Ms Meenatai Naik, the interviewer, recalls her memories with the family:
It was a great pleasure meeting Rajanitai after ages. I remember the first time I saw Sachin when he came from the hospital, about 8 days old, directly to Sahitya Sahawas. Before that, the Tendulkars were living in Dadar. So when Rajanitai and Sir (Ramesh Tendulkar, Sachin’s father) came to Sahitya Sahawas they forgot the keys at Dadar and Rajanitai was waiting in the corridor holding the baby in her arms. We were staying next to Tendulkars. I heard some noise in the corridor and saw Rajanitai lingering in the corridor. I called them into my house, held Sachin in my lap. Sir then got the keys from Dadar after some time. Till then Rajanitai and the baby were with us. So Sachin entered our house first before his own. Sir always used to remember this incident. In fact today also our chat began with this sweet memory. When Sachin was 4 or 5 years old, he would hold children older than him. He was a very healthy, chubby and strong boy. Rajanitai had allowed his curly hair to grow for a long time. Once I asked Sachin who he was with this long hair. He answered, ‘I am Sardarjee’s son’. (Me Sardarjicha por ahe.) Sachin was about 15 or 16 years old when we had already returned to our Kalanagar house. There was a Kalavihar club only for the Kalanagar’s kids. But Sachin used to come to Kalavihar club to play carom or chess or sometimes table tennis. In 1998, I had produced one children’s play in which we required one cricket bat. Children’s theatre always runs on shoestring budgets. So I asked Sachin to give his old bat. The next day Sir came with three bats saying that Sachin had signed these bats, I could pick anyone. We took one appropriate for our play and returned the two. That bat is still with us in a showcase. The sweet memory of Bharat Ratna Sachin.
Interview by Ms Meenatai Naik
Q. When were you in LIC? In which branch?
Reply:- I was in the Foreign Department in our Santacruz Branch. I served right up to my retirement. I had difficulty in walking for three years during 1992, 1993 and 1994. I was on leave during this period. Shri V. W. Patki had offered to transfer me to Yogakshema. I said no. It was possible to reach Santacruz by rickshaw. But I would do that only if I was late.
Q. Are your colleagues still in touch with you?
Reply:- Of course, they come to meet me. I cannot go out and they know that. So instead they come to meet me. When I was working with LIC, Sachin would often say: ‘Ayee, leave your job.’ He did not like me working. But our doctor convinced him. He said, ‘How would you like your mother to be? Would you like her to be bed-ridden at home or limping to work? Does your mother go out otherwise? No. Is it not better that she goes to the office?’ Sachin said, ‘Ayee should keep a cook at least.’ The doctor said,‘ Is it not better that she kneads flour at home. Sachin was convinced.
Q. Did you ever take Sachin to your LIC office?
Reply:- Many times. On Saturdays, his nanny would visit her son. So where could I leave Sachin? I would then take him to my office. He would play there. Runabout. Then he started playing Test matches. He started breaking and making records. My retirement became due. Then my colleagues insisted that I should bring him to the office once. They wanted to meet him. They had seen him as a child. I asked Sachin, ‘Will you come to my office one day?’ So, on my last day, Sachin and Anjali came to my office. They said this should not be publicized. But, I don’t know how the peon saw Sachin’s car and everyone – LIC employees from the adjoining buildings, employees from the nearby telephone exchange, residents from LIC quarters – gathered. Photographs were taken. It was all chaos.
Q. When did you first realize Sachin’s talents?
Reply:- Sachin was very naughty as a child. He would forever be playing in Sahitya Sahawas. There was a mango tree in the compound. All children, including Sachin, would pluck raw mangoes. Sachin would climb the tree and the other children would stand below to catch the mangoes. One day when Sachin had climbed the tree the watchman came and started shouting. All the children ran away. Sachin was on the tree. As the watchman turned his back, Sachin jumped down. Priyolkar Ajji was watching all this from the opposite balcony and she told me saying, ‘Take care of this boy.’ That night we were all worried. We wondered what to do with such a child. All the family members discussed this and Ajit said, Sachin plays good cricket, his cricketing talent should not go waste in the four walls of the compound ‘Let us send him to play cricket’ I said, ‘All boys handle a bat and ball and girls handle dolls. I don’t think this boy has any special liking for cricket.’ Ajit said, ‘No, he really plays very well.’ So I said OK. At least the two summer months would be peaceful. And Ajit then started taking him for cricket training and practice. Then Ramakant Achrekar, Sachin’s coach and teacher, realized Sachin’s talents and made him change his school. Sachin’s training began as a child.
