Margarita Serrao (90) aims to defy age and health as she makes her way to the North Stand of the Wankhede Stadium today. Margarita, or Mary as she is known, is Sachin Tendulkar’s most ardent fan. This Malad resident has a ticket to Sachin’s 200th Test and, nothing, she says, would stop her from seeing Sachin batting today.
Mary’s attachment and fondness for Sachin Tendulkar is legendary. The spunky nonagenarian, who knows most of Sachin’s cricket records by heart, and is glued to the TV set whenever Sachin is at the pitch, was determined to watch the master play his final strokes in his farewell Test.
Says Sunny D’Souza, a family friend: “She has been telling the family that she wanted to see Sachin play his final Test live at any cost. We tried for a ticket online and through various other sources, but failed to get our hands on one. Then, I asked my friend who had tickets for all five days to give me one, so that she could go and watch Sachin. He gave the family two tickets for today. So, Mary will be accompanied by her daughter Cecilia Miranda for the match today.”
Praying for a ton
D’Souza says the family was initially apprehensive about Mary making the trip to Wankhede. “Yet, she was so keen to go that we finally gave in. A family friend Allwyn Sequeira has given a car for her to commute to the stadium. Her son Ronald Serrao, other daughter Jacintha Paul, and grandchildren Jovita Paul and Jude Paul will accompany her in the car till the stadium. Then, they will wait outside, as we only have two tickets. Cecilia and Mary will be in the stadium. Mary insists that she wants to wait to watch Sachin, who she considers her grandchild, bat and is hoping he scores a century today.”
Incidentally, Mary is a great grandmother. D’Souza adds that the family has the green light from the family doctor, Dr Agam Vora, to take Mary to the stadium. “The doctor has said it is alright but one has to be careful that she is not pushed, as she is frail. So we are going to keep a wheelchair in the car, and maybe use it to take her from the car to the stadium. She now needs support to walk, as she is weak because of age; somebody has to hold her hand while she walks.”
D’Souza added that they would leave early this morning from Malad, “So that Mary can be in the stadium just as the match begins. The family will also carry water and sandwiches in the car for her, since packages are not allowed inside the stadium. We hope it will not be too hot for her; we are going to carry caps. While we are a bit worried, she is not. She is, in fact, simply on a high at the prospect of watching Sachin.”
D’Souza said, “She was tremendously excited and nervous as she watched Sachin play on TV, and was praying that he would not get out, so that she could see him playing live today.”
A special occasion deserves special garb and Mary plans on wearing a magenta-pink and purple sari for the match, the one she wore while celebrating her 90th birthday on April 24 this year – incidentally, this is Sachin’s birthday as well. Mary cuts a cake every year, with Sachin’s name on it in addition to hers. Mary may no longer have lung power to blow out 90 candles on her birthday cake, but as 50,000 fans chant ‘Sachin, Sachin’, Mary’s voice will be part of that rock-the-rafters cheering, as she marks one of the most significant days in her nine-decade-long life.
An unforgettable birthday gift
On May 27, 2009, Mary had the rare privilege of enjoying joint birthday celebrations with the master blaster, after MiD DAY arranged for a rendezvous between the legend and his most devoted fan. In what she called the ‘greatest moment of her life’, Tendulkar met her at Bandra’s Mehboob Studio, where he was shooting for a commercial. Not only did the two cut a cake together, but enjoyed a hearty chat, even exchanging a warm hug. When Mary told Sachin that she hoped he scored another 15 centuries, he replied warmly, “I wish you score a century as well.”