Dear Mr Tendukar,
I used to hate you. You used to keep strike to complete your century and that seemed a little unfair to a 14-year-old Dada fan. That you made it up by partnering Sourav Ganguly to become one of the most successful opening pairs for India, saved you from the wrath of a child.
Before that and since, you have claimed many a title, received many an accolade and have heard or may have read every adjective that can describe human endeavour, let alone sporting excellence.
I was three when you made your international debut in Pakistan. Four was I when you took on the mighty English bowlers to slam 119 and become the second youngest Test centurion and six when you played your first World Cup. I had just two years of schooling in me when you completed your first ODI century in 1994 against Australia at Colombo. Clearly sir, for me to deliberate on your career would be blasphemy.
The earliest memory that this now-sports-journalist-then-GI Joe-loving fan has of you is batting as a pillar with partners falling all around you against Sri Lanka at the Eden in 1996. That you finished that tournament with the highest number of runs explained to me the meaning of excellence that my maths teachers always longed from me (unsuccessfully).
Once upon a time, when you took on Kasporwicz at Sharjah (I can wiki the date but won't), I couldn't stop talking of your sixes, much like everyone I knew. I flunked my weekly exam and my teacher asked me why I can't be with books, what you are with the bat. "You're not like Sachin's coach either," was my reply. Pretty smart, if I do say so myself, for a 12-year-old dim-witted student who found himself with a red face and an hour outside the class.
Then came the time when all switched loyalties. My friends from cricket to Man U and me, from just you to Dada and back, to Dada and so on. That the late 90s and early 00's were marked by your partnerships with him (71 in 9 against Pakistan in the Independence Cup, 1998) made me not regret those transistor sneaking into classroom days only to get it confiscated by the time you completed your 673 runs from 11 matches in the South African World Cup.
The story from there is relatively fresh for it to be retold - mine for me and yours for the world, as always.
That you now enter the 38th year of your life, there would not be any shortage of wishes. That just a month before, you helped India bring home the World Cup, effectively means that there won't be much to wish from you either.
So with a sincere hope that Australia and New Zealand get a taste of your role in India defending its title in 2015, a reluctant fan, permanent admirer and a completely awe-struck observer signs off.