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.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

El Granada, the nicest neighborhood

Alwar (Rajasthan, India) to El Granada (California, U.S.A.) is 24 hours flight distance and more than 12 hours time difference. We arrived here to spend our vacations with our son, Alok, a computer engineer with Sun Microsystems in Silicon Valley. Our instant reaction to reaching his house in El Granada was that we should be prepared for a long spell of loneliness in this very quiet small town, when our son and his wife, Ranjan, will be away to work during the week days. But to our very pleasant surprise, we soon started to feel far more at home in El Granada than in our own home town Alwar. Thanks to the sweetest and the nicest neighborhood of this coastal town in San Mateo county.

Mr. McCormick was, indeed, El Granada's most wanted neighbor--wanted by everyone who needed help. At 71 years, retired but never tired, he was the hardest worker at his age one could ever come across. We met him for the first time when my son wanted to do away with the dangerously hanging branches of the old eucalyptus tree in his compound, and I went to Mr. McCormick to borrow his chainsaw, which I had earlier seen him working with. He not only lent us the equipment, but came along to show us how to use the same, and then stayed on to cut all the branches that needed to be cut. He was convinced in his mind that the job was beyond us.
It was a pleasant surprise one morning to see strawberry saplings on our doorsteps. These had been left by Mr. Hutchins, who lived three houses away, just because Jeet, my wife, had appreciated his garden a day earlier and had told him of her own interest in gardening. Margaret, Mr. Hutchin's wife, was no less generous. She brought a basket full of fresh apples from her favorite tree in their garden. The saplings of fruit plants and fresh green apples continued to come every other day from the garden of this great couple.
Watching us weeding wild growth with bare hands and without proper tools, Tom, our neighbor across the street, came over with all his garden tools and a pair of unused garden gloves, making our work much easier. His wife Jennifer, noticing that Jeet was always knitting when not working on the garden, presented her with a big bundle of beautiful white wool. She said this was left by her mother-in-law and was lying unused as Jenny did not know how to knit.
Betsy became our best friend from day one of our arrival. She had a special fascination for India and was very excited to have us as her neighbors. She loved to join us at lunch to enjoy Jeet's Indian delicacies, and talk for hours about life in India, especially the spiritual teachings and meditation, she was keen to learn about.
Whenever we asked Cindy, the owner of El Granada's Thrift Store, the cost of any item, she would smile and say, "Take it". It was because she had become our very good friend. But what about Mr. X on St. Carlos Avenue, who did not know us, but waited for us with bag full of fresh lemons from his tree? We had only admired the tree for its beautiful lemons while passing in front of his house during our daily morning walks, and he had overheard us.
There were many more examples of over-whelming warmth, love and care we got from the great El Granada community, that made our stay there the most charming experience of our life, which we always cherish.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Rakhi, the Sister's Day in India

The image “http://www.tudo.co.uk/journalism_ashutosh_vardhana/shell/contents/raksha_bandan/images_raksha_bandan/tying_the_rakhi_orig.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Rakhi, the Sister's Day, is celebrated in India to symbolize the love and emotional bond between brothers and sisters. It is a festival rooted in the Indian tradition and reaffirms the pious relationship. The sisters tie the sacred thread around wrist of their brothers to protect them from any possible evil, and the brothers give gifts in return and promise to be there for them. Rakhi can be made of colorful cotton, silk or zari threads. Rakhi is celebrated with lots of fun and frolic. Besides the ritual of tying Rakhi, there is the real enjoyment in sisters and brothers getting together, exchanging gifts and relishing tempting and mouth-watering sweets of all sorts. This makes Rakhi festival interesting for everyone in the family.