Q. Did you have any special dreams in those days? Did you want Sachin to be a professor like his father?
Reply:- Every mother feels that her child should reach the top in any field that he chooses. I too felt that way.
Q. Now Sachin has got the highest Indian award of Bharat Ratna. Did you ever feel that he would get this award?
Reply:- Last year, Lata Mangeshkar had said that Sachin should get the Bharat Ratna. Hopes kindled in my heart then. This year in an interview on some channel she said it again. Later, the award was announced. I was very happy.
Q. Sachin has immense respect for you. He has dedicated his award to you. Tell us about any incident which shows his respect for you.
Reply:- Sachin was in the first or second class and there was a parents’ meeting in school. I went. A girl in his class, Shefali, commented on me saying, ‘Sachin’s mother looks so funny. Then the next day I got a message from the school calling me to meet the teacher. I went and the teacher complained saying, ‘Sachin hit Shefali in the chest and Shefali was crying.’ Shefali’s mother had also come to school with her. I said I will find out, ask Sachin. I asked him. Sachin told me what Shefali had said about how I looked. And he said that is why he had hit her. Shefali wouldn’t say a word. She kept quiet. I told the teacher that I did not mind what Shefali said about how I looked. But Sachin got very angry. And he hit her. Then we convinced both of them. That is how Sachin was as a child. After many years when both had grown up, Shefali stopped Sachin on the stairs once and asked him whether he recognized her saying that he had once hit her in the chest. Sachin said ‘No’, and Shefali, in turn, told him the entire story. Both laughed. By the way, Shefali is the daughter of the famous journalist and novelist, Arun Sadhu. Now Shefali is also well placed, working for ABP Maza.
Q. Sachin is very considerate, mature in thought. How did you train him to be so? No one ever criticizes him for his behaviour. His success has not gone to his head. How is it so?
Reply:- No mother knows what her child is going to be when he grows up. She behaves in the same manner with all her children. Sachin also grew up in the same way as his siblings. And he loves his entire family. Sachin changed his school and went to Sharadashram Vidya Mandir at Dadar. He had to change buses. But he was prepared for that. Sachin’s uncle lives at Dadar. As changing buses started becoming difficult his uncle invited Sachin to live with him at Dadar. Sachin agreed. But he had a proviso. He wanted all of us to visit him every day. So Nitin, Savita, and Ajit would go to meet him after college. His father taught in Kirti College and so he too could go every day. My office was at Santacruz, I had to go back to Dadar. But I would go daily. Sachin still goes to meet his uncle and aunt. He demands that his aunt should make his favourite dishes for him. Sachin loves all his siblings. He would sleep between Nitin and Savita when he was small.
Q. I remember that Prof. Tendulkar’s friends and his family had stayed with you for a year. So there were two families staying in your flat for a year.
Reply:- Yes, A friend was told that his flat would get ready by May in Sahitya Sahawas. So he changed the schools of his children. The school of two girls was in the morning and of two in the afternoon. So the friend’s wife would be out with her daughters for the whole day and return home at Goregaon late every evening. The girls would be sitting on the steps for the whole day until the other girls had finished their classes. Sachin’s father realized that one day. He told me, ‘See, these girls sit on the steps for the whole day. Their home is far away from the railway station. Their new house is getting ready. Shall we call them to stay with us till then?’ I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Ten men can happily live in a 10’ x 12’ room. But two women cannot live in one house.’ I said, ‘Call them and watch.’ Then one day the friend, his wife and the four daughters came home to live with us. I told the friend’s wife on the very first day: ‘Look when our children quarrel with each other we shall not quarrel. They shall quarrel and make up. We should ignore that.’ She conformed and so did I. Her four and our four children would all sleep on the floor in the drawing-room. The family was with us for almost one year. Then their flat got ready and they went to live there. The children had become such good friends that they felt very bad at the parting. Sachin grew up in such circumstances. All this had its effect on him.
Q. Sachin’s nanny, Laxmibai, was with you for 10-12 years. Sachin loved her.
Reply:- Oh! Yes! when Sachin grew up, she started working elsewhere. She would come to see Sachin. The women of Sahitya Sahawas would tell me, ‘Sachin gives her thousand rupees. Advise him.’ I would say, ‘He earns. He wants to give money. So let him. Why should I stop him? She has done a lot for Sachin.’
