Saturday, November 14, 2009

I don't even move when Sachin is batting: Anjali

TOI: How easy or difficult is it to be Mrs Sachin Tendulkar? How do you cope with the pressures?

ANJALI: For me, it's very easy because I've known Sachin for 19 years now. I understand him so well. So whether I am his girlfriend or his wife, it's the same thing, just an extension of that bond. I don't find it very difficult and I'm used to it. Maybe, it's also because I've not known any other person in my life except Sachin. Of course, there are many challenges and difficulties to being his wife but the whole family, including my children, has learnt to deal with it.

TOI: Any regrets at all on the home front?

ANJALI: The only regret, even though we've learnt to cope with it, is that he's not at home most of the time. I think even Sachin has realised this, now that the kids are growing up fast. Sara is 12 and Arjun is 10. We sometimes wonder where all the years have gone. Since he used to be away most of the time when they were growing up, now he tries to come home as much as possible. If a match gets over early, he'll come home, stay overnight and then leave again in the morning. Though he's trying his best to spend more time with the family, sometimes he's not at home for birthdays, special occasions or even for the kids' annual day at school. It matters a lot to the kids.

TOI: Is it true you can't bear to watch Sachin live, and only see the recordings?

ANJALI: I don't know where this came from. The fact is I watch every game, that too right from the start. Yes, I never go to the stadium but I watch it on TV. Actually, I have one particular spot in the house from where I can watch TV and also keep an eye on my Ganpati (Ganesha). I don't eat. I don't answer phones. I don't drink. I don't even move. I don't reply to any sms until he's out.

TOI: What is it about his batting that you admire the most?

ANJALI: I'm not a cricket connoisseur. I can't talk about particular shots. What I like about him is that no matter how tense he is, or how much pressure there is on him, when he goes out to bat you don't see any of it. I've often asked him how it's possible not to get distracted while playing in front of thousands of screaming people. I do have friends whose husbands are also in highly stressful jobs, but they are not being scrutinised by the whole world every minute. So the way Sachin deals with the burden of expectations and doesn't seem to get affected is what I admire the most.

TOI: Do you enjoy watching him bat? Is there any knock of his that you rate as the best, or is etched in your memory?

ANJALI: My problem is, unlike Sachin, who remembers each of his innings, each ball and how he got out, I don't. Because when I am watching him bat, I'm so stressed and so focused that I just want him to do well, I cannot enjoy or remember much. For example, his 175 at Hyderabad has come in for huge praise, but I cannot say I enjoyed it. I was stressed out. But yes, I do remember that his Sharjah centuries were special. Then again, it is faint memory. I had had my first baby then and my attention was divided.

TOI: Do you lose sleep when he does well and the team does not, or vice-versa?

ANJALI: It's much worse when he does well and the team doesn't. I know how much it affects him because, for him, the country always comes first. To me it doesn't matter whether he scores one run or 10 runs or even a 100. I'll still be happy because I know he's really trying hard. But I know how much it affects him when he does well and the team loses, like it happened in Hyderabad. It's very upsetting. It was a terrible feeling for me when I got up the next morning. In fact, it was devastating. Had he not done so well and had the team still won, it would've made us all feel much, much better.

TOI: Does Sachin ever talk about the game with you? Or does he just shut himself out of all things cricket when he is with his family?

ANJALI: I think what he liked about me was that I knew nothing about cricket when I first met him. But then, me being me, I read everything about the game. I came to know all the fielding positions but he doesn't like me discussing cricket at home. But at times when he is low or upset, I do talk to him about cricket. Again, it's not the game but things related to it that we discuss.

TOI: Have you ever grown tired of waiting for Sachin to return from a tour?

ANJALI: It's always been like that. These days, whenever he goes on a long tour, we usually try and plan a short holiday with the kids. Maybe during the school vacation or something. There's no other option for us.

TOI: Don't you regret the fact that Sachin's fame prevents him from being a normal father?

ANJALI: It's been like this from the beginning, so you accept it. It's part of life even for our children. They know their father cannot do certain things. So we take the trouble once every year and go somewhere where he can be a normal father. Like in London, he takes Arjun to the park to play. Even there people recognise him, but they don't mob him and give him his space.

TOI: Please go back in time to when you met Sachin for the first time...

ANJALI: (Laughs) We've not really told many people this. I first met him at the Mumbai airport when he returned from his first tour of England in 1990, after scoring his maiden Test ton. In fact, when I first saw him at the airport, I didn't even know who he was. It was purely by accident! I was there to pick up my mother and Sachin was arriving with the Indian team. That's where we saw each other for the first time... we had a courtship of five years and got married in 1995. We had got engaged a year before that in 1994 and that was in New Zealand.

