and tossed the coin. India selected to field first. All the players started entering the field and I could see my heartthrob from a distance. The butterflies inside my stomach were now somersaulting. Sachin took his fielding position. Oh My God!! My stars must have been in a lucky position that day as he stood just below my gallery. I had a prominent view of him.
I had no clue about the match as I was only looking at him. My eyes were fixed with a gluestick on him. Once in a while he was turning around to look at the spectators. He often was waving his hands at the audience. My cousin nudged me and said “I think he is waving at you.” The naive innocent girl that I was then, actually believed it. When he smiled at the gallery my cousin excitedly said “Look! Look! He is smiling at you.” I was smitten. Romantic music started playing in my head and I started dancing wearing a chiffon saree in the Swiss Alps while Sachin was wearing a woollen sweater and gyrating to Saroj Khan’s choreography. We grew up in the 90s when love happened only Yash Chopra way. There was no other way.
During the break time, I lost my appetite out of excitement. I was just waiting for the match to start. I was just waiting for Sachin to start batting. When he came on the crease I fixed my eyes on him. He started hitting fours and sixers. Most of his shots were landing below my gallery. My cousin again poked me that he was playing exceptionally well today only to impress me. She told me that he must have seen me sitting in the gallery. When our eyes met he must have fallen head over heels for me. Thus all his bravado was only to impress me. I naively believed it as the truth. After the match ended we left for home. On my way back I was only thinking of him.
Next morning when I woke up I found a card underneath my pillow that read “I loved your smile, keep smiling forever, love, yours forever, Sachin.” I jumped with excitement and went to show it to my cousin. She gave a naughty smile and hugged me tight. Many years later I figured out that the letter was written and signed by my cousin. It was her attempt to see a smile on my face.