Sachin Tendulkar walked out of the changing room and gestured to Sudhir Gautam to come up. Gautam is the thin man with the shaven head - for the past few weeks adorned with a replica of the World Cup - and body covered in the Indian tri-colour. For at least half a decade now, Gautam has been Tendulkar's biggest fan, waving the Indian flag and blowing his conch shell at every venue Tendulkar plays. Today, Tendulkar decided to repay Gautam for his devotion.
No sooner had he realised that Tendulkar was calling, than Gautam jumped the electronic advertising hoarding and skipped up the 30-odd stairs on to the corridor of the Indian changing room. All through his short journey he screamed in delight. Tendulkar shook hands with him, then embraced him and finally asked one of his team-mates to get the World Cup trophy. Zaheer Khan brought the cup outside with utmost care and held it tight. Gautam almost snatched it out of his hands but Zaheer held on. Eventually Zaheer let go and Gautam lifted the Cup with both hands, screaming "India". Tendulkar could not help but smile; he started clapping and was joined by a few of his team-mates. The sweat on Tendulkar's face glistened under the floodlights, enhancing his joy of winning the World Cup .
It was a day when the common man felt he was part of something special, when the gap between fan and superstar was bridged, with Gautam becoming the envy of fellow fans as he freely slipped in and out of the most sought after place in India, the team's dressing room.
It was also a time for private moments. Dhoni held his wife Sakshi close to him; Virender Sehwag hugged his wife Aarti and son Aryavir; Ashish Nehra's wife wore a replica of his team shirt as she moved in and out of the dressing room. Gary Kirsten's wife Deborah joined the rest later. Yuvraj Singh, returning from the media conference, started dancing as he entered the dressing room. On his way inside, he had let out a scream of jubilation.
The tempo in the dressing room had remained positive through the day and by the time MS Dhoni hit his spectacular six over long on against Nuwan Kulasekara, it had become a well of joy. As soon as Tendulkar found a private moment with his wife, Anjali, he embraced her tightly. It was a poignant moment. He knew how much she had sacrificed to support him in his endeavours. On the field, during the victory celebrations, he had hugged Yuvraj Singh, the man of the World Cup. Yuvraj had already declared he had dedicated the victory to Tendulkar. Virat Kohli had delivered the line of the evening when he said that for 21 years Tendulkar had shouldered the dreams of a billion Indians. Today youngsters such as Kohli and Suresh Raina carried Tendulkar over their shoulders during the lap of honour. Tears came easily to Tendulkar then.
On their way to the team bus, the players got a loud round of applause from hundreds of cops, who turned themselves into fans for a few minutes by taking pictures. Some looked in awe at Tendulkar, who sat in the front seat with his wife sitting next to him. Both their kids sat on their laps. Some of the security people played with Sehwag's son, tapping on the window shield. When Yuvraj walked into the team bus with the trophy in hand, all the administrators and cops let him know how much they enjoyed his performances during the tournament. Gautam blowed his conch shell marking the departure of the bus. The cops yelled "Bharat mata ki, jai (long live India)".
Unfortunately, there was no victory ride back to the team hotel unlike in 2007, when Dhoni had led India to victory in the World Twenty20. Also, disappointingly, the team hotel was out of bounds to the public. Barricades were put in place at all entry points leading up to the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in South Mumbai. The players had planned to celebrate the whole night and the Taj security did not want to take the chance of letting people inside.
It did not matter to the fans. Marine Drive, one of the city's most scenic spots, became party central. Fans celebrated by blowing horns, trumpets, whistling, screaming into megaphones, peeping out of open-air cars, sometimes even standing by holding on to the window doors, climbing atop water tankers while waving the flag and dancing. It was a complete carnival atmosphere and the traffic came to a standstill as fireworks lit up the sky for more than two hours. For the first two hours after the match ended, it was hard to find public transport. Even Dave Richardson, the ICC general manager, was forced to leave the Wankhede on foot, walking along with thousands of others
In the Trident hotel, there were many Indian fans, who had come from the UK and were enjoying their beer while chanting stuff like "Ala la la. Ala la la. Let's all do some bhangra." The hotel's coffee shop, normally pretty vacant, was full. The fans were not disappointed. They continued singing India's praises when they spotted Sourav Ganguly. "Sourav, Sourav" gave way to "Ganguly, Ganguly."
It was the Taj Mahal Palace and the Trident that were part of the terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008. Today, they wore a happy look, as did the people of Mumbai. Both were dressed to party; Saturday night fever had taken over.