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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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

PDA On Priest's Call!

PDA, the topic takes me back to the nostalgic memories of the beautiful time I spent in the company of of my friends and fellow students at my dearest Delhi University. PDA for us was boys and girls going out together to the University Coffee House and have hearty laughs talking about our lecturers or the latest movies. Not that we did not have couples amongst the students, but their PDA was also confined to sitting under the winter sun in secluded corners of the lawn, peeling an orange or sharing an apple, or continuing their after class studies in the Library, exchanging notes sitting next to each other, and at the end of it to walk together up to the bus stand and waiting their for the bus, once in a while willingly missing the bus to have more time together till the next bus arrived. A quick kiss was far fetched, even holding of hands had to be done discretely. Not that they were all puritans or prisoners of their parents' orthodox values, who over restrained in enjoying innocent romantic moments with their partners. But they did it at places that provided them privacy to do it, in restaurants which had special cabins for couples to have their own space, in movie theaters in the privacy of the box provided in many picture halls. For romancing in fresh air, there were lovely, though lonely, places like the Lovers' Lane connecting the ridge and Sardar Patel road, or gorgeous gardens around historical monuments,with hardly any visitors on week days. But city parks, streets and side walks or any place within public view, NO WAY. It would be sheer arrogance shown to elders or the public, indeed a Public Display of Arrogance. Interestingly, most of those romantic partners in the University, when settled in life later, would be seen as happily united in marriage, like me and my wife. This was the norm then, and not the exception.

Films often are a true reflection of their times. PDA as we know today, was missing from the movies of that era. Instead of lying on each other on the lawns or smooching in some scenic location in Switzerland, the hero would be seen playing a piano while wooing his ladylove with lines somewhat like “Tu kahe agar to jeevan bhar mein geet sunata jaoon.” The proverbial tree proved safe bet in courting scenes to keep the lovers at safe distance from each other at public parks, or still safer, the lovers remained separated in much of the footage of the film, content to call from long distance, “Awaaz de kahan hei, dunia meri jawan hei.” With all the inspiration missing from movies, the youth then did not even know there was such a thing as PDA.

50 years later and 10,000 miles away, I find PDA believers at their best, or perhaps, at their worst. They're everywhere: the couples out in public indulging in deep kissing that goes on and on. America has become a nation of sexual exhibitionism. People feel the need to demonstrate their sexuality to others, and public displays of affection are the perfect way to prove that their private lives are truly sexual. Men like to practice PDA because it stokes their egos. Women also practice PDA as a way of sending a signal to other women that her partner is "taken. Their thinking is: 'love is beautiful, why feel shy of sharing it with the rest of the world'. Schools in USA, specially, are the worst examples of PDA. Couples do not hesitate to physically demonstrate their love in the hallways, on the staircase and anywhere in the school compound. Some schools have now made a student sitting on another student's lap in the class a ground for suspension, but most schools still do not have any rules that specifically address public display of affection. When students pass out from the schools which have not been strict even when students have been blatantly and excessively displaying affection, they continue to indulge in PDA in any and every public place, leaving its appropriateness entirely dependent on the eye of the beholder. They believe Society’s gotten less prudish; the shame’s not there, nor the secrecy, the stuff on TV is a validation of the audience’s desires.

Last year we were in India, hosting an American guest, a colleague of my son in Sun Microsystems. He had come on official visit to Bangalore, but extended his stay to do some sight seeing with us in New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, the Golden Triangle of tourism. One place he captured most on his camera, after the Taj, was the beautifully landscaped Lodi Garden in New Delhi. He could not hold himself from clicking the couples, cuddled in for their rare moments of romance, in this real haven of tranquility and peace. They had completely over shadowed the historical connection of the place to the medieval monuments by attracting attention to their 'no hold bars' public display of affection. Though a very common sight in his country, our friend could not hide his shock on finding PDA being pursued so boldly in India. Like most Americans, he too, perhaps, perceived Indians to be culturally very traditional and orthodox, who could marry a woman whom they had never met, in contrast to long live-in relationship before marriage, so common in his country. But globalization seems to have greatly diminished much of the distance between different cultures, as reflected in increasing public display of affection in India. Hopefully, the weddings will continue to be completed traditionally with the couples bowing to their elders to seek their blessings, instead of following the western culture of the priest calling the couple to kiss in public and the gathering giving a big hand by clapping – PDA on priest's call!


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