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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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick Or Treat!

My wife and I were visiting our son in USA. Halloween, mother of all festivals, was due in a few days. There was ghostly excitement all around. We saw it right from the sunrise when we went for our morning walk on the sidewalks on the city streets. The skeletons of ghosts seemed to be guarding the homes or enjoying themselves dancing in the front lawns or just lying there, as if dead tired after all night duty. The only new additions which were not ghostly were the large and small pumpkins placed on the stairs to the entrance. Our curiosity to know more about this strange and scary but fascinating festival was all the more aroused when we went browsing in a nearby departmental store during the day. Store was full of different type of fancy dresses and scary masks displayed prominently which were being picked by enthusiastic children accompanied by their mothers. On way back we stopped by at our neighbor, who had become our best guide on the U.S. ever since we arrived in her neighborhood, and she was so happy to quench our curiosity on Halloween.

The origin of Halloween is amongst many of the different customs that were taken to the United States by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the nineteenth century. It was believed that the spirits of the dead rose out of their graves and wandered, trying to return to the homes where they formerly lived. Frightened people tried to appease these wandering spirits by offering them gifts of fruit and nuts. They began the tradition of placing plates of the finest food and bits of treats that the household had to offer on their doorsteps, as gifts, to appease the hunger of the ghostly wanderers. If not placated, people feared that the spirits would kill their flocks or destroy their property. The only thing the superstitious people knew to do to protect themselves on such an occasion was to masquerade as one of the demonic hoard, and hopefully blend in unnoticed among them. Wearing masks and other disguises and blackening the face with soot were originally ways of hiding oneself from the spirits of the dead who might be roaming around. In many parts of Britain and Ireland this night used to be known as 'Mischief Night', which meant that people were free to go around the village playing pranks and getting up to any kind of mischief without fear of being punished. and they developed into 'trick or treat'. Over time the custom changed and the town's children went from house to house, the housewives would give them candy to keep from being tricked when the children would shout "Trick or Treat!".

The Halloween evening was, indeed, a very interesting experience, when one after the other, batches of children in their bewitching fancy dresses kept coming to knock on our door and shout with one voice “Trick or Treat”. Our son and daughter-in-law were well stocked for the onslaught and said “Treat” while filling their small halloween handbags with the finest candies. Some of the children extended the “Trick or Treat” to its full version:

“Trick or treat, Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat!!!”

The entire scenario seemed familiar, reminding us of the scene during the festival of Lori in Punjab, India, when children went around the neighborhood collecting money and sweets, and singing some folklore that ended somewhat like this:

“Long live your jodi
Cry or howl, Give us lori!!!”

Scared to death, within some days following the grand festival of ghosts, we actually had a close encounter with a real ghost. My wife and I were on our usual long walks on trails in the hills around El Granada, our town, when we saw a beautiful lady wearing a blue skirt approaching us at a lonely patch of our path. As she was close enough for us to greet her with a “Good Morning”, we were flabbergasted to find she had vanished without a trace. With memories of the ghostly festival fresh in our minds, we got scared and turned to return home without completing the distance to our usual destination. As we turned, we again saw the lady, walking away and disappearing in the dense fog. Returning home, we straight went to our friend and guide to solve the mystery of the vanishing beauty in blue:

The Blue Lady is the ghost of a woman reportedly seen in and around the Moss Beach Distillery Cafe in Moss Beach, California; she is so-named because she usually dressed all in blue. According to the ghostly coast-side legend, some 72 years ago a beautiful, young woman met by chance, a handsome dangerous man and fell in love with him. This sophisticated ladies' man was, say some, a piano player in the bar. The naive young woman, always dressed in blue was already married to another but her unsuspecting husband and young son never knew of the illicit affair. She made many trips to the restaurant to be with her lover. The beautiful lady in blue died in a violent automobile accident and it is here at the Distillery you will now find her searching for her lover. Many strange events have been documented since that time that can not be explained such as mysterious phone calls from no one, levitating checkbooks, locked rooms from the inside without any other means of entry, women diners losing one ear ring and then several of these are found in one place weeks later, date tampering with computers, sightings by several stray walkers in the area, and continue to hear of new events that cannot be explained.

We did not dare to go for a walk on that trail again, even though “this ghost was not destructive with her pranks”, as our friend put it.


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