Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Komagata Maru Memorial Day

This weekend when America is observing Memorial Day, a federal holiday, to honor its soldiers killed in action, another kind of Memorial Day is being observed by Sikhs all over, especially settled in Canada,  for those who were killed or suffered because of the Komagata Maru historical incident that happened in Canada over a century ago.
The Komagata Maru incident began on May 23, 1914 when a Japanese steamship attempted to dock in Vancouver. It had departed Hong Kong a month earlier. Of the 376 passengers aboard, 340 were Sikh, 12 were Hindu and 24 Muslims from India – also subjects of the British Empire. Sir Richard MacBride, then Prime Minister of British Columbia, refused to let the ship board. “To admit Orientals in large numbers would mean the end, the extinction of the white people and we have always in mind the necessity of keeping this a white man’s country,” he said. A popular song in parts of British Columbia at the time was ‘White Canada Forever’. A section of the lyrics reads “We welcome as brothers all white men still, But the shifty yellow race, Whose word is vain, who oppress the weak, Must find another place”. It took two months for the court of appeal to rule against the Komagata Maru passengers. The conditions of their temporary stay were far from comfortable. Canada’s navy escorted the ship out of its waters.
The British feared that those aboard had intended to start a rebellion (Ghadar) upon arrival in India. When the Komagata Maru arrived at the Budge Budge, Calcutta, on September 27, 1914, the passengers were deemed political agitators. The British wanted to arrest the organiser Gurdit Singh Sandhu and other political ‘agitators’. This political standoff ended in bloodshed as the British killed 19 people who attempted to flee the ship. Those who had successfully fled were tracked down and imprisoned. Others were put under house arrest until World War I ended.
In 1952, then Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated a monument to those killed in the incident, near the Budge Budge. The monument is locally known as the Punjabi Monument and is modelled as a ‘kirpan’ rising up toward the sky.  Many travel great distances to honour the dead each year on September 29.
A plaque commemorating the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was placed in the Vancouver harbour in 1994.
A monument in remembrance of the Komagata Maru incident was unveiled in July 23, 2012. It is located near the steps of the seawall that lead up to the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building in Coal Harbour.
A stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was released by Canada Post on May 1, 2014. The first phase of the Komagata Maru Museum was opened in June 2012 at the Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver Ross Street Temple.

In response to calls for the government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, on May 18, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a formal "full apology" for the incident in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in this house to offer an apology on behalf of the government of Canada for our role in the Komagata Maru incident. ... More than a century ago, a great injustice took place. On May 23rd, 1914, a steamship sailed into Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. On board were 376 passengers of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin. Those passengers, like millions of immigrants to Canada before and since, came seeking better lives for their families, greater opportunities, a chance to contribute to their new home. Those passengers chose Canada. When they arrived here, they were rejected.
No words can erase the pain and suffering they experienced. Regrettably, the passage of time means that none are alive to hear our apology today. Still, we offer it fully and sincerely, for our indifference to your plight, for our failure to recognize all that you had to offer, for the laws that discriminated against you so senselessly, and for not apologizing sooner. For all these things, we are truly sorry. ... Just as we apologize for past wrongs, so, too, must we commit ourselves to positive action, to learning from the mistakes of the past and to making sure that we never repeat them. That is the unique promise and potential of Canada.”

Thus concluded and erased for ever over a 100 years old black chapter on anti-Sikhs racial policy from the pages of  Canada’s history, around the same date when it was written on arrival of Komagata Maru on May 23, 1914.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chestertown Tea Party Day!

Today, May 23, is the day of the  Chestertown Tea Party, that provided one of the strongest pillars on which stands the world’s most powerful country, United States of America.

The Chestertown Tea Party was a protest against British excise duty on tea which, according to local legend, took place on May 23, 1774 in Chestertown, Maryland as a response to the British Tea Act. Chestertown tradition holds that, following the example of the more famous Boston Tea Party, colonial patriots boarded the brigantine Geddes in broad daylight and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River. The event is celebrated each Memorial Day weekend with a festival and historic reenactment called the Chestertown Tea Party Festival.

