Welcome to the biggest party in India; it's still on!
Gauri Ghadi joins the craziest celebrations at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai to bid farewell to the man who has given the city some of its happiest moments
At 9:15 am, 15 minutes, before the legend -- Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar -- walked onto the field, the 33000-capacity Wankhede stadium was bursting to the seams.
Sporting afros, donning tri-coloured pagadis and 'Sachin-is-God' tees, faces painted, the mood was set for the biggest bash in India!
Everyone was here to see that great Sachin show!
And when the cherub-faced little man stepped out, the crowd went delirious. Everyone was up on their feet and then the celebrations began. The next 80 minutes saw Sachin lovers go gaga over their 'God!'
The famous ‘Saaa-chin, Saa-china’ chant would not simply stop. In between came slogs, 'Mumbai kaa don kaun, Sachin, Sachin!' and 'Cricket cha devacha vijay aso!' (Hail the God of cricket)
The West Indies bowlers were booed, and it got even louder if they tried a bouncer on Sachin.
Every move by Sachin -- even a glance towards the stands -- had the crowd shrieking.
Every ball that hit the boundary had them doing a celebratory jig, followed by a rather creative chant taunting the Windies ‘Bagtos kay ragahane boundary marli waaghaney,’ they erupted. (Why you staring in anger, the tiger has hit a boundary).
Image: One of the many painted faces at the Wankhede
'For me Sachin is like god'
There is a maddening crowd, and there is this crowd that had come to watch Sachin play his farewell Test. They take it a notch higher and how.
So when Sachin got to the 50-run mark, to say that the cheer was deafening is an understatement. Many were up on their seats; boys were seen taking their tee shirts off and tossing them in the air and the 'naach gana' continued.
"For me Sachin is like god. It is great to watch him play. I have watched every game he has played at Wankhede," said an avid Sachin fan, Sandeep Gadekar, 26, from Parel.
He is crazy about Sachin, crazy enough to get a 'SRT' tattoo.
Sandeep added, "My name begins with an S, my wife is Rupali and I have named by daughter Trisha. Together we are SRT," he beamed.
So you can only image what happened to him when Sachin fell at 74.
"I had tears in my eyes," he said.
And he is not the only. Wankhede fell silent for a good 30 seconds. And then when Sachin began to walk towards the dressing room they applauded, they cheered and they showed how much they are in love with him.
Soon after, the crowds began to thin.
"I'm leaving. There's nothing more to see," said one among the many to walk away.
And then came another demand! ‘Declare, Dhoni, declare!’
Clearly, all they wanted is to see was Sachin; only Sachin!
Image: The banners at the stadium speak for the fans
'Cricket without Sachin is like a temple without God'
Ten-year-old Archit Meher from Shivaji Park said, "I'm so sad, this is his last game. I'm going to miss him so much."
Shyly, he added, "Cricket without Sachin is like a temple without God."
Showing enthusiasm that was difficult to miss even in a crowd of a thousand was 84-year-old Ranvir Khatau.
"At this age I can't sit for seven hours for five days. So I picked the day that I'd get to see the best.
"Sachin had a very relaxed innings; he was faultless. I am hoping he got a 100, but considering Bradman got a zero in his final game, Sachin was superb."
His 76-year-old friend who came from Pune for the ‘Sachin festival’ added, "What can I say? Even with the noise he wasn't perturbed. It's great. Even during lunch he was practising yesterday. That is his commitment."
'Whether Sachin scores or he doesn't, it matters little'
Amrut Kadam, 27, a sports management professional echoed what the Wankhede really wanted.
"A century was not needed. We just want Sachin's presence on the field. He scores, he doesn't it matters little."
Evident that was, for every time there was a replay of Sachin on the screen, the fans erupted. And then sighed, again, "Declare!"
Declare, Dhoni did not.
India played through the day. But, in a first, each time a wicket fell they cheered as that brought them closer to that moment when Sachin would be back on the grounds yet again.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar return to the pavilion after being dismissed for 74
'I'm hoping Dhoni gives him a chance to bowl'
A slightly embarrassed Rohini Mukerjee, 27, said, “With every wicket that India lost I was happier. I am here to see Sachin and only Sachin. I’m hoping Dhoni gives him a chance to bowl and I’m hoping West Indies get a few more runs. All this so that Sach can bat again. I will never have enough of him.”
I could not agree more.
So here we are waiting for more of Sachin at the Wankhede, where the biggest party in India will continue tomorrow.
Image: The crowd gives the Master a standing ovation as he walks back