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Cops had to stand guard outside his 12th-grade exams. Despite the attention, he's remained dignified. There are no porn stars. He grants few audiences. He is the man Indians count on when things are at their worst. Sachin anchored the match, his performance rising to meet the stakes of the day, scoring more than runs without getting out, which would be like dropping 50 in the NBA Finals.
A century, it's called. His success, which he dedicated to those suffering in his hometown, added to his legend.
Over coffee one evening, his current agent asked me, essentially, if Derek Jeter had a Secret Service detail. He was completely serious. I laughed out loud. No, I told him. Everywhere Sachin goes, the government of India protects him. He's a national treasure. Now his career is nearing its end, and fans are left with beautiful memories, to be sure, but also questions. What does Sachin's retirement mean for cricket?
What does it mean for India? Elephant in the slow lane The highway runs past ancient ruins, and the lights of the cricket ground. Today, I'm going to play cricket with little Sachin and his friends. I've brought a surprise for him. It's a Sachin Tendulkar signature series cricket bat made from pure English willow. It'll be his first proper bat, and when Deepchand told him about it last night, Sachin had trouble going to sleep.
We ride out toward the suburban slums. I'm twisting around to see the wrecked castle when Deepchand shouts, "You see elephant? There's an elephant in the slow lane. Cars whip past and the elephant just lumbers, oblivious, carrying people patiently to their destination. There's a freaking elephant in the slow lane. Like America in the '50s There are elephants on the highway. There are elephant-sized metaphors shuffling alongside. This is a nation with a foot in both the past and present.
India is at an end and a beginning. Over drinks in Delhi with my friends Candace and Lydia, we talk about this. Lydia is a correspondent for The New York Times and one of the world's experts on developing nations. Talking journalism with her is like talking cricket with Sachin. She cautions me to avoid trying to figure out what India is, or what it isn't, or to draw conclusions.
I'm not sure what any of this means, or how cricket or Sachin fits into it, or even if he'll actually retire, but this is a critical time for the nation, just as it's a critical time for cricket.
Their ambitions and threats are the same. Anyone who's here for even a few days can tell that. India today seems a lot like America in the mids. Getty Images White uniforms, long matches, breaks for high tea. Test Cricket is the original and most formal version of the game. True fans like it best. This photo is from a match during the s featuring India and England in storied Lord's Cricket Ground.
This is largely a pre-ironic society. Yes, there is a rich history of satire, and modern exceptions -- the '50s also produced Jack Kerouac -- but the earnestness with which people love Sachin is reflected in many aspects of the culture.
There's no place, yet, for an Indian "Daily Show. They are for the slow lane. Movies are expected to end a certain way. Heroes in those movies are expected to behave a certain way. In his definitive book on Mumbai, "Maximum City," author Suketu Mehta describes an Indian audience's reaction when the hero of a film turned out to be a terrorist. They ransacked the theater.
It does not seem strange to an Indian filmgoer that the songs in the movies have nothing to do with the plot. Disbelief is easy to suspend in a land where belief is so rampant and vigorous. They still believe in motherhood, patriotism, and true love; Hollywood and the West have moved on. The Indian Premier League, which plays over cricket, started three years ago. Money is changing the sport.
The change is seen by most as good. Any achievement by an Indian is good, something to be admired in the light. For many Indians, especially those who speak English and are trying to navigate the brave new world of economic revolution, the issue of identity is an important one.
Excellence is tied up in that search. Indian writers are judged by the size of the advance, not the magic of their words.
Indian artists are judged by the price fetched at auction, not the feelings they create in someone who stands before their canvas. Open the paper any random day to find an example. When famous Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai met Dustin Hoffman at a Lakers game, the tabloids report, she talked to him about "new market-tapping agendas and global trends.
Not his construction of Benjamin Braddock or Ted Kramer. They didn't talk craft. Over drinks, Lydia tells me one I hadn't seen. Indians are obsessed with the Guinness World Records book. India still believes in the simple beauty of success. Irony and cynicism come next. I think that's something that takes time. One of them yells, "Wickets! Our field is the only greenish space in the neighborhood, dirt, really, strewn with bits of trash.
