Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

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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, August 28, 2008

Lahore, the beloved city of my birth

It was hard to believe that Lahore was now beyond our reach and we would never be able to return to the beloved city of my birth. On August 15, 1947, Lahore had become part of Pakistan, the newly created country out of the partition of India. As our plane took off for New Delhi, the capital of India, my mind started to fly back to Lahore with sweet memories of the first 15 years of my life that I spent in that great city.

There was a saying in Punjab, “Jinhe Lahore nahin dekhya, o jamaya hi nahin” (One who has not seen Lahore is like not born), and so true. Lahore was a very modern and clean city, with most of the areas street-cleaned every morning, and kept cool in summer months by mobile sprinklers of the municipality. Shining tongas, driven by well-fed and trained horses, were a pride of their owners and pleasure for the passengers. Anarkali Bazar, all the time bustling with browsers and shoppers, had the biggest and the most beautiful shops no other city could boast of. This also made it the star attraction for visitors and locals alike. Lahore was also an important historical place with many landmarks and monuments of the Mogul times, such as the Shalimar Gardens, built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan, and the Fort where Emperor Akbar had his court for fourteen years. The museum, the Mall, Lawrence gardens and the zoo were other attractions where people liked to go again and again.

Lahore was the cultural, intellectual and educational center of not only the Punjab province, but also the entire country. No other city in India had so many schools, colleges, cultural centers and institutions of higher learning as Lahore. The fondest memories of my life in Lahore were, of course, from my school days. Indeed, I was very proud of going to D.A.V. High school, the most prestigious school in Punjab, which topped in studies as well as sports every year. The school had the biggest library, located in a separate building within the school compound, the most modern gymnasium, a great swimming pool and large play grounds, apart from the top ranking faculty no other school could afford. The sweetest memory from my school days related to the most enjoyable time spent with my friends, especially Bazal, my best friend and next door neighbor. The Government College, considered the greatest institution for higher studies in the entire province of Punjab, was in our neighborhood. Apart from all the top class facilities and faculties there, the college was known for its large tournament standard swimming pool, where I, along with Bazal, would spend most of our summer evenings, thanks to Bazal's father who was a faculty member, and got us permission to use the swimming pool.

Bazal and I were so close that there was hardly a day when he was not at our place or vice-versa, though most of the time it was he who would be at our place. Everyone in the family loved him, particularly my mother who pampered him all the more ever since the day he had a miraculous escape from what could have been a fatal fall from our terrace to the street, three stories down. It was the day when everyone in Lahore would be on the terrace, looking at the sky that was covered with colorful kites of all sorts and sizes, large and small, round and square. One and all, Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, young and old, celebrated the Hindu festival of Basant, at the beginning of spring, as the festival of kite flying. As usual with all festivals, whether the Hindu Deepavali or the Moslem Eid, Bazal was celebrating Basant at our place by flying kites from our terrace. As he was totally engrossed in a match with a rival kite-flyer from another terrace, he suddenly slipped over the low fence and lost control. A split-second move by my brother to hold Bazal, saved his life.

Next to Mumbai and Kolkata, Lahore was the largest movie making center in India. Besides two big studios, Pancholi Arts and Shorie Pictures, that boasted of many super-hit movies, there were a large number of smaller units, which too had quite a few hit films to their credit. Many of the mainstream stars started their career in movies that were made in Lahore, and later moved to Mumbai where they became some of the biggest stars of Indian cinema. Lahore also had a large number of movie theaters where “House Full” sign was a usual sight, especially on Sundays and holidays. Wednesday matinees were reserved for women, when it was the “Ladies Only” show in all theaters at half the normal rates. My mother, a great fan of Hindi films, made it a must every Wednesday to watch the new release of the week, and I was her constant companion till I was twelve years old, the age limit for allowing boys in “Ladies Only” shows, if accompanied by a lady. That is how I became a movie addict, right from the time I was a toddler in Lahore till date.

Lahore always remained a living example of religious harmony where Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs and Christians lived in absolute peace till around the partition of India. We had actually continued to stay in Lahore for quite sometime after the formation of Pakistan, as my father firmly believed that sooner or later the atmosphere would calm down. But his logic proved irrelevant at that period of time, when mobs of fanatic Moslems attacked our house. We had a miraculous escape when Bazal and his brother, an army officer in the Pakistan army, not only saved our lives but also escorted us to airport for taking a flight to New Delhi. The brothers truly represented the spirit of Lahore - the spirit of brotherhood.

