Thursday, November 12, 2009

I would like to honour Sachin with a 'Vishwa Ratna: Lata Mangeshkar

TOI: Like yourself, there seems to be no limit to Tendulkar's genius too. The entire country is celebrating his 20th year in international cricket. How do you look at this monumental achievement?

LATA: My heartiest congratulations to him. I have seen Sachin right from the time he made his debut as a sixteen-year-old. Since then, he has gone on to climb dizzy heights, he's got married, raised a family, and somehow remained the same humble man throughout. It's really amazing to know he has been around for 20 years. I greet him and his family. May God bless him and may he go on for another 40 years!

TOI:You have been an ardent admirer of the game, from Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin. What do you like about Tendulkar when he graces the crease?

LATA: Like Sunil Gavaskar, there's a comforting thought that Sachin will hold the fort, that Team India is safe. Though each stroke is a stroke of genius, I have a distinct liking for his straight drive. I also admire the way he looks up to the heavens every time he completes a half-century or century. It means he is thanking God for blessing him, and that's a great thing. Who can forget the 1999 World Cup, when he played on even though his father passed away midway through the tournament? Sachin took a break to attend the funeral and returned quickly to score a century, then looked up to the skies to seek his father's blessings. It was a very touching and emotional moment for every Indian. The poignancy of that moment has stayed in the minds of all who watched that knock. I am no exception.

TOI: If you were asked to play favourites between Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin, who would you pick?

LATA: To be honest, it's difficult to pick one. They played in different eras and both brought laurels to the country. Sunil had his own distinct style while Sachin is in a class of his own. Both are legends in their own right. Having said that, I think Sunil retired a bit early. And what else can I say about Sachin? The fact that Don Bradman, the greatest batsman ever, was reminded of himself while watching Sachin bat is the best tribute he can ever get.

TOI: Talk us through your first meeting with Tendulkar...

LATA: Although I don't remember the first time, I remember having met him once at Raj Thackeray's residence. That was on his birthday, on the 24th of April, which incidentally is also my father's death anniversary. I got a call from Raj requesting me to come over to meet Sachin. Since it was his birthday, I asked Raj what gift I could get for the young batsman. I remember we all sat outside, chatting. I presented Sachin with an idol of Sai Baba. As I did that, Sachin touched my feet and said, 'you are like my mother'. Usne mujhe maa ka darja diya. I was really moved.

TOI: He is passionate about your singing, and that of Kishore Kumar's..

LATA: I know he likes to hear my songs and I feel humbled. He has also been to a couple of my concerts. But he never came up to me to say, 'I am here.' That's his greatness. In fact, I didn't notice him the first time he was there to watch me sing. The next time he came with his wife. I think it was in Mumbai or Pune. My brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar informed me that Sachin was in the audience. Then I noticed him and said 'namaste' from the stage.

What I really like about Sachin is that despite being a great player, he is so humble and down to earth. I know he has broken so many records, done the country proud and won so many awards. For doing all that and still conducting himself respectfully all along, I think, he deserves a Bharat Ratna. Why just a Bharat Ratna, I would like to honour Sachin with a 'Vishwa Ratna'!

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