The Tea Party event reminds me of back home in India where I grew up very fond of tea parties, of the original kind, friends' and especially my own birthday tea parties. I can easily call those one of the best days of my life when, as children, we longed for the next birthday tea party and made it the most memorable time ever with innovative games we enjoyed and the goodies we ate that invariably included cake, sandwiches and a variety of snacks. That was the time when the Britishers were counting their last years of the colonial rule in the country. During over 200 years of their dominating presence in India, perhaps anywhere they went in the world, two of their most traditional identities they always left behind – the English language and addiction to tea. They both remained with us even long after they had departed. What began as birthday tea parties in my childhood days had gained favor in many forms as I grew up - an Afternoon Tea Party suitable for many celebrations. When I would like to host a party that isn't as involved as a dinner party, a tea party was the answer. It was an ideal format for a bridal or baby shower, a retirement party, a birthday celebration, or time to catch up with good friends. It could be a very formal affair at some of the more elegant hotels, or it could be as casual as a pot of tea and some cookies.

As time passed, I saw tea parties taking another interesting form, known as Kitty Party, particularly popular amongst the elite women of New Delhi, my hometown in India. You can call it a time pass for bored housewives. From gossiping to enjoying a hearty tea, kitty parties became the new benchmark of social mobility in Delhi. An all out gossip session, a great place to flaunt your new outfit, share jokes and family feuds, a venue to showcase your creativity and a much awaited opportunity to shred your ma-in-law to pieces! The most common type of kitty parties were patronized by housewives who had plenty of time at hand once they packed off hubbies to office and babies to school. However, lately Kitties are much maligned as they are often associated with idle housewives who have nothing better to do but gossip.

After our retirement in India, we moved to USA to be with our only son settled here. Interestingly, though this country is amongst the biggest coffee lovers in the world, it was born out of the historic Boston and Chestertown Tea Party, 1773. Like the “Quit India” in the forties' India, the colonists were enthused to push for independence with the slogan, “Take your tea and shove it.” That’s how the idea of independent USA was conceived.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Sarbjit" -A Big Applause For Aishwarya!

Heartiest congratulations and best wishes to Aishwarya on release of her most anticipated movie ever - “Sarbjit”. It is already the most talked about movie at the Cannes where it was premiered last Sunday. Critics’ rave reviews from Cannes, especially showering praise for Aishwarya’s best performance ever, have already created a buzz for the movie in Bollywood:
Talking about the film’s buzz in India, trade analyst and Editor of Supercinema Amul Mohan revealed, “Expectations are good. I treat Sarbjit as a comeback for Aishwarya as there is a lot of performance in it. Plus there is this whole angle of it being a biopic, which has been the flavour of the year right now, so it ticks a lot of boxes. The anticipation of this film is high and they had a decent outing at Cannes too. They got fairly decent reviews over there, so that’s only going to add to the push they get  in India.”
I cannot resist sharing with my readers excerpts from some of the reviews by reputed film critics:
BizAsia Movie Review: ‘Sarbjit’

18th May 2016 12:22 am
@Amr1ta amrita@bizasialive.com

‘Sarbjit’, directed by Omung Kumar, sees many firsts but the most promising and arguably eagerly awaited first is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a completely deglamorized role. She essays the role of Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister, whose only quest in life after his imprisonment is to get his freedom. With Randeep Hooda playing Sarabjit and Richa Chadha as Sukhpreet, Sarabjit’s wife, it seems this film has much more to offer than just the varied star cast.

