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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, September 20, 2005

The world I wish to rediscover

I was watching on TV, President Bush, standing in Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, New Orleans, was addressing the nation. The square was empty, not a soul seen anywhere. The city had been cleared earlier of the last of the residents remaining there after evacuation in the aftermath of Katrina. Those who still might have been there were not to be seen. Imagine a slightly different scenario. The city still had some life left, with the residents wishing to hear the President right at the Square. Would the President be still addressing the nation, standing in the heart of the city with the people? No way, am I crazy not to know that it would be not at all safe for the President to attempt any such mis-adventure? Even if he wanted to act brave before his people, his security would have jumped in to prevent such a move for security reasons.

This is the present scenario for not only the President of the United States but all the world leaders. I feel sad and I recollect the action of overzealous security of the Prime Minister of India, late Rajiv Gandhi, not very long ago. The place was right on the picturesque road along the Aravali Hills leading to Alwar and further up the famous Tiger Sanctuary at Sariska. The wayside wooden shops at Nuh and other small towns displayed colorful items handcrafted by village craftsmen, and were a great attraction for tourists. Suddenly something happened that changed the entire scene. The Prime Minister called a conclave of Cabinet Ministers and their aides in the scenic surroundings of Sariska Tiger Sanctuary, on the lines of the US Presidents making news at Camp David or the presidential ranch. The plan promptly put the Prime Minister's security into action and all those wayside shops were literally lifted hundreds of yards to the interiors, not visible from the road, as long as the VVIPs were enjoying serious deliberations at the Tiger Den. The Ministrial meetings may have lasted for a few days, but the ordeal suffered by the people living along the way lasted much longer. In fact, the place never came back to its original lively form, the people having lost confidence, not knowing when another Prime Minister or President may decide to spend a day at Sariska.

Down my memory lane comes another time, of another Prime Minister and a President, and a set of shops which were also situated on the VIP route but had a different story to tell. The year was 1959. Pundit Nehru was the Prime Minister. He had just received President Eisenhower, on a state visit, the first US President to visit India. As their motorcade arrived near the downtown Connaught Place in the heart of New Delhi, it stopped in front of the flourishing fruit and vegetable market. Both, Pundit Nehru and President Eisenhower came out of their cars for the traditional welcome with flowers and garlands by the vegetable and fruit vendors, the common people. They got themselves photographed with them and some lucky ones even shaked hands with the world's two great leaders. This was the scene whenever a foreign dignitary, a President or a Prime Minister passed that point on their arrival. And this is the world I wish to rediscover, sans the threat of security that separates the peoples' leaders from their own people.