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.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My City - Millbrae, California

As I started writing on my city, Millbrae, my mind instantly flew to Lahore (of pre-partition India) with which I have the sweetest memories of my first 15 years of life. Lahore lives for ever in my heart and it is hard to believe that I can never return to the city of my birth, my childhood, my school days and my best friends, because it is now a part of another country, Pakistan. Delhi, the heart of India, is another charming city which I will cherish for ever. This is the city where I grew up from adolescence to adulthood, went to India's most prestigious Delhi University for arts and professional degrees, had a great career in leading companies of the corporate world, and married to the love of my life, the most wonderful woman in the world. Even El Granada, the first city I settled in after moving to USA in the early 1990s, I can never forget for the unforgettable love and affection of our most loving neighbors on the left, right and front, for many houses in a row. Each of these cities deserve a detailed round up which I hope to post soonest possible. For the present their brief mention was a must , as without that my conscience would not have allowed me to write about any city, including Millbrae where I moved from El Granada in 1997.

El Granada to Millbrae, it is like moving from Mars to Earth, from the rough rocky terrain to a smooth neat city. Though part of the same San Mateo solar system, the two cities are so far apart in their planning and upkeep. The conditions of roads in El Granada made you mad; like they have never been relaid or repaired. In comparison, Millbrae's systematic development of streets is so delightful and they are so clean and well kept. It is heavenly to take a walk on the sidewalks, where well trimmed trees and front gardens of spanish homes are a beauty in themselves. And what a civilized community, so quiet and yet so caring. We are specially lucky to live between two most beautiful neighbors one can dream of.

From the 1860's, when financier Darius Ogden Mills purchased land from the Sanchez family to build his country estate, Mills' "brae" or "rolling hills" has enjoyed a colorful history. Children swam in three lakes situated on the estate and sold acacias to tourists before the Mills family began to sell the land for development. The estate's spectacular mansion burned down in 1954, leaving behind a growing community. Today, Millbrae boasts over 21,000 residents of diverse ethnic, national, and cultural backgrounds, with the median income for a family as $82,000, as against the national median income of $43,000. The City's senior citizen community, with the eager generosity of the City's many service clubs and private donations, recently dedicated an attractive new senior wing within the Millbrae community center. My wife enjoys the senior center with her weekly watercolor painting class. Millbrae has a reputation for having some of the best schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mills High School is considered to be one of the top high schools in all of San Mateo County.

Downtown Broadway is the dream-street of culinary arts. No matter what your tastes are harking for, you will find something to satisfy that craving at the best of eateries – American, Asian, Bar & Grill, Barbecue, Bistros, Breakfast & Brunch, Burger, Cafes, Chinese, French, Italian, Mexican, Pizza, Seafood, Steak and Vegetarian. Broadway is amongst the distinguished downtowns where Starbucks competes with Peets, Safeway with Trader Jo's, Baskin and Robbins with Yubi, Marvyns with Dress Barn, and where you have 24 hours Walgreen and Fitness. It makes Millbrae so opposite of the neighboring Hillsborough where “zoning law” forbids any kind of commercial activity, including banks and postal services. Even with all these businesses to boast of, Broadway is all the time having major makeovers going on:

* Installation of numerous streets-cape improvements, including street trees, street plantings, banners, decorative paving, street lighting, street furniture, holiday decorations, and installation of community benches;
* Regular, intensive Downtown clean-up and landscape maintenance;
* Addition of several new businesses, including Office Depot, Jamba Juice, Bagel Cafe, Kinko’s, Affiche, Broadway Produce, Shoppe Ten, Vineyard Gate, Seafood Harbor, McAdams Sporting Goods, Leather Express, Cheung Heung, and Halogen Lighting Store;
* Renovation of Safeway and expansion of the 16 Mile House Restaurant;

Huh? A farmer's market on Broadway? That's right folks. This is held on Saturdays in the early morning till about 1 p.m. or so. The man at the largest fruit stand is the sweetest man on earth. The peaches are delicious in the summertime, and the grapes, navel oranges and all the rest are just as scrumptious. There are also a good amount of flower stands and veggie stands. The veggie stands sell their veggies for SUPER cheap. Two huge daikons (those white crunchy radishes) cost only $1. There is also a man who sells delicious breads. He's a sweet man, like all of the people there.