It has to be said that the story of Sarabjit Singh is a tragic and emotionally moving one. Kumar, as director, has to be applauded for the way he has put the story across, achieving a well-rounded view of how each member of Singh’s family would be feeling in the length of time he was in jail for. He shows that he knows each of the characters well and it seems he’s really done his research in terms of the intricacies of the story and which parts he wanted to include in the film. It is commendable that the story comes across as sincere to the core but powerful, tragic and heartening at the same time…….It was almost a given that such a film would evoke performances that would enhance the story that the makers want to convey to the audiences. Rai Bachchan gives what can be described as her best performance till date as Dalbir; she manages to tug at the heartstrings with the emotional scenes and you can’t really take your eyes off her portrayal of Dalbir’s passion for the cause. Her scenes with Hooda are some of the best parts of the film overall, albeit a little heartbreaking at times. Hooda himself seems to continue to outdo himself with every film and ‘Sarbjit’ once again puts him up there as one of the most talented, understated actors in Bollywood today. His pairing with Chadha is also an interesting and fresh one. Chadha is near-perfect as Sukhpreet and adds a great support to Rai Bachchan when needed. Their scene in the second half together where Sukhpreet vocally supports Dalbir’s fighting spirit is one of the most beautiful in the entire film. Aside from this, the reunion scene between the family and Sarabjit is also particularly poignant. Darshan Kumaar’s small but pivotal role gets a well-deserved special mention – he’s one actor who seems to fit into any mould. Ankur Bhatia, who plays Rai Bachchan’s love interest, is also worthy of a mention for his performance – he makes a mark even in a short but sweet role in both the first and second halves.

…….All in all, it has to be said that Kumar has delivered a truly heart-wrenching story without misplaced grandeur and with distinction that perhaps very few would have been able to achieve…..overall ‘Sarbjit’ is  indeed a good watch and a must-see. Rai Bachchan and Hooda are truly gems to watch sharing screen space and the former has shown that she’s definitely back… and glamour has nothing to do with it!
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5

Here are some other quotes and statements connected to “Sarbjit” which speak volumes to motivate watching the movie as a must:

Omung Kumar's much awaited biopic Sarbjit has garnered much attention for its hard-hitting story line, powerful trailer and melodious music. Ever since the makers have released their entire music album, the makers have been receiving immense appreciation from everyone across the board. With a versatile music album consisting of a varied range of soundtracks, the album has songs sung by some of the top singers of Bollywood like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh, Arijit Singh and many more.

As a mark of tribute to this innocent farmer, the singers of Sarbjit did an exceptional gesture by charging no fee to the makers. A source from the production confirmed saying that "Singers like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh, and Arijit Singh who have given their melodious voice for the movie have sung for their love for the subject of the film. All the singers who are currently at the top in the music industry took this decision with their own will and love. We are grateful to them for their sweet gesture".
It’s not only team Sarbjit — Director Omung Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, who are busy promoting the film, but it’s also Sarabjit Singh's real-life sister Dalbir Kaur actively participating in film promotions.
Sarbjit traces the struggles of Dalbir (played by Aishwarya) who ran from pillar to post to get her younger brother Sarabjit out of the Pakistani jail but her quest ended tragically when he died in 2013 following a brutal attack by fellow prisoners.
She continues, "Aishwarya has done justice to the character. In fact, all the actors have been true to their part and have portrayed the emotions beautifully, be it joy, sorrow, pain, wait, fear, faith. I would get very emotional whenever I saw Aishwarya and Richa shoot for the film. In one scene, Aishwarya was on the phone, and she was being informed about Sarabjit. She was speaking exactly like how I had spoken back then. I broke down watching her.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Love Notes for Screen Goddess!

In his latest Blog, Big B revealed  about  hiding his injured hand under his pocket throughout the shooting of “Sharabi” and turning it into a trend in style. It reminds of another star’s similar style statement when Meena Kumari used to hide her one hand under the ‘dupatta’ or sari ‘pallu’ in most of the scenes in her every movie, because she did not want the audience to notice that she had six instead of the normal five fingers in that hand. There was no google search engine then to reveal the truth to curious fans of hers, so not many came to know about it. The ignorance on such stories because of the absence of information technology in the early era of Hindi cinema, takes me back in my memory lane, to where else, but Lahore days of my life.

