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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.