The kids introduce themselves. He's quiet, with a wide smile and a laugh that comes out a chortle, rushed, almost as if it's surprised him.
Another one, the most confident, tells me his name is Sunny. That's Sunil Gavaskar's nickname. The brashest kid, the cockiest, is named Deepak. I pull out the bat. A neighborhood kid winds up and bowls to me.
The first few, I deflect. Then I get into one, a full baseball-style turn, and wallop it over the crumbling brick fence at the end of the field. When I pop out, Sachin bats next. He crushes a high-arcing drive that lands in the trash-strewn woods. The kids hunt in the mud for the ball. The day fills with laughter.
The old women sitting in the shade of a tree watch the game. Deepchand and Sachin are playing cricket for the first time together in Delhi. They are happy, tossing the ball, dad bowling and son batting. The cab driver seems suddenly lighter. He throws back his head and laughs. The boys fight over who'll bat next.
They race back to the wicket. They want me to bowl. The first time, instead of windmilling with my arm locked, I throw it like a baseball.
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I wind up and clean bowl Deepchand. I've gotten him out. The kids give me high-fives. The game is no longer tedious. It's alive, inside me, in these children, even in the women grinning at us from beneath the tree.
I look down at the end of the field and catch Sachin staring at his new Sachin signature bat, showing it off to his friends. The kids decide we should play a game -- five overs, two teams of four. Sachin and I go first. One player stands at each edge of the makeshift wicket. To score a run, each runner has to make it safely to the other end.
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The farther the hit, the more times we can complete the circuit. I put my notebook down. The sky is blue. The sun pans across my face, warming the afternoon. The boys are happy. I am happy, too, playing with the neighborhood kids, although when I am bowled, when I'm out, I feel like I've let a year-old down. Cricket, like most team sports, is a personal game but also one of intense connection. It is both individual and communal.
I'm left to watch. Sachin crushes it, six after six. Sunny kills it, too, spraying the ball around the makeshift field, over the fence. We finish with 49 runs. The next team scores fast, too. Deepak is a beast. He hits a booming six, and when the ball is finally found, he hits another. He hits a third one, high into the air, which will come down in the trees and in the trash, a ball that will never be found, ending our match in a draw.
He watches it sail into the Delhi sky, and he poses. Where pure aggression comes from I am Sehwag. As Sachin grew up watching Sunil, Sehwag grew up watching Sachin. He saw Sachin's aggressive stance. He took what he saw, internalized it and spat out something new, something dangerous, even. There's a reason some old-school fans find him vulgar, and Deepak screams his name. Where does something like that come from?
Getty Images Sachin, top, and Sehwag provide a lethal one-two punch at the top of India's lineup. Sehwag grew up idolizing Sachin, although their games aren't the same.
We leave Deepchand's house and drive toward the airport, past the endless storefronts featuring posters of bodybuilders. Out on the edges of Delhi, huge apartment buildings stretch to the horizon. Ugly concrete boxes, row after row of them. If Bruce Springsteen were from India, he'd sing about these streets. There are things being built here. There are things being torn down. A shepherd drives a flock of sheep down the road, turning them into a weedy lot, the proposed site of a cultural center.
He wears a red turban, carries a staff. Sehwag grew up in these badlands. He saw Sachin through the prism of the gritty world around him, looking past the grace to the power.
Before Sehwag, Indian opening batsmen were supposed to take the shine off the ball. That's the cricket phrase. Take the shine off. Wear down the bowler. Sehwag would take the shine off by going for fours and sixes. He got a reputation for dogging it on singles. And if Sachin gave birth to Sehwag, then a whole group of younger sluggers have taken it a step further.
At least Sehwag still plays Test cricket. Some newer stars don't. The Indian team is a blunt object, 15 men created not in the image of Tendulkar, exactly, but in the image of the new India that he both inspired and represented.
Sachin carried the team alone in the '90s, but in the past decade a generation of hyperaggressive Indian stars came of age. Former captain Sourav Ganguly ripped off his shirt and twirled it above his head on the balcony of the uptight Lord's Cricket Ground in London.
