For most of them, Sachin Tendulkar remains the boy-next-door. Only that they lead different lives. They are members of Sachin Tendulkar's first playing eleven who got together every evening in the serene settings of Sahitya Sahwas — also known as the abode of Maharashtra's famous literature — to put bat to ball much before he became a cult figure. The boys, who obviously are among his biggest admirers, remember him as much for his cricketing feats as they do for his childhood antics. "He loved to pick up a fight," says Sunil Harshe, Sachin's senior in school.
"Every time I introduced him to somebody in school, his first reaction was, will I be able to beat him? Invariably, if one entered the class during the recess, he would be fighting."
He also had a weakness for spinning yarns, remembers another friend Satyajit Anekar. "Once when he had cut his finger he said it was because he tried to touch a helicopter that had flown over his terrace, which had emerged between two adjacent buildings. And he went on to tell us how he had bled buckets!"
Harshe says he was equally good at tennis and was a big fan of John McEnroe. "We started off playing without rackets. I still remember how happy we were when we brought our first racquets. In fact, there was a time when I believed he would turn out to be a good tennis player. But look what he has turned out to be," muses Harshe, who incidentally was the first captain Sachin played under during the inter-colony soft-ball matches. Academics was never his cup of tea. He loved the outdoors so much his maid Laxmibai had to run around to feed him. But Little Sachin never forgot to share his meals with the colony watchman's son, Ramesh Pardhe, who was a regular companion.
Pardhe distinctly remembers Sachins cricketing acumen. "We used to often play on the terrace. One day I saw him carry a bucket of water to the terrace. He asked me to dip the rubber ball in water and then hurl the ball at him. He would then see the marks the wet ball made on the bat and know whether he had middled the ball correctly"
Another fascination for Sachin were band-aids. Any semblance of a wound would make him rush for the band-aid strip, says Pardhe. He was an expert at sticking it with one hand.
The cricketing turnaround happened soon. Everything started to change once he joined Shardashram High School. Once he began representing Shardashram he had this immense self-belief that he could make it in cricket, says Anekar.
Much has changed since, but Sachhu continues to be the same for the entire neighbourhood, even though he no longer lives there.