Film fans in Lahore had only two English language film magazines then - in 1940s - to know off screen stories about their favorite stars. One - Cine-Herald -  was edited by B. R. Chopra, who later became famous as producer-director of hit movies with a message, and the second was edited by my brother, R. R. Rishi. Both these magazines were beautifully published on art paper and were highly priced as per the price range of the period - Re. 1/- , as compared to such magazines published in Hindi or Urdu language, which were priced 4 Annas (25 paisa) or 8 Annas (50 paisa) at the maximum. These magazines could cover conveniently cover stories on local filmstars, but were too far away from  the hub of mainstream Hindi cinema in Bombay. What they would do was to take such stories from ‘Filmindia’, priced at Rs. 2/-,  the most expensive film magazine published from Bombay and edited by the renowned journalist Baburao Patel, who also produced some movies when on the peak of his career and later turned into an active right wing politician, changing his magazine from  films to politics with the new name Mother India. My brother Raghu, that was his first name, would bring home the magazine from his office for me, not only because he knew  that I was a big movie buff even then and loved to read anything written on films, but also to pick up the best stories from its gossip column, perhaps, called ‘Believe it or not’, and to re-write the same in my words, which would be published in his magazine every month. My compensation for this help was a free pass for four persons for the latest release, which he used to get from the distributor of the film, and this was the most eagerly awaited and enjoyed entertainment for me and my school friends. The stories about the stars were mostly relating to their off-screen romance and relationships. This is what I came to know from working for my brother, so early in my life - 10-12 years of age:

Movie Stars and models don't look the same in "real life". One of the small comforts of watching a movie is knowing that those actors might be idols up on the big screen, but off-camera they're probably just like the rest of us. Every now and then, we come across actors whose real lives are even more incredible than their fake ones. Lights, camera, romance! It's no surprise that actors who have chemistry on-screen find themselves falling in love in real life too. But few stars enjoy fairy-tale endings depicted in their films. Breaking up is hard to do, even if you're rich and famous. They've entertained us for hours on end, but how much sad they have been inside is sometimes unimaginable. Normal occurrences begin to take on magical properties. There are moments in their life that deviate from the ordinary. Some such moments or happenings that occurred in the life of some legendary stars were picked up by me from Filmindia for publishing in Film Critic, in my language and style. Here is an example:

Shobhana Samarth – plane load of 'love you' notes for the screen goddess!

legendary beauty, actress of yesteryear, mother of Nutan and Tanuja, grandmother of Kajol and Mohnish Behl, she was at the head of a family that produced filmstars for three generations. In her heyday, Shobhana was often referred to as a beauty par excellence. When she starred as Sita in Vijay Bhatt's famous classic, Ram Rajya (1943), along with Prem Adip as Ram, the pair's performance was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audience's minds. In fact, people felt they were no actors enacting the Ramayana characters, but real Ram and Sita had incarnated to act in the movie. They were literally worshipped wherever they went together to promote the film, which was a huge hit. People even had their posters and pictures installed in their homes to worship and pray. Undoubtedly, they would have been flooded with offers to work together in many more movies, especially mythological, but it did not happen. Shobhana Samarth, the most unconventional actress of her time, was not available as she got deeply involved in relationship with her co-star of many films and the famous actor, Motilal. It was one of the most tempestuous relationships ever. Although a thorough gentleman, he enjoyed gambling, races and alcohol, which resulted in financial strains and frequent fights between the couple. Quoting Samrath: “We were forever fighting -- out of 365 days, we would fight 360 days. He reacted by drinking -- he had to drink because we had had a fight and he had to drink because we were happy. When I decided to quit Bombay and live in Lonavala, he objected. I went anyway. He had a flying license and he hired a plane and flew over my cottage, throwing stones with letters tied to them saying 'I love you.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Happy Birthday to Pankaj Udhas!

