By Geetanjali Master
RATNAGIRI, Maharashtra, India, 10 March 2013 - It is 5.30 AM in #Mumbai. Still very dark. The birds are yet to chirp and the city is asleep.
The calm of this warm morning is disturbed by the flurry of activity outside the residence of UNICEF Ambassador for South Asia, Sachin Tendulkar. The batting maestro is getting ready to travel to the interiors of Ratnagiri district to interact with children at the Snehjyoti Niwasi Vidyalaya, a residential school for visually challenged boys and girls ran by Asha Tai, a friend of Sachin's mother. He is eager to meet the kids.
All the tiredness of driving for four hours at a stretch vanishes, as bubbly children with all their might, chant the name of their hero as Sachin makes his way to the school. Sachin… Sachin… Sachin, his name reverberates the school premises.
The excitement of meeting Sachin is palpable and children cannot wait to meet him. "I pinched myself to believe this is actually true. Is Sachin really here in our school?” asks a student brimming with excitement.
“Did he come here just for us? This is the happiest day of my life and I will do whatever Sachin tells us to do,” says another student as he tries to get closer to his idol.
At the school, Sachin interacts with the children, playing games with them and listening to their songs. He motivates them with encouraging words and talks about the importance of hygiene and sanitation. When he asks for a promise that students would spread among their peers and families the five steps of handwashing with soap, they all in unison raise their hands and nod.
And before the visit ends, there is still time for some batting. The children take turns to bowl to the master blaster and, like he has done for all these years, treats their bowling with respect and plays every ball with a straight bat.
After the session in field is over, he shares with the young ones some funny and some serious moments from his encounters on the field.
“It is quite an experience to be amidst so many children who are visually challenged and yet so full of positive energy. Their talent and willingness to learn has left me amazed and I am grateful to be part of their life at least for one day,” says Sachin.
“I also had an opportunity to teach them the importance of hygiene, #handwashing and #sanitation. I believe children are messengers of change and can take this message far and wide," he added.
Appointed #UNICEF ambassador for South Asia in November 2013, Sachin is committed to engaging with children as he believes they are the future and agents of the positive change in communities.