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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.

Friday, November 25, 2005

It is good to be in America!

  1. Bill Clinton: One of the most interesting experiences in the U.S. was watching the vigorous campaigning for the presidential elections by the Democratic candidate Bill Clinton for his first term. I sent him a letter of congratulations on his great victory, even though I was certain it would be lost in multitude of such messages. But to my surprise, I got a prompt reply from the President elect. It encouraged me to write again on his inauguration as President of the United States. Within weeks I received an envelope with the White House marking. President Bill Clinton had personally replied to my letter of congratulations. Later on, during eight years of his presidency, I wrote several letters on varied subjects to President Clinton and I am proud to possess his personal replies to each one of them. The unique privilege of corresponding with President Bill Clinton remains my most precious experience in life- it made me, an ordinary man, feel extra-ordinary.
  2. USF Dean: After we had sent our son for higher studies to the U.S., the main topic of conversation with our friends was, how he was doing in America. They expressed concern that at his young age, he would not be able to withstand the cultural explosion that would confront him in the U.S. They feared drugs, drinking and dating starts from the school age. Although we had full faith in his ability to face and overcome any challenges there, we still thought it worthwhile to make a trip to the U.S. and see for ourselves the atmosphere and the environment in which he was pursuing his studies. During our first trip to the U.S., our most important engagement was to visit the University of Sanfrancisco, and meet the Dean, for which he had already taken an appointment. As we settled down to talk to the Dean, he initiated the conversation by complimenting us for sending our son so far away from home for higher studies and he felt that our son had a very strong academic foundation from schooling in India. He emphatically brushed aside all our doubts about students taking to bad habits like drugs and drinking in American universities- "Students from all over the world come to the U.S. for higher studies because the country provides the finest facilities, excellent environment and the best faculties available anywhere in the world. Since the education is expensive, only very serious students enroll. It helps the universities to have an environment that is ideal for serious studies." The Dean was gracious for not only giving us his precious time but also a promise to give personal attention and supervision to our son during the entire period of his stay in the University. Our meeting with the Dean, that went on for over an hour, was indeed the most rewarding experience of our trip.
  3. El Granada Neighbors: Within a couple of years after getting a good career break with a computer giant, our son had a house of his own. A nature lover, the house he bought was in El Granada, on the California coastline, 20-miles south of San Francisco. It was a beautiful newly built house, with the only drawback- lack of landscaping. We decided what our housewarming gift to him would be- to do landscaping ourselves during our visit. As soon as our neighbor, across the street, saw us weeding wild plants without proper tools, he came over with all his garden tools- "These tools will make your work easier. I will also be there to help you and will ask Mac to help us, he has the most modern garden tools." What a wonderful neighbor, we thought. Tom not only gave us much of his own time but also enlisted help of his friends. With all the tremendous effort and energy they put into the project, the wild land around Alok's house turned into a beautiful lawn. Not to forget the Hutchins, living three houses away, who contributed fruit and vegetable saplings from their home nursery, adding great value to the landscaping. We could never imagine that there could be greater neighbors anywhere.
  4. Cool at work: I joined the retail management team of a reputed chain that dealt in high-end luggage and travel accessories. It was my first exposure to the working environment in the U.S. and I was thrilled by the experience. The place looked like the showpiece of the country, the melting pot, where immigrants of varied nationalities and cultures blended beautifully. Our sales team comprised of the stores manager, of Moroccan origin, three Russian girls, a Mexican, a Phillipine, a Korean, an African American, a White American and the boss, the Regional Manager, an American lady. The atmosphere at the store, though very professional with dress code and other regulations strictly enforced, was the coolest I have ever seen in my career. The boss took the initiative to make the environment very pleasant with her humor and 'take it easy' policy. Indeed, the life was never so easy and enjoyable at work.
  5. Warm and friendly people: The thing that struck us instantly about American life was its pleasantness. Right from our first encounter with immigration and custom officers, who made us feel very comfortable and even helped us in repacking our bags after their inspection, to our walks on the beaches, we experienced it every where, every day. Almost every one, who passed us on the beaches or the side-walks greeted us and some even stopped to talk. Very simple, sincere and warm people; Joe, my classmate at the computer learning school, gave me a computer as gift when he learnt that I did not have one. No wonder, multitude of people kept coming from their homelands around the world, and felt at home here. It is interesting to see them talking to each other in their own language-Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic etc., besides the Indian languages, especially Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil and Bengali. And they have their own stores, temples, towns (China Town, Little India etc.) and even cities (Yuba City which looks like a city in Punjab- India), which makes life so much like in their country.
  6. Stranger at airport: At the JFK international airport in New York, we had to wait for our connecting flight to India for several hours. While we were sitting at the airport lobby, a lady, after seeing off her sister, came straight to Jeet, my wife, "Your beautiful silk suit says you are from India." And she sat down next to her, informing that she loved India and had visited the county many a times. During their conversation she came to know that we still had several hours to our flight but we could not go out to see the city, which we had not seen, as we had finished all our limited foreign exchange that we had brought from India. Looking admiringly at Jeet's bangles, she said, "I love your bangles. These must be very expensive." Jeet responded by removing her bangles, "Take them, these will look nice on you too." The lady took the bangles but insisted that she must pay for the same, but Jeet did not relent, "Please accept these as a gift from India you love so much." Thanking Jeet, the lady left, but not before leaving a hundred-dollar bill on her lap. Bangles were only an excuse to help us have a round of the city. Compassion comes naturally to the common man here. No surprise, the country has the biggest charities and the greatest foundations anywhere in the world.
  7. Dollars' worth: The first time when we came to the U.S. as visitors, we thought America must be the most expensive place to live- what, a 'samosa' costing Rs. 30/- and bread 60/- to 90/- rupees (Dollar = Rs. 30/- then). Now, living and earning in the U.S., we feel life here is much less expensive, especially the food, than back home, or for that matter anywhere in the world. Where in the world one can have a lavish lunch-buffet with a spread of twenty tempting dishes to select from, for dollars five to ten? And average price of gas at dollars 2.50 per gallon, when the price is at its highest, is still the cheapest in any country. Indeed, the essential living expenses vis-a-vis the median family income are low enough to leave them with enough money to spend at their discretion- mainly on leisure and to improve their life style. No wonder, people come here to work from all over the world, especially the developing countries, and earn dollars to live a good life and also make life better for families back home with their savings.
  8. Advantage Senior Citizens: When we went to watch a movie with our son and daughter-in-law for the first time, we noticed that our tickets cost half the price of theirs. Later we found that at most places, especially in buses, trains and many restaurants, the senior citizens were not only given special discounts, but also a special place. The government gives them free health insurance for the best medical care, besides other social benifits, including social security and supplementary income. Getting old has its advantages in the U.S.
  9. PublishAmerica: I have the most exciting experience interacting with PublishAmerica, the reputed publishers. Thanks to them, although an immigrant, I am proud to be an author published in the U.S. My book, Paradise Lost and Found, narrates the survival to success story of a family who suffered in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947. PublishAmerica considered it a well desrving story for publishing in America. Throughout the process of publishing, the tremendous support I received from their very proficient editors was, indeed, very encouraging. Americans' first love is reading books, even surpassing their passion for cars, and this is a great incentive for writers to come here for their literary pursuits.
  10. Son at Sun: Nothing in the world makes parents happier than seeing their children make significant progress in life. Our son, Alok, completed his higher education in U.S. and joined Sun Microsystems, where he is now the Principal Engineer. What better excuse can parents have to be in the U.S. after their retirement, than to be near their children? U.S. has many a shining sons and daughters from India and the rest of the world, making a mark on this land.


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