Birthday greetings  to Pankaj Udhas, one of the greatest ghazal singers of India, who was born on May 17, 1953.  He started his career with a release of a ghazal album titled Aahat in 1980 and subsequently recorded many hits like Mukarar in 1981, Tarrannum in 1982, Mehfil in 1983, Pankaj Udhas Live at Royal Albert Hall in 1984, Nayaab in 1985 and Aafreen in 1986. After his success as a ghazal singer, he was invited to appear and sing for a film by Mahesh Bhatt, Naam. Udhas rose to further fame for singing in the 1986 film Naam, in which his song "Chitthi Aayee Hai" became an instant hit. He did playback singing for many Hindi films after that. Albums and live concerts around the globe brought him fame as a singer. In 2006, Pankaj Udhas was awarded the coveted Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award. His first ghazal album, Aahat, was released in 1980. From this, he began to have success and, as of 2011 he has released more than fifty albums and hundreds of compilation albums. In 1986, Udhas received another opportunity to perform in film, in the film Naam, which brought him fame. In 1990, he sang the melodious duet "Mahiya Teri Kasam" with Lata Mangeshkar, for the movie Ghayal. This song achieved immense popularity. In 1994, Udhas sang the notable song, "Na Kajre Ki Dhar", from the film Mohra. He continued working as a playback singer, making some on-screen appearances in films such as Saajan, Yeh Dillagi, Naam and Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayee. His album Shagufta launched by Music India in December 1987 was the first to be released on compact disc in India.[3] Later, Udhas started a talent hunt television program called Aadab Aarz Hai on Sony Entertainment Television.[4] Actor John Abraham calls Udhas his mentor.

Pankaj Udhas has won several awards for his ghazal singing including, 2003 MTV Immies Award for the successful album “Jn Search of Meer”, same year Special Achievement Award at the Bollywood Music Award, New York for Popularizing Ghazals Across the Globe and Dadabhai Naoroji Millennium Award for contributing to ghazals and music industry. His most popular albums include, Ahat, Nasha, Mehfil, Pankaj Udhas Live at Albert Hall, Nayab, Aafreen, Muskan, Mahek and Aman. Here is a link to his most popular ghazals:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Groomed To Go Places!

It was the Rakhi day. Alok,  2 years old only, had watched his Mom tying Rakhi to her brother, and wanted a sister to do the same to him. My brother’s surprise appearance at that very moment must have been God’s blessing. He was holding a hand of a very sweet and cute looking little girl and straightaway took her to Alok:
“Here is your sister who will tie Rakhi on you.”
We were taken aback. My brother was still a bachelor. Who this girl was then. We had not seen her with him before or heard about her from him earlier. We had to wait to know about her after she had gone through the ceremony of tying Rakhi on Alok’s wrist and put a piece of sweets in his mouth, which my brother had brought. My brother later told us the truth about the girl, which no one in the family knew before, when Alok and his new found sister went out in the lawn to play.
My brother was doing wonderfully well in his job with a reputed travel agency as their chief tour operator. Apart from making all arrangements for their travel, he would also accompany important tourists to places of interest all over the country as their guide. Some of them wrote letters of appreciation for him after their return. Mother of a legendary star of Hollywood went a step further and wrote to his managing director, requesting him to suitably reward my brother for his excellent services. This had an immediate effect on his career in the company. He was selected to be sent to Hong Kong to open the company’s office there to promote business amongst Asian tourists, especially the tourists from Japan. It was a golden opportunity for him to enhance his career and widen its scope worldwide. But there was one important task he must finish before taking the new assignment. He must find someone to take full responsibility of raising  the little girl he gifted to Alok as his sister. He could not think of a better person than Jeet for the purpose and brought her to us. He told us that the girl was his daughter, a gift of God to him and his girlfriend of long about whom we  all in the family knew, as she even attended our wedding with him. They were still planning a simple wedding for themselves when the girlfriend got pregnant, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl before their proposed marriage. As soon as she was fit to travel after the delivery, as decided between the two, she took a flight to Kenya to tell the truth to her parents and to persuade them to come to India for their marriage. In the meanwhile my brother made arrangements with my mother’s old housemaid, who had helped her raise us all in Lahore and who now lived in her hometown in the hills near Simla. He knew her place as he had been to her house many times, to give her money and other gifts that my mother would send to her. His girlfriend never returned. She probably did not even tell her parents about her affair with my brother and giving birth to a baby girl. My brother was shocked when a mutual friend got a wedding card from her parents, an invitation to attend their daughter’s marriage to a boy settled in London. My brother had no alternative except to let the maid continue to raise his daughter till he could manage to look after her in Delhi, for which he would regularly send her sufficient remittances and also visit her as often as he could. Now when he got this offer to go to Hong Kong, he was in a fix. His daughter, now in her third year, must be sent to a good pre-school, and grow up in a good environment. There could be no better place than ours where both these objectives could be best achieved.
My brother left for Hong Kong greatly relieved, after Jeet took full responsibility to raise his daughter as our own and Alok’s sister that he wished for. My brother never returned to India, not even looked back to know how his little daughter was doing. He met an American lady in Japan, who was working in the American Embassy there, developed relationship with her and they got married and moved to the U.S.for permanent stay there. They had a long happy married life for nearly 50 years before both breathed their last the same year, leaving behind their very talented son, a Tenor, and Head of music department at Harvard University.