They are celebrities now. They frighten opposing bowlers. They themselves are not afraid. Two years ago, the team changed its jerseys from powder blue to a deeper color. It seemed less meek. We've been fed over for thousands of years. Everyone has conquered us. Now we're finding our voice. We're the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are going to buy your companies.
Our cricket team is like going to fing abuse you back, and we're going to win and we're going to shout in your face after we win. Shop workers give us directions. Everyone knows The Butcher. In the midst of this urban blight, there is a single planted field. This all used to be farmland. Now there are big piles of sand, the dust of something old waiting to become something new. White smoke rises from burning trash. Mechanics fixing motorcycles on the sidewalk tell us to take a right at the feeble old tree past the shrine to the monkey god.
This is Sehwag's street. When his father died, the neighbors tell us, he moved his mother to a nice place in central Delhi. Other family members live in the house now. The home is down an alley, where Sehwag used to pound cricket balls. The house has a big black gate and a bamboo fence to offer privacy for the patio. There's an orange lantern and a rooftop terrace. It's the middle-class home that Deepchand dreams of for his family.
This is the home of a grain merchant who moved to the city from a village, wanting to build a new life. Sachin is the son of a poet.Can This GM Cricket Bat Be Repaired?
Sehwag is the son of man who sold wheat and rice. The last of a dying breed? We're crowded around an upstairs table somewhere deep inside the alleyed maze of Old Delhi.
It could be Augusta, Ga. They've brought our food but not our bread. Bhattacharya hits the running joke. In the golden age of cricket, the dal wouldn't be bland. In the golden age of cricket, there wouldn't be so much grease in the mutton.
It's never far away. Any conversation about cricket quickly arrives here: Are the changes designed to help cricket exist in a modern world actually killing the game? They tell a story of Sunil Gavaskar crushing a six in a long-ago Test match and stepping back to curse himself.
He knew he needed to calm down, to play for the long haul, not just one six-and-out. Adrenaline and aggression are enemies of Test success. Now some of the artistry has been bred out. The new formats have given birth to dramatic changes in strategy and in the skill set required.
For football fans, imagine if a television network asked the NFL to shorten a few games a year to 15 minutes. Then imagine if, because of the success, it seemed inevitable that soon all football games would last 15 minutes. Now imagine if everyone who played football lost the ability to play the longer game. We all live in fear of Test cricket perishing at the hands of Twenty It's something we all worry about.
We don't actually know. A delicate sort of question The next afternoon, we are all at the game.
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Bhattacharya sits next to me. His first book, a cricket travelogue called "Pundits from Pakistan," has been my faithful companion on this journey. He has a big day tomorrow. People magazine just called. It needs to take his picture at 8 a. He has a face made for a photographer, in that writerly way, delicate, almost pretty, except for the crooked nose that hints at a stormy past. He's arrogant as hell, but in the same way I am, so we get along great.
I'm learning the rules. I feel more at home every day. The stadium is like any American stadium: The fans sit quietly until a JumboTron camera finds them, then they go nuts.
But there's something missing. The stands are half-empty. These are two great teams, elite sides, evenly matched, on a beautiful Delhi day, in a city of 14 million people, and most seats are empty. They'll stay that way. It's not just Delhi. When India's not playing, the stadiums are pretty dead. That game has explained itself, all right: Indians aren't as cricket-mad as I thought.
There is a surprising lack of street-level buzz. Sure, the televisions are going mad, and the newspapers and radio programs and billboards. The hype machine is kicking at max RPMs. But it seems just that. A mile wide and an inch deep. The former Indian player's pressbox eulogy makes sense. India has gained an impossible amount in the past 20 years. Has it lost something, too? I turn to Rahul. Both mean the same thing, represent the same dreams and passions.
People in love with [team captain M. It happens all the time. In the past five years, you find that matches not featuring India don't draw crowds.
It does seem on some level the love is not for the sport itself but for some of the things it stands for. It's on red carpets with Bollywood bombshells and in corporate boardrooms. But the more it is, the less it is. It's reached a point where you can be oblivious to it. Indian fans now just watch India. Friends come and go. Many jokes, and a few serious conversations. An hour or two passes. He turns to me. India leads you down blind alleys.
