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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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

El Granada, the unforgettable little town.

The “Coastal Jewel”, as it is called by the coastsiders, El Granada is a quaint town on California coast on the Pacific Ocean, south of San Francisco. It is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods, with wide tree-lined boulevards shooting out from the town's modest downtown with lush green strips in the center of the avenues. Designed by the famous architect D. H. Burnham in the beginning of the last century to be a fabulous resort, El Granada retains its rugged beauty because the residents wanted it that way. Around 1970 when the citizens of the San Mateo Midcoast saw the grandiose plan for a huge resort city of nearly 200,000 people and the total degradation of their beautiful coast, they were outraged and organized to prevent it. They determined to create their own plan with sensibility toward the environment and a vision for planned growth of the Coast with parks throughout. Result, they are happy that they were able to retain the beauty of this tiny town, along with Miramar, Montana and Moss Beach, on the highlands near Half Moon Bay. If the original plan that called for a massive mixed-use project of beach-front amusement, a casino, bath houses, vacation homes and piers had been fulfilled, it would not only have harmed the natural beauty of the place, but also made the price of property so prohibitive that it would have become a place beyond the reach of nature lovers, but with average means.

So many local attractions and the close by outdoors recreation will absolutely have you coming back persistently to El Granada. Set against a backdrop of coastal mountains, the picturesque Pillar Point Harbor makes an excellent destination for diverse activities including whale watching, fishing, boating. And if you're searching for a great location to go camping, this is a glorious choice. A day at El Granada Beach in the vicinity is time well spent. So many enjoyable things to do here, especially surfing, too magnificent to be true. There are many other beaches nearby which are as enjoyable: Vallejo Beach, Miramar Beach, Montana Beach, Moss Beach, Naples Beach and Dunes Beach.

The biggest attraction of El Granada, even surpassing its natural beauty and the enjoyable beaches, is the community inhabiting this cute coastal town – the sweetest and the nicest neighborhood I have ever seen. Here is how we, I and my wife Jeet, were welcomed when we first arrived from India to join our son, settled in Silicon Valley with residence in El Granada.

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 chain-saw, 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, 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 late mother-in-law and was lying unused as she 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 overwhelming 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. Although no longer living there, having moved to Millbrae, we keep coming back to El Granada to enjoy its generous community, beautiful beaches and of course, 'fish and chips' at the harbor, which no one can match.


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