His daughter started to groom into an  accomplished girl under the care of Jeet. Along with Alok, she was going to the most prestigious convent in the city for her studies, apart from extra coaching  in English at home from a teacher in her school. Keeping in view her unfortunate infancy when she was abandoned by her mother and later left by her father, Jeet gave her all the more attention to see that she grew up to be a super talented girl, able to go places without looking back on her unenviable background. And Jeet achieved the objectives she had in mind for her - a very sweet, sophisticated and accomplished girl at fourteen, full of confidence. This was amply proved when she accompanied us to Mumbai, to attend the wedding of my niece, and attracted everyone’s attention, even of the film celebrities who attended the function. My brother-in-law, the veteran singer-actor of yester years, had taken to producing TV commercials and instantly spotted in her the potential to become a supermodel of the advertising world. He pleaded very strongly and seriously to let her stay back with them after the wedding, to be trained and groomed to become a great model. Considering a bright future for her and greater opportunity in life while living with them in Mumbai, we decided to let her stay back with them, though it was a hard decision to make, especially knowing that Alok would miss her very much. In Mumbai, besides pursuing her studies in a prestigious school, she also started her modeling career in commercials made by my brother-in-law. By the time she was eighteen, she was already an established model. At the peak of her modeling career, she came in contact with the young heir of the owner of of the only color lab for films in India, who was a friend of my brother-in-law. A couple of meetings, or dates, convinced them that they were made for each other. He did not wait to propose to her, and soon they got married in Mumbai’s one of the most glamorous weddings with the biggest names in Indian films and advertising industry attending it. And she was enrolled into the world of the rich and famous. Indeed, it was a proud moment for Jeet, who had played an important part to make it happen.

Happy Sikkim Day!

Today, May 16, is Sikkim Day. On this day in 1975, Sikkim, a small country, almost hidden from the world on the mighty Himalayas, became part of our ‘incredible’ India to add to its beauty  and bounty. On its Anniversary day, greetings to you. Here is some information on Sikkim, which I thought I may share with you, as there could not be a better occasion and more appropriate way to honor the people of Sikkim, especially when the mainstream media almost ignored to cover such an important day for them.

