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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, September 01, 2008

New Delhi, the heart of India

The year was 1947. We literally landed on ground from the great heights of our lavish lifestyle in Lahore, when our plane arrived at Palam airport in New Delhi. We had to start from a scratch, after my father had lost all that he had in Lahore, including his job, in the aftermath of the partition of India. Thank God, the financial hardship of the family did not last too long; my elder brother got a good career break in a large lumber company and my father too landed into a job of his liking as editor with a local publisher. We were able to rent an independent 3-bedroom house in East Patel Nagar and I could take admission in a college under Delhi University to pursue undergraduate course, after having passed matriculation from Punjab University in Lahore. So, we were now well set to lead our normal life and ready to explore our newly adopted city, New Delhi.

New Delhi was created as a separate entity from old Delhi in early 20th century, when the British rulers decided to shift their administrative capital from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Delhi. Two of England's most celebrated architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, were given the commissions to design the new buildings; The project took 20 years, and when it was finally finished, it represented their awesome architectural achievement, executed with immense skill, with no precise equivalent in our time. Many aspects of New Delhi, the stately government buildings and wide boulevards around them, Parliament House, Connaught Place, the commercial heart of the city, named after the Duke of Connaught, and especially, the Viceroy's House (Rashtrapati Bhavan), are architecturally amazing.

The capital of the world's largest democracy has a truly fascinating history. The city is littered with crumbling tombs and ruins, most of which are not even on the tourist map. In one day you can go from marveling at the sheer grace of the soaring Qutb Minar Tower, built in 1199 by the Turkish Slave King Qutb-ud-din Aibak to celebrate his victory over the Hindu Rajputs, to wander through the sculptural Jantar Mantar, a huge, open-air astronomy observatory built in 1725 by Jai Singh, creator and ruler of Jaipur, to the still-sacred atmosphere surrounding the tomb of the 14th-century Sufi saint, Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia, or the 16th-century garden tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun, precursor to the Taj. Or, after the chaos of exploring the crowded streets of 17th-century Shahjahanabad, Delhi's oldest living city, you can escape to Rajghat, the park where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948; or to Lodi Gardens, where lawns and golfing greens are studded with the crumbling 15th-century tombs of once-powerful dynasties. And still you haven't covered the half of it.

The facilities and opportunities that New Delhi has to offer have attracted Indians from far and wide corners of India, making it a melting pot of sorts. It is like the population explosion there: every day the people keep piling up, but there is always room for more the following day. This city actually grows! The presence of diplomatic and trade missions, the growing number of multi-national companies and foreign investors, and the influx of tourists and visiting professionals have given the city, a cosmopolitan air. The city boasts of being one of the greener capitals and also with the new shopping plazas opening at an unbelievable pace, the city can well turn itself into the shopping capital of the world.

As India’s economy surges, New Delhi is in the midst of a modernizing and building and construction boom, that includes new roads, new hotels, an improved transport system with expansion of Metro and dozens of flyers to relieve congestion in the city’s traffic choke-points. Adding urgency to the building boom is the countdown to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, which the Indian government views much in the same way as its northern neighbor viewed the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It was, indeed, heartbreaking to say goodbye to New Delhi, the heart of India, after spending over forty most heartwarming years of my life there – coming of age, pursuing higher studies in the prestigious Delhi University, meeting and marrying the love of my life, parenting a very loving son, and concluding a successful career in corporate sector. In 1990s we moved to the United States to join our son, settled here in Silicon Valley. We will cherish for ever the most charming memories of our life in New Delhi, and are eagerly looking forward to visit it in 2010, when the city will be at its most beautiful, ready to host the next Commonwealth Games.


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