Summer may be winding down but festival season is just starting to hit its stride with many of the best events ahead. For some sun-splashed, Mardi Gras-style fun this Labor Day weekend, head over to lively downtown Millbrae for the big Art & Wine Festival coming up August 30-31. Every year, the last unofficial weekend of summer brings large crowds to Millbrae for one of the Bay Area’s biggest Labor Day weekend events, transforming its delightful downtown streets into a resplendent sea of people and colorful tents. Stroll, browse, relax and enjoy a friendly and vibrant street fair with two days of stellar live music, gorgeous handcrafted work by 250 talented artists, fabulous food and wine, and the best family entertainment value around.

Together Millbrae residents meet the challenges and enjoy the benefits presented by the City's unique position adjacent to an international airport. The airport continues to expand and Millbrae's economy remains inextricably linked to the airport and the tourism it engenders. Millbrae retains its "small town" feel, while undergoing a major downtown revitalization. Hilltop to bay-shore, residents and visitors revel in the City's spirit of community and scenic splendor.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It Is Yellow Journalism

Amitabh Bachchan, in his blog post of August 20, 2008 (Day 120), has put up this and many more questions in the same context for public debate:

“Why does the media have an agenda against a particular group, family or individual?”

The answer: It is yellow journalism. Most people read it everyday, yet aren't familiar with what the term means. Let's examine a prime example that clearly explains it.

The yellow journalist: "He is too famous? Then I'll make him infamous."

One must ask, is this a genuine use of freedom of speech, or is it an act of deception. Why, might you ask, would a journalist ever want to do such a thing? For one reason: it sells. Commercial news relies on "their ability to continue to feed any form of public frenzy over scandal, crime, and sensational discoveries. Money is the driving factor in any economy and nothing will stand in anyone's way of obtaining it. Does this mean that reputations, personal lives and careers may be destroyed? Possibly. But scandal, secrets and sex sell, and in the eyes of some journalists, paychecks are much more important.

What is difficult to understand is why these journalists choose to embark on such a route, to defy the truth and degrade the lives and the actions of public figures. Surely this would cause their audience to question all journalists' ethics, provoking a generalized sense of public skepticism. However, reputation is not what motivates these writers. It is their hunger for widely publicized work, increased circulation, and fat paychecks that drives them to report twisted versions of the truth and attack the character of public figures. How often do we hear the claim that journalists only give the public what the public wants?

Yellow journalism can be seen in every aspect of the media, but mostly in topics concerning political or celebrity scandals. Political mud-slinging is especially evident during campaigns or upcoming election dates, highlighting biases with unfair, sensationalized articles about rumors of past criminal activity, extra-marital relationships, financial misconduct and much more. These stories are nothing more than an attempt to make money, to sell more copies of the paper, or to gain more viewers on the TV station. The reputation, career and family life of the subject is not of any importance to the writer.

Lately the content of most magazines comes in the form of celebrity tabloid pieces. Is she or isn't she pregnant? Did he cheat that night? Their fairy-tale wedding wasn't quite so perfect. The vast majority of these stories contain nothing more than unnamed sources and no credible proof to back up their reliability. Yet, people want to read these lies in order to have something to talk about with their friends over coffee, or for a bit of gossip to spread around the break room at work.

Unfortunately, this form of journalism will never be eliminated from television channels or from newsstands because of the vast profit to be made in the business. People like to think others behave badly, inappropriately and unfairly for numerous reasons. Most frequently, it gives people something to talk about and it allows them to feel better about their own lives. Obviously, the targets of this work don't see it the same way. Unfortunately, with the judicial system as it prevails, they cannot do much to punish the perpetrators of prejudiced and biased reporting about them and their work. The only option for them is to ignore it as media's ethical failure and have hope that their fans and followers are not influenced by the media manipulated false stories on them. The silver-lining for them is that media's ethical failure is well known. Overwhelmingly the people expect the media to exercise the vast powers responsibly, and are constantly disappointed that this is not being done.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gay Pride Parade In India

The mainstream acceptance of gays and lesbians, a hard-won civil-rights victory gained through decades of struggle against prejudice and discrimination in the West, was also clearly visible in India, when Gay Pride Parades were organized recently without any fuss from any section.

In New Delhi, on Sunday June 29th, it was a mixture of defiance and celebration when several hundred participants in New Delhi's first Gay Pride Parade rallied through the capital, beating drums, shouting slogans and waiving rainbow-striped pride flags. It is learnt that simultaneous marches were held in Calcutta and Bangalore.

Mumbai's first ever Gay Pride march came one day after Independence Day, which was symbolic as it gave greater voice to the primary aim - freedom from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalizes homosexuality. Gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and straight supporters wore rainbow hats and waved rainbow flags as they congregated for the parade. One could feel a sense of pride in the air as people thronged the maidan waiting for actress Celina Jaitley to flag off the march.