TOI: Do you believe in destiny?

ANJALI: Yes, it is destiny and I believe in that.

TOI: Sachin has been known to go out in disguise sometimes. Did he ever use a disguise to meet you?

ANJALI: Yes he did, just once. We had gone to see the movie Roja. I was studying medicine then and a couple of my friends planned it. Sachin did try telling me that that it would be difficult, but I insisted that he come along. To make sure nobody recognised him, we even got him a beard. He wore specs as well and we went in late. We watched the first half of the film, but during the interval Sachin dropped his specs and people immediately recognised him! It was a bit of a disaster and we were forced to leave halfway.

TOI: You could have been a very successful doctor...

ANJALI: I loved medicine and a lot of people often ask me if I'm wasting my education. I don't think so. Though I loved every moment of my studying days and my days at the government hospital, it then came to a stage when I realised that I could not be married to Sachin and also have a full-time career. It wasn't possible because he depends on me for almost everything. It was my decision. I thought I should be at home with him and make everything perfect for him.

In his childhood, brother Ajit did everything for Sachin, sacrificing his own interests. I thought I should do the same. Besides, mine would not have been a 9 to 5 job. I'm a paediatrician, so if there's a patient calling me or someone admitted at odd hours, I have to make myself available. With Sachin not around and me with two kids at home, it wouldn't have been possible. I took a decision and I have never, ever regretted it.

TOI: How good is your Hindi?

ANJALI: (Smiles). Not as good as my English. But my Marathi is better as I converse with my mother-in-law in that language. Actually, my mother is English so we spoke the language at home, but I studied Hindi without tuitions till the tenth standard. At St. Xavier's in the XIth and XIIth class, I studied Russian. My children speak Hindi much better than both of us.

TOI: Have you ever dreamt of your son Arjun playing alongside Sachin?

ANJALI: Actually, I have thought about it but, realistically speaking, I don't think it's possible. If it ever happens it will be fantastic.

TOI: Are you aware there are emails being circulated with pictures of your new, under-construction shell house in Bandra? There are pictures of the interiors too...

ANJALI: Yes. They're all fake!

TOI: When will the house be ready for you to move in?

ANJALI: It will take one more year.

TOI: Can you tell us a bit about the new house? Will it look like a huge mansion or just a normal bungalow?

ANJALI: It will be a normal house. If you look at Mumbai and its space constraints, we are lucky to be having a nice home which will have everything Sachin wants. If he wants to go and play cricket with Arjun there is a garden, not a big one but there is one. There is a parking area for our cars down in the basement, room for Sachin's mother and the kids.

Sachin is very clear and sure about what he wants. A lot of things in the house are what he's always wanted. But we are in it together. Also, I'm the more scientific type, the more practical one. I'm only bothered about where the switches are going to be placed, where the TV connections are going to be, what the kitchen and bathroom layout is going to be. He's into the fancy and decorative side.

TOI: No swimming pool?

ANJALI: There is one lap pool on the terrace and a shallow one just for Sachin's fitness. A gymnasium will also be there.

TOI: Have you ever driven the Ferrari?

ANJALI: When Sachin got his Ferrari home I asked him to show me how to change its gears because they are near the steering and move with the fingers. To my surprise, he said, 'You don't need to drive my Ferrari.' In fact, I needed to know because at times we need to move it when he's not around. It actually happened once and we couldn't move it. I've been longing to drive his Ferrari.

TOI: Any idea which is Sachin's favourite Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar number?

ANJALI: There are so many, I can't name one. He always likes listening to them. Initially, I had no knowledge about Hindi movies and songs, it's only after marriage that I began watching movies and now I really enjoy Hindi songs.

TOI: Do you have a big circle of friends and do you socialise much?

ANJALI: No, we have a close set of friends. They are either Sachin's long-time friends or my friends from the medical field. We don't get much time to socialise but we do go out for family dinners whenever possible.

TOI: What comes first in Sachin's life? Cricket, wife or family?

ANJALI: I think it was cricket first but now things have changed, which I feel is a natural progression. So now, it is both cricket and family.

TOI: Have you and Sachin ever thought about what life is going to be like after cricket, or how long he intends to play?

ANJALI: People often tell us that we ought to start thinking about what he's going to do after cricket. But I feel that when you are playing, you need to focus 100%. You cannot even think of what you'll do after cricket. So I always tell Sachin not to think about it. I tell him, 'It doesn't matter, surely you'll find something to do, you have lots of interests.'

Also, maybe we can just take some time off and travel the world and then look ahead. I always insist that he should not worry about the future. At the same time, he will be at a total loss because his whole life has been cricket.

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