Sikkim had retained guarantees of independence from Britain when she became independent, and such guarantees were transferred to the Indian government when it gained independence in 1947. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim was to be a tributary of India, in which India controlled its external defence, diplomacy and communication. In 1967, the People's Republic of China sent its troops to lay claim to Sikkim, which was then a protectorate of India. The Indian Army won a decisive victory in the resulting conflict which later came to be known as the Chola incident. As a result, China withdrew its claim to Sikkim. In April of 1975,   a popular vote of the people of Sikkim overwhelmingly voted for merger of their country with their mighty neighbor, India, and Prime Minister Dorji appealed to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of status to statehood. On May 16, 1975, Sikkim officially became a state of the Indian Union.

Situated in the Eastern Himalayas, this beautiful state of Sikkim is sandwiched between the kingdom of Nepal in the West and Bhutan in the East, Tibet in the North and the state of West Bengal in the South. This small state belies its richness of culture, customs, heritage, flora and fauna. The population of the state is only 4,20,000 as per the last census. Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks, lush green valleys cascading waterfalls and fast flowing rivers, beautiful monasteries and terraced hills, Sikkim offers her visitor a rare and exotic experience

Sikkim does not have any airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. The closest airport, Bagdogra Airport, is near the town of Siliguri, West Bengal. The airport is about 124 km away from Gangtok. A regular helicopter service run by the Sikkim Helicopter Service connects Gangtok to Bagdogra; the flight is thirty minutes long, operates only once a day, and can carry 4 people.The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state. The closest railway station is New Jalpaiguri which is situated 15 kilometres from Siliguri. National Highway 31A links Siliguri to Gangtok. The highway is an all-weather metalled road which mostly runs parallel to the river Teesta, entering Sikkim at Rangpo. Numerous public and privately run bus and jeep services connect the airport, railway station, and Siliguri to Gangtok.

The Tsomgo Lake also known as the Changu Lake is a glacial lake located in east Sikkim usually frozen during the winter season. It is one amongst the most famous tourist spots. Right before the Chumtang valley located in Lachung there is a natural hot spring on the right side of the road on the top of a mountain that not many people are aware of. The hot spring is accessible to all and is not charged for either. A dip in the hot spring is all that you need to prevent yourself from freezing to death while you are on your way to the Chumtang valley or zero point. Kangchenjunga in Sikkim is the third highest mountain in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft) and located along the India-Nepal border in the Himalayas.
One of the most peculiar as well as pretty features about Sikkim is the presence of color in the state. Every street and road is filled with prayer flags of various colors. The Buddhist for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes as well as along the path that they travel for the wind to spread the positive vibrations of the flag across the countryside. The flags are said to bring happiness and prosperity. The 5 colours of prayer flags represent the 5 basic elements: yellow-earth, green–water, red-fire, white-air and blue-space. Balancing these elements externally brings harmony to the environment and balancing them  internally brings health to the body and the mind. The various coloured flags are said to purify the human soul
White (om) purifies pride and ego, green (ma) purifies jealousy and lust for entertainment, yellow (ne) purifies passion and desire, blue (pad) purifies ignorance and prejudice, red (me) purifies greed and possessiveness and black (hum) purifies aggression and hatred.

If you are a late riser as well as a late sleeper, Sikkim is just the place you need to visit to get yourself on track. It is pitch dark by 6 in the evening and the entire town retires by 7, on the other hand morning light hits the place by 4 and all the shops, people and offices are fully functioning by 7 am. Every year in the month of summer from March to May, Sikkim organizes an International Flower Festival which is a rare show of 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and ferns, 150 varieties of gladioli, 46 types of rhododendrons along with a variety of magnolias and many other foliage plants. Sikkim is a paradise for all the bird-watchers with the recorded 552 species including the magnificent Himalayan Griffon or the bearded vulture.

Sikkim is one amongst the most serene and peaceful places to visit. The sight of the Himalayas, the rising of the sun amidst the snow caped mountains, the clean glacial water of the valleys, the freshness in the air, the sound of the monks chanting and the simplicity of life in the north east is something that everyone must experience once in a lifetime.