Come January 18, two teams of veteran cricketers led by Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh will play a friendly T20 match in the One World One Family Cup at the newly-constructed Sai Krishnan Cricket Stadium in Sathya Sai Grama, a 40-minute drive from the Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar will be present at the match.
As the name indicates, Sathya Sai Grama, a little hamlet in Muddenahalli, is named after Sri Sathya Sai Baba; remembered most for his humanitarian initiatives like providing free education, free healthcare and drinking water for the needy. His philosophy was simple: ‘Love all, serve all’. He also always declared that after his time, his students would carry forward his mission of selfless love and service; and that is coming true.
Sathya Sai Grama is today home to a bunch of Baba’s former students, mostly young professionals, who have banded together as a social-service organisation with spiritual moorings, under the leadership of Sri Madhusudan Sai, a 44-year-old ex-banker and a double gold medallist at Baba’s university.
Spirituality has been redefined. ‘Divinity’ is now defined simply as total selflessness; ‘culture’, as concern for others; and man’s fundamental nature, as spirit. We are spiritual beings undergoing a brief human experience is the understanding; and therefore, one learns to progressively detach from the material, and instead, realise one’s self by “loving all and serving all” as “One world, One Family”.
Utopian? Quixotic? The amazing fact is that human beings the world over, particularly the youth, seem to resonate with the idea; and the team numbers are growing exponentially. Amazing institutions of public service have come up in 33 plus countries in the verticals of right nutrition, healthcare and values-based education – for free, for all, without any discrimination.
In India alone, this translates as three million government schoolchildren getting morning nutrition, complete with a health supplement – ‘SaiSure’; nearly 30 residential values based rural school campuses (eventually to number 600 – one for every Indian district), which search out and admit the poorest of the poor complete with a University for higher education; and three healthcare streams – one for children, that has mended nearly 30,000 little hearts, through a hospital chain sans billing counters, secondly, a growing chain of small, rural mother and child hospitals to promote healthy maternity, and thirdly, taluk-level Swasthya Centres to stem India’s ‘non-communicable diseases’ epidemic; and all this is totally free for all beneficiaries with no discrimination whatsoever. The crowning glory is that 2023 saw the first batch of medical students walk into the world’s first rural medical college offering MBBS and PG training totally free of cost, to those ready to work in rural geographies, for as many years as they received free education- the Sri Madhusudan Sai Institute of Medical Sciences & Research (SMSIMS&TR)
Who picks up the tab for all this? Good Samaritans the world over, who subscribe to these same shared values; through a Sai Global Federation of Foundations. Where does cricket come in? Little Master Sunil Gavaskar has been a prime mover, in garnering support for the child heart care mission, for about a decade. In fact, he calls it the third and best innings of his life. All this while, the work was done silently; but now, spearheaded by him, the cause is going public, in a manner of speaking; and what better way to connect with the heart of India, than through cricket?!
Besides, since bettering the lives of children is at the centre of the mission, sports have always been given pride of place in the education mission launched from Sathya Sai Grama. Every campus has sprawling sports grounds and facilities for games and yoga. Gavaskar, Pullela Gopichand, Somdev Devvarman and others are part of an advisory team to design the sports curriculum at the schools and the university; and the Sai Krishnan Cricket Stadium, in Sathya Sai Grama is their brainchild. Eventually, the stadium is to also house tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, besides an indoor facility.
The medical college at the village is poised to have a bio-mechanical laboratory and courses in sports medicine and sports psychology, while bachelors and master’s programmes in sports and physical training are being rolled out by the university. The goal of the sports mission is to nurture the natural aptitude that rural children seem to have, for sport; and hopefully help India bring home more medals in international sporting events, through participation in the government’s Khelo India programmes.
Sports can do more for character building than sermonising; through fostering goal setting, team work, determination, focus and discipline, and learning to accept wins and losses with grace, reckons the team.
The amalgamation of sports, yoga and meditation nurtures holistic development, shaping children into persons with strong character, compassion and a profound understanding of their inner selves; and therefore, at the mission’s schools, athletics, games and yoga are a daily affair; on par with academics. While all the schools have individual Sports Days, the best of the teams congregate at Sathya Sai Grama where finally, mixed teams play each other. This promotes cooperation and friendship rather than competition which is the essence of sportsmanship. This year, the Annual Sports Meet for the schoolchildren has been planned for the day after the cricket tourney; and hence the rural kids from 30-odd campuses are all starry eyed at this unbelievable opportunity to see many of their cricketing idols in flesh and blood.
Gavaskar’s ‘Seva Fever’ has proved more infectious than COVID; and cricket stars from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, putting aside everything else, have come forward to bat for the mission, in the true spirit of One World, One Family. They have all expressed solidarity and support for the global ‘hat-trick’ of right nutrition, right education and quality healthcare, for free, for all.
The star-studded list includes Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Danny Morrison, Muttiah Muralitharan, Irfan Pathan, Monty Panesar, Makhaya Ntini, Venkatesh Prasad, Yusuf Pathan, Jason Krejza, Chaminda Vaas, Mohammad Kaif, Darren Maddy and many more!
A grand procession and classical dance extravaganza will usher in the match, while the amazing, mind-blowing Sai Symphony Orchestra, one of the only two such orchestras in India, made up of our own rural students, will serenade one after the match. Devotees from many nations have already landed in Sathya Sai Grama to watch this unique, maiden cricket match; but millions more are waiting with bated breath to watch it live on YouTube! So save the date – January 18 – to watch ‘Cricket for a Cause’; the One World, One Family Cup.