The passing of time and the concept of multi-cultural society has influenced the festival to enlarge its scope and widen the ways of celebrating it. Today tying of Rakhi is not confined to the siblings alone. Rakhi can be tied to anyone by a woman whom she takes to be her brother. Soldiers in the battlefield receive the sacred Rakhi with wishes for their victory and safe return. Rakhi is also a day for women to visit the orphanages or prisons to tie Rakhi to the inmates. The kind act gives the ill fated Rakhi brothers a feeling of Hope, Love and Care. Rakhi, indeed, stirs up one of the deepest and noblest emotions in the human heart. The simple Rakhi thread motivates the brother to make any sacrifice to help his sister in need.

The oldest historical reference to the festival of Rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander invaded India. It is said that when the great conquerer, king Alexander of Macedonia was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru, Alexander's wife, who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached the mighty king Puru and sought assurance of her husband's life by tying the Rakhi on Puru's hand. The story goes that just as Puru raised his hand to deliver a mortal blow to Alexander, he saw the Rakhi on his wrist and refrained from striking at Alexander.

During the midieval era, Rajput kings were fighting Muslim invasions. When Rani Karnawati, the widowed queen of Chittor, realized that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, enlisting his support against the onslaught of the Gujarat Sultan. Touched by the gesture, Humayun hastened to the rescue of his Rakhi sister.

Rakhi this year falls on Friday 19th August, and the excitement for the celebration has already started. Since the emotional binding between brothers and sisters is universal, Rakhi, or the Sister's Day as we can call it, deserves to be celebrated universally like Mother's Day or Father's Day. It may happen sooner than later, if Hallmark, Archies and the like of them decide to add another Day to the list of events they promote with their creations of globly popular greeting cards.

Happy Rakhi to Sisters and Brothers!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Srinagar's proud record in war against terror

The image “http://northonline.sccd.ctc.edu/christen/India.kashmir.boats.72.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.It was the last week in October of 1947, barely ten weeks after India became independent from the British rule. I was in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, and was an eye witness to Srinagar's proud record in war against terror, when the city was saved by the triamph of secular forces over the evil of communal fundamentalists. Tribal militias, backed by Pakistan military, had invaded Kashmir. Before the raiders had almost reached the outskirts of the city, all the Maharaja's men fled to Jammu and beyond. In the absence of any administration, the city's infrastructure had totally collapsed to leave us without water and electricity in our homes. It was then that the citizens of Srinagar experienced something very strange--a unique power to pull together, the vast majority of the Moslem population along with Hindus and Sikhs, to save the city from falling to the tribal invaders and to restore all the essential services in the city including law and order.
Imagine the scenario, Moslem fundamentalists, motivated to wage a 'Jihad', to capture Kashmir, pushing forward to within miles of Srinagar, the capital, could not cross the human barrier of brave men whose only weapon was their united stand for secularism and a strong will to overcome the forces of communalism. Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent struggle for India's independence was their inspiration, Pundit Nehru's passion for secularism provided the strength and Sheikh Abdullah's leadership gave the guiding light that led them to victory, and saved their beloved city, Srinagar. The saga of Srinagar is as relevent today as it was then, in war against terror and extremist forces anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

India's Traditional Hospitality

The age-old story that strengthens India's traditional hospitality:

A man who had never missed his daily prayer at the temple, one day spoke aloud, addressing God, "Oh God, I have been coming every day to your home, but you have never visited mine. I do not want any favors from you, but I do wish and pray that you pay a return visit to my house at least once." He heard God saying that He would visit him the same day, though late in the evening. The poor man kept sitting at the entrance of his cottage waiting for God. It was getting darker and colder, but he did not move in, hoping to receive God at the entrance. He had lit fire to keep himself warm. Late at night a passerby stopped to warm himself by sitting near the fire. The man offered him a cup of tea and a piece from the cake he had made for God. The passerby thanked him profusely and went his way. The man kept sitting till the next morning, but God never came. At his daily prayer at the temple, he complained to God that He had not kept His word to visit his house the previous evening. He again heard God's voice, "I did come my son, and enjoyed the hot cup of tea and the piece of cake you served, and also the warm comfort of fire you had lit. Thank you for your hospitality."