As if the parades were not enough to strengthen the Gay Pride movement in India, opens the 60-second promo of Karan Johar's Dostana. The video shows leading men Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham as lovers. Without wasting much time, the promo cuts the scene where John and Abhishek are doing the tango, with Bachchan Jr, holding a rose in his teeth. In another scene John announces to a woman, "Hum gay hain!" and pointing to Abhishek adds, "Yeh mera boyfriend hai!"This is the first time that a mainstream Bollywood film with big actors has based its entire storyline around the gay theme. There are multiple shots of John and Abhishek romancing each other.

There is nothing wrong with the parades and the promo if their aim is to show that gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth. But if the organizers of the parades go beyond, and start copying their gay counterparts in the West, it could be intolerable vis-a-vis India culture. For example, the parade in San Francisco, intended to "promote acceptance, tolerance, and equality for the city's gay community," accomplished just the opposite, as the event confirmed the worst fears of thousands of non-gay spectators, cementing in their minds a debauched and distorted image of gay life. A photo spread in media chronicled many of the event's vulgar displays which horrified previously tolerant people.

Gay people are just like everybody else–decent, hard-working people who care about their communities and have loving, committed relationships. Looking at the marchers in India, one realized that while so many countries in the West are debating same-sex marriages, here we are still talking about a law criminalizing homosexuality. The overall feeling though was that of triumph. This Pride is a milestone for the gay community here. Slowly and inevitably the walls of opposition will come down. Like a Pride placard said: 'I am here, I am queer, get used to it'.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

August 15, 1947

August 15, 1947, the day when the nation rejoiced hoisting of India's tricolor on the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, I was in Srinagar, Kashmir. I, along with my mother and sister, had come there from Lahore to spend summer vacations with my brother who lived in Srinagar. Perhaps, the primary reason for my father planning to send us to Srinagar was to keep us away from the increasing communal tension between Hindus and Moslems in Lahore. Stray incidents of stabbing and arson were on the increase day by day and it was getting less and less safe to be on the streets of Lahore. Students, especially, enjoying their summer vacations, roaming on the roads or in the main markets, were the more vulnerable victims of the attacks by the fanatic communal forces. So, as soon as the vacations started in July, we were off to Srinagar.

August 15, 1947, when India was declared free and Pandit Nehru was delivering the memorable Dawn of Independence speech, we in Kashmir were clueless whether the State would be part of India or remain under the rule of Maharaja's monarchy. The Maharaja was still sitting tight on the options, thereby creating a very confused situation on the status of Kashmir vis-a-vis India's independence. Sheikh Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir as he was called, had been imprisoned for fighting to make Kashmir part of the mainstream India. The only silver-lining in all this chaotic condition in Kashmir was that there was absolute peace in the State, when the neighboring Punjab was burning in communal hatred. Credit for keeping Kashmir free from communal violence should entirely go to Sheikh Abdullah who did not let his followers, the vast majority of Muslims in the Valley, indulge in any kind of hate crimes.

August 15, 1947, my father was still in Lahore which was now a part of Pakistan. We in Srinagar were worried about his fate, when mobs of fanatic Muslims were roaming on the roads of Lahore, vowing not to let a single Hindu or Sikh live in Lahore. They were on a killing spree and it was a miraculous escape for my father when they forced their entry into our house on learning that he was still living there. Our wonderful Muslim friends living next door helped him escape by crossing over to their house from the terrace and later escorting him across the border to India. Partition was indeed a very big price India had to pay to achieve independence from the British. At least one million men, women and children were killed and over ten million uprooted from their homes on both sides of the border, following the religious divide of the country. It was a holocaust of another kind, in which people killed people, while the administration looked the other way.

August 15, 1947, the day we commemorate every year with pride and joy as India's independence day, also reminds me and my family of the most terrible time, when freedom was a far cry for us. We had to delay our celebrations till my father managed to join us in Kashmir. Even there the joy was short lived as shortly afterwards, sudden full-fledged attack was launched on defenseless Kashmir by tribal invaders – backed by the Pakistan Army – committing rape, arson and pillage in the valley, nearly capturing Srinagar before the Indian Army chased them away. We were a witness to the brave and proud saga of Srinagar. Although within a few miles of the raiders, Srinagar remained far away from their reach. The lion of Kashmir had roared, and waves after waves of his militia challenged the invaders with whatever small weapons they could manage from the fleeing men of the Maharaja, who had already fled the city along with all his officers. The administration had completely collapsed. It was then that the citizens of Srinagar experienced something very strange, a unique power to pull together, irrespective of their religious beliefs, to build a human barrier that the invaders could not break.

