You know, we almost named you after him. Your mom scoffed at my other recommendations, Gatsby and Anakin, but Sachin was a name that made her eyes twinkle.
He's the one I make you watch YouTube highlights of on my laptop instead of reading you Brian the Smelly Bear. And he's the one I'm trying to distract you with on my phone while attempting to feed you. Yes, I feel like a terrible parent and an old geezer waxing nostalgic, but Sachin is that one transcendent figure who has captured my imagination more than anyone else. He's also someone I've never seen play in person, so the fact that he's coming here to play, even if just an exhibition, is mind-boggling.
My love of cricket started a bit late in life and it wasn't until I was 24 that I really fell hard for the sport. It happened around the same time that your mom and I got married. Now, your mom isn't a big sports fan, but she is a Mumbai-raised ladki who grew up with Sachin stories like they were lessons from the Bhagvad Gita. She told me about his precocious start and how when she was a young girl she would walk with your grandfather to Bhuleshwar, where there were posters of him in every stall and shop. He belongs to us, she would say. His hard work, dedication and drive were traits she aspired to have.
And then, India played Pakistan a few days after our wedding. It was my first Test match, and when I saw Sachin score a majestic 94, I was thunderstruck by his mastery. It was utterly sublime. Sachin Tendulkar became a wedding guest by proxy, though he was not actually there. And ten-plus years later, I don't think he has ever left.
Your grandpa was born in Gujarat, your dad in New Jersey, and you in California. Seems the further west we Shah boys go, the stronger we cling to our roots. You will be brainwashed into being a New York Mets, Knicks, Jets and Rangers and Florida Gators fan, but you will be equally indoctrinated with tall tales of Tendulkar.
"There's bit of Beatlemania with all these legends arriving on our shores, even if they are a bit grayer than they used to be and past their playing prime"
Yes, you'll hear me bloviate all the standard clichés to do with the man: how he carried the dreams of a billion people on his 5'5" shoulders, how he epitomised dominance on the field and off it, and how he was the God of cricket. And yes, it's all true, except I never saw it in the flesh.
I've watched professional cricket matches live. I watched the IPL at Eden Gardens and Wankhede Stadium, and even saw Virender Sehwag in exile, yet seeing Sachin wasn't part of this experience. I had to content myself with watching him, usually late at night, on streaming websites that I'd have to repeatedly refresh, or on a screen at a Bollywood cinema in Artesia. One of the greatest thrills in my life came in that theatre, where I witnessed India's 2011 World Cup triumph, with your mom and hundreds of other fans, and rejoiced as we watched Sachin being carried around the stadium in triumph. That still makes me tingle.
Now the Cricket All-Stars are here. They're cricket's Dream Team. Seeing Sachin and Shane Warne at the World Series in Citi Field was a bit surreal, in that they could seamlessly blend in without anyone recognising them. Imagine Michael Jordan in Mumbai at a cricket match and no one knowing who he was.
Anyway, there's bit of Beatlemania with all these legends arriving on our shores, even if they are a bit grayer than they used to be and past their playing prime. But David Beckham did the same thing a few years ago, coming over to the US, and I have a feeling we'll embrace these guys just the same.
So, Rohan, hopefully, one day you will look back and remember that Sachin came to Hollywood and helped spark the game here in the United States. Maybe it will be a story you tell your kid with a twinkle in your eye.
PS: We might have picked your name because of a Lord of the Rings reference or the fact that Sachin's nephew is named Rohan too. You'll never know!