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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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Foreign Trained Montessori Teacher!

In our spare time, while my wife did watercolor painting, I decided to do what I always wanted to do, since my school days when I used to write a couple of columns in my school magazine. I started to edit and publish my own weekly paper, The Priceless, not as a full time profession or business, but purely as a pastime. It was a weekly paper of ads with a sprinkling of popular features like film reviews, food recipes from my wife's kitchen, fortune forecasts for the week from Zodiac books etc., and was distributed free with the weekend edition of daily newspapers. It was then a new concept that instantly clicked. Neighborhood shops and commercial establishments, which could not afford expensive advertisements in the national newspapers, advertised in The Priceless, paying a very affordable price. With its increasing popularity, my wife's involvement in its production also increased, and besides contributing the recipe column, she also booked ads and attended to calls from the readers and the advertisers. She could give more time as her school job gave her many more spare hours than my office timings.

Though The Priceless was not a newspaper, by a twist of fate, it became the biggest news story of the mainstream newspapers. It could do what the police failed to do, tracing a teenage girl in Delhi, who had disappeared from her home in Singapore. The girl's mother pursuing a clue, a postcard from her daughter with a Delhi postal marking, had come to Delhi in search of her missing daughter. She sought the help of Delhi police, but in the city with a population of seventy million then, it was too difficult to trace her daughter without any definite leads. As was its routine in such a case of suspected kidnapping, the police raided the 'Red Light' area, in case the girl was a victim of traffickers who might have sold her for prostitution. But it was of no avail. When all efforts by the police to trace her daughter in Delhi failed, the mother decided to go back to Singapore, disappointed and distressed. However, prior to leaving Delhi, she advertised in the newspapers about her missing daughter, offering a handsome award for any help in finding her. As soon as my wife saw the ad, describing the missing girl as a Montessori school teacher in Singapore, something struck her mind.
“I have a hunch that the missing girl might be traced at the new school in our neighborhood, which has been advertising in our paper for the last several weeks announcing its opening.” She said excitedly on seeing the ad.
“What makes you think that the girl would have run away from her home in Singapore to join a starter school like this one?” I was curious to know the clue she had in her mind.
“Because the Principal/owner of the school called the other day to add this line in their regular ad, 'Kinder Garden classes taken by a foreign trained Montessori teacher.' I cannot say why, but I'm quite certain that this foreign trained teacher must be the same missing girl from Singapore.” And she immediately called the number given in the ad about the missing girl, and asked the excited mother to come over to our place to pursue a vital clue she had on her daughter's whereabouts.

My wife told the mother, who had rushed to reach our house by a taxi from her hotel, that she suspected that her daughter might be working at the new school in our neighborhood, which had publicized in our weekly paper the addition of a foreign trained teacher. And she took her to the school, not far from our house. To the mother's most joyous moment, Mona, her missing daughter, was very much there. Mona, though momentarily shocked to see her mother at the school, was overjoyed to be reunited with her. It turned out that Mona had left home as she could not cope with her step father's continuing misbehavior with her. She came to Delhi because she only knew this city other than Singapore, having visited it many times with her mother. She had been planning secretly for some time to leave Singapore, and kept looking for a suitable job, scanning classifieds in a Delhi paper, available in her school library. Responding to an ad of the school, requiring a Montessori teacher, she flew to Delhi without informing anyone. She straight went to the school and met the Principal, who not only gave her the job but also helped her getting a paying guest accommodation with a lady teacher in the same school.

Mainstream newspapers, which were following the story of the missing girl from Singapore, came out next day with the details how the case had closed with a happy ending. They had especially praised my wife's role in reuniting the mother and the daughter, connecting the two ads and her refusal to accept any reward for this from the mother. The mother, though very happy to have found her daughter, returned to Singapore without her. She had acceded to her daughter's request to let her continue with her job at the school, only when my wife persuaded her in view of Mona's plight and agreed to be her local guardian in Delhi.


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