Q. Is Sachin very devout?
Reply:- I will tell you a story. I was operated upon on the abdomen. I was getting admitted into the hospital and was going up in the lift. There was a photograph of Sai Baba in the lift. I casually said, ‘If I survive the operation I shall visit to you.’ I came out of the lift and there was a Ganapati picture there. I said the same thing again. Then I was operated upon. The next day early morning Sachin went to Siddhi Vinayak temple. He also visited a Sai Baba temple nearby. He had once taken me to Shirdi in a helicopter.
Q. You did not watch a single match during Sachin’s entire career. Then you saw the 200th test match. The crowd was huge. What did you feel then?
Reply:- I had never been to any match. I used to be very tense. We used to watch it on television. This time Sachin said, ‘Ayee, you must come this time. I have asked them to have this match in Mumbai for you. What will they feel if you don’t come?’ This time I had a physical problem. I cannot climb steps. Then Sachin got a ramp made especially for me. But because of the huge crowd which was expected, Sachin also got a wheelchair for me. I remember another incident. That was in the early days. It was the 4th test match. It was in Pakistan. He was hit on the nose, and he fell down. I was very scared. He was very young then. But his colleagues reassured us. They said that Sachin got up in two minutes and wanted to play. And he played quite well.
Q. The mother retires, the father retires. Now Sachin is retiring at a young age. What do you feel? Do you feel worried? How would he spend his time now? How do you feel?
Reply:- Now he is touring. He went to Delhi, then Kolkata. I asked him to visit our family deity. So he went to Goa. He is travelling.
Q. Anjali, Sachin’s wife. How do you get along with her?
Reply:- Anjali comes from an educated, noted family. She is the only child. But she is modest, good-natured and devout. She takes very good care of all of us, also her parents. She does a lot for her children as well.
Q. Tell us something about Sara and Arjun, your grandchildren.
Reply:- Sara is very quiet and well behaved. Arjun is always active. When they were small and Sachin and Anjali would be out, Sara would take care of Arjun, reassure him. When she was in the 10th class she would be always studying. My cousin would ask her, ‘Why do you study so much?’ She would say, ‘Everyone knows my father. If I get bad marks everyone would comment. What would they say to Mamma? Shouldn’t I get good marks?’ Arjun is very lovable. He loves people. When he was young, his friends would come home to play. He would not allow them to come near my room. He would say, ‘This is Ajji’s room. Do not play here.’ Then his friends would say, ‘So what? Even we have grandmothers. Arjun would say, ‘But my Ajji is different. Her legs ache. If she is pushed she will fall. Her bones will break. So let us not play here.
Q. Do you feel that Arjun will also make a notable cricket career?
Reply:- He loves the game now. I don’t know what will happen later.
Q. These are the children of the world-conquering cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. There has been a halo around them from birth. Yet they are as well balanced as Sachin. What have you done to nurture them?
Reply:- One should do this when they are young. I used to tell Arjun that he should share his meals with his friends in school. Mix with everyone. Others will then do the same with him. Anjali’s mother also works for poor children. She goes to slums also. Our children see that.
Q. I remember that you left Sahitya Sahawas and went to live in Le Mer. But Sara and Arjun would still come here to play. I think the idea was that they should grow with normal children, that they should not get ideas.
Reply:- Yes, they would love to play in Sahitya Sahawas. So Anjali would send them there.
Q. I have heard that you cook very well. What does Sachin like?
Reply:- Sachin likes non-vegetarian food. He likes my dishes. Arjun and Sara also like our kind of food. Sara likes fish. Sara and Arjun were visiting Anjali’s uncle in London when they were young. Anjali’s aunt is British. She made food very quickly from tins. Sara said that ‘Ajji does not do this. She uses coconut, onions.’ Sachin felt awkward. But Anjali managed to save the situation. Children are so innocent.
Q. Did the top dignitaries of LIC come to meet you after learning about Sachin’s Bharat Ratna?
Reply:- Yes, Sachin was at home that day. They said to him, ‘Sachin, your mother was in LIC with us. LIC is a family. You are also a part of our family.’ Then they got themselves photographed with Sachin. I was very happy.
Q. What would you say to working women?
Reply:- Sachin’s father would say that women should go out and work. Do not confine your self to your home. Expand your horizons. I worked until my retirement. So I feel, even if you have a job, you should keep some time aside for your children. You owe that to them.
(This interview was first published in March 2014).