It is a place with many different regions and religions and cultures. The Indian national cricket squad binds them. You must understand that to understand the mania surrounding the team. The team's rabid popularity, he says, is a reflection of rising national ambition, of pride in national achievement. The Guinness World Records book, squared.
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In a republic with a short history and a thin national narrative, cricket and Bollywood are India's baseball and apple pie. Rahul makes air quotes and says, "Indian culture. It's in our blood. The game continues to drag. I think about tomorrow's flight and my trip to Bangalore.
In a few days, I'll finally see India play in India. I'm ready to see the obsession up close, see if I'll find passion or more hype. Next to me, Rahul is in thought, too. Kids play cricket wherever they can find even a small open space. They play in the shadow of slums and in the roar of jet engines.
Little Sachin and his friends play in a field much like the one pictured here, and sometimes they just play in the street. Bangalore hype Morning dawns ghost-white. We drive into a wall of smog. Pollution is the price of progress. One of the prices, anyway. Some drivers pull over. We cannot see them. The New Delhi airport is nearby. We cannot see it, either. Soon we can't even see the car directly in front of us. Two disembodied red lights float in the chemical haze. He finds the turn at the last minute and screeches to the terminal.
I'm dreading the usual chaos of an Indian airport. But once inside, I am transported. Is this the future? The place is new and serene. The floors are shiny. A fancy coffee kiosk teems with under-caffeinated commuters. A bronze elephant towers in the lobby. That's when I see it. There's a restaurant named Dilli Streat.
It's a take on Delhi's famous street-food scene. It has slightly dressed-up versions of blue-collar classics. The concept is an ironic mixture of old and new, with a winking nod to a past seen as quaint yet valuable. Cynicism and irony, on back-to-back days. India is changing at lightning speed. The new camera-smashing Indian heroes Players walk through the lobby of the Royal Gardenia hotel. Wide-eyed young fans and gossip-hunting reporters slowly circle, the light and dark of fame.
I'm sitting on a couch. She's from the local tabloid. She wants me to take a paparazzi picture of an English cricket player, a wealthy Indian liquor tycoon and the tycoon's son. They're together in the bar.
She wants me to be her Trojan horse. So I need a picture. They know my face. And, um, so we would like to take their pictures to publish. So we wondered if you could help us.
It's just a picture. They want to know about the players' lives. This is a fairly recent development. Lines must be crossed, ethics blurred. The newspaper industry is still rising here. Competitive celebrity gossip is corrosive, and it leads, almost inevitably, to the taking down of heroes -- the end of heroes, even, for deep earnestness cannot survive a daily diet of snark. I think of Jane Leavy's magnificent book about Mickey Mantle, and her documenting the moment when Americans began viewing our idols differently.
India, it seems, is approaching that day. Another question about Tendulkar arises: Is he the final star athlete created by that deeply earnest society, the one with its suspension of disbelief fully intact?
Is he the last hero? Cricket is Bollywood by a different name. The match-fixing scandal of the lates was the end of an innocence about the game, and Sachin's role in steadying the ship afterward is part of people's great love for him. But the lid is off. The readers demand information. The pressure is great. Where do they eat dinner? Whom are they dating? What movies do they like? What's their favorite food? Are they on drugs? Are they taking steroids? What are their failures and weaknesses and scandals?
They will be soon. Kids in the lobby The thirst of a tabloid reporter and the love of a starstruck child are fruit from the same tree.
Maybe the difference is intent, and maybe it's innocence, which sounds like the pitter-patter of tiny feet on marble floors. Kids chase their favorite cricketers around the hotel. Their joy restores faith, washes away cynicism. Maybe the soul of cricket can survive this landslide of change. Maybe there's more than hype. To the cute little stalkers, there are many heroes besides Sachin.
Parents hover nearby, briefly children again. Virat Kohli is eating in the coffee shop against the back wall covered with ivy. He's got a woman with him. Kids hang by the door. Ten minutes is an eternity to a child who's a few feet from his hero. Vineet Sethi sits with his daughters, year-old Radhika and 9-year-old Nandini. The girls started plotting the moment this game was announced for Bangalore.
