Dr M R Raghavendra Rao was a friend of my father from their college days. He was the deputy director of CFTRI in Mysore. A gentle gentleman who was enormously well read, with highly cultivated interest in the arts, especially Hindustani classical music. He used to travel often on work and he once narrated the following incident from one such journey. He spoke very softly, had a wry sense of humour and thought very logically. Here is the story - as if in his own words.
"I went to Delhi last week. I was seated in the aircraft when a gangly young man, not very handsome, walked in. There was a buzz around and many craned their necks to look at him. I also looked to see what all the fuss was about. My neighbour looked at me excitedly and exclaimed, "Amitabh Bachchan", as if that was explanation enough. It was not.
"I asked him, "who is he?". He looked at me contemptuously, almost pityingly, and said, "he is a film star". I was not impressed since I had not heard of him at all. I felt a little superior - not knowing a mere film actor.
"On the return flight I saw Ravi Shankar (Sitar maestro, Pandit Ravi Shankar, not the triple Sri) walk in to the aircraft. I was excited and turned to my neighbour and exclaimed, "Ravi Shankar!!". He craned his neck, took one look at him, was not impressed or excited, sat back and started turning the pages of the in-flight magazine. He did not even ask me who he was.
It served me right. I was exicted about one man and others about another. There was no need for me to feel superior."
I remembered this incident when I read about the brouhaha about Sharapova and Sachin. Sharapova not having heard of Sachin is an incident that could tell the fans that their god is a god with a very limited sphere of impact and tone their admiration for him.
In another incident from days gone by, when Borg won Wimbledon for the fifth time, in a row, reporters asked him if he knew of any other sporting achievement that could be comparable to his. When Borg said that it could be Eddy Merckx winning the Tour de France four times in a row the reporters were pleasantly surprised that he knew about that at all!
Most do not realise that at that level of most sports, especially individual ones, the players live like hermits. Every minute of their days accounted for in activities oriented towards achieving excellence in their chosen sports and practically nothing else.
Sharapova has not heard of Sachin. So what? Perhaps our admiration for her should go up a notch or two.