When Vineet got home from work, the girls were ready to go. Who will they meet? Finally, mercifully, Kohli stands to leave. The girls rise to meet him at the door. Kohli has a faux-hawk and a tight black T-shirt. His date carries a designer handbag. Radhika is checking out the signature when Nandini's eyes widen. Up close, he's stocky and balding. He stops to sign. Then Gautam Gambhir comes down the hall. The girls are losing their minds now. Dad asks if he'll pose for a photo.
Gautam smiles for the camera. The girls can't stop looking at the autograph book, then leaning into each other, then giggling, then looking, then giggling. I used to like him a lot, but he was with a girl. The girls cover their faces with their hands, tapping their feet, tingling with nervous energy. The passion I looked for at the other cricket matches doesn't exist around the sport, but it does in the Royal Gardenia lobby. Indians might not be obsessed with the sport of cricket per se, but they are with the Indian cricket team.
They are unhealthy, myopic and without measure or self-control, and that's just when they see their idols in the flesh.
I cannot imagine what it's like when they're actually watching them play. Game day The morning of the India-England match, I wake up anxious. No newspaper, no television. The more someone tells me something matters, the more suspicious I become. The game stands on its own today. It could bring my moment of rapture -- or deep disappointment. What if the thing I'm hungry for is too rare to just happen upon?
What if it no longer exists? The driver picks me up outside the hotel. The traffic is terrible as we make our way past all the military bases toward the stadium.
I can see the light stanchions in the distance. I wonder what they'll shine on today. Somehow, on a lark to be introduced to a new sport, I've stumbled into a rapidly changing world. Things are being gained, and things are being lost.
What if I've come to cricket too late? Other cricket reporters sense this fear; one asks me if I'll be writing a positive or negative story. It seems that the sporting future in India is the present in America. I can see their tomorrow.
The driver drops me at the main gate. I walk around for several hours. The air smells like fried food. Vendors sell Indian snacks and sugarcane juice. Cops, wary of another cricket riot, whack sticks against trees whenever someone stops. There is no still today. A group of fans are being interviewed by a television reporter. They're young and funny. They're intentionally extreme, with knowing smirks. They seem so confident, not people who need any outside validation.
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Maybe Sachin isn't needed any longer. Maybe Sehwag is more representative. That hasn't occurred to me until now. Later I'll talk to an Indian journalist, Vaibhav Vats, who is writing about cricket as a window into national self-esteem. He thinks Sachin isn't as important as he used to be. There isn't the identity crisis there was then. For 10 rupees, about 22 cents, dozens of entrepreneurs paint Indian flags on people's faces.
Other kids take blue paint and, emulating a famous billboard around the country, tag themselves "Bleed Blue. A man chases me down. He's wearing a long robe with the Indian flag painted on it, along with the cricket alpha and omega: The boy opens up a binder. It's full of stories about the man wearing the robe. They point to one. He's offered to trade his kidney for a ticket to this game. He says he wants to watch cricket.
I think he wants to be a star. Finally, I slip through a gate. Finally, the game is at hand We hear the cheers as the Indian bus gets closer. The soldier on the tower with the rifle stands up from his red chair. The bus pulls to a stop. Submachine-gun-toting troops in tight T-shirts and khaki fatigues form a wall of flesh and metal. TOIT brews its own beer and this makes the place a favorite among aficionados. You will get a feel of a European pub and a very helpful staff.
It is one of the most popular pubs in Bangalore without an entry fee. The Tin-Tin beer has been a long time favorite among visitors. Cost for Two The average cost for a dinner for two will come to about INR 1, including the alcohol.
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There is both an outdoor and indoor section that you can choose to seat. Hoppipolla also offers valet parking and home delivery. There are some Mediterranean and European dishes too included in their menu.
Opening and Closing Hours Hoppipolla is open from 12 noon till midnight except on Fridays and Saturdays, when you can dine till On Sundays, the kitchen closes at The bar is also accompanied by a DJ that dishes out some great music.
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Social has always been marketed as a place than merges work with drinks. Church Street Social has conveniently been a place for executives to unwind after work. Social is open all day and you can hope to both work and play in it's fun ambiance.
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