Eventually the Indian army helped us in our evacuation, along with hundreds other visitors to the Valley, in their planes returning to bring more battalions, when fighting was taking place only two miles from the airport. And thank God, we soon landed at Palam airport in Delhi for our belated celebration of India's independence on August 15, 1947.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Let Stars Retire In Style

If a star isn't visible in the night sky, has it burned out? And if a celebrity is no longer on our radar screen, is he or she in effect “dead to us?” Just now, reading through Amitabh Bachchan's blog (Day 106), I was transported to decades back in time to the 50s and 60s, the so called Golden Era of Hindi Cinema. A darkened galaxy of once-bright stars, now consigned to the dustbin of our collective entertainment memory. And if lucky, they may surface on a celeb-reality show or cameo in a movie, gasping for air, as we shake our heads and say, “Oh ....., where have you been?” Sure, I could Google all these stars and find out if they are still working or if they are now celluloid memories, digital dreams that rattle randomly around the corners of our conscience. But it doesn't matter. It's not the same. And it never will be. Even Bollywood actors get old!

Most big-name celebrities will retire to their mansions with a houseful of hired help – but what about the lesser-known character actors and back-up dancers? Is Bollywood doing something for them? After all, it is the industry that must have made millions from their movies when it was their time. Bollywood icons need to take note of what their counterparts in Hollywood are doing for their forgotten colleagues. The Motion Pictures and Television Fund Country House in California and the Actors' Fund Homes in New Jersey are retirement communities that take care of little guys in the entertainment industry – supporting stars and extras who lived by the maxim that there are not small parts, only small actors. It's a matter of the industry taking care of its own. While both nonprofit Homes had their share of big-name celebrity residents, majority of residents are not as recognizable by name alone. Both these Homes provide assisted living and nursing care for retired entertainment professionals and their families. The Frances Goldwyn Lodge, named for the actress/wife of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor mogul, Samuel Goldwyn, houses retirees. First run films are shown in the Louis B. Mayor Theatre. Residents relax in a longe named for Douglas Fairbanks, one of the original founders of the fund. And the ailing receive care at the Bob Hope Health Center and George Burns Intensive Care Unit.

Will Bollywood bigwigs take a cue from the exemplary initiatives taken by their Hollywood counterparts and help their colleagues retire in style? With the biggest ever earnings by the big stars now, it is not at all difficult for them to donate a small part to start such a fund.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Living in USA, my heart is ever in India, my homeland. And whenever I'm homesick, I take refuge in the following two lyrics that are famous world over.

"Home, Sweet Home!" is a song that has remained well-known for over 150 years. Adapted from the 1823 opera Clari, Maid of Milan, the song's melody was composed by Englishman Sir Henry Bishop with lyrics by American actor and dramatist John Howard Payne. This song has, for over 150 years, embodied in words and melody what "home" means. Although no longer published separately, it is still found in community songbooks and is sung around campfires."Home, Sweet Home," a rather sentimental song, quickly became the song of exiles far from home:

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.

Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

An exile from Home, splendour dazzles in vain,
Oh! give me my lowly thatch'd cottage again!
The birds singing gaily that came at my call,
Give me them with the peace of mind, dearer than all.

Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

[Extended Verses]

How sweet 'tis to sit 'neath a fond father's smile,
And the cares of a mother to soothe and beguile!
Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home!
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

To thee I'll return, overburdened with care;
The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that, cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

This one is no less beautiful and famous:

Home Sweet Home
------Motley Crue

You know I'm a dreamer
But my heart's of gold
I had to run away high
So I wouldn't come home low
Just when things went right
Doesn't mean they're always wrong
Just take this song and you'll never feel
Left all alone

Take me to your heart
Feel me in your bones
Just one more night
And I'm comin' off this
Long & winding road

I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight, tonight
I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home

You know that I've seen
Too many romantic dreams
Up in lights, fallin' off the silver screen

My heart's like an open book
For the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing keeps me together at the seams

I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight, tonight
I'm on my way
Just set me free
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home Sweet Home
I'm on my way
Just set me free
Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pros and Cons of Life

God you are great! You have designed a video game of my life and having pleasure playing it. I'm, on the other hand, trying all the time to figure out pros and cons of living your video game life to decide whether it is worth living in a virtual world.


1. Screw up as much as you want in life. You can always reload your life from a previous point or re-spawn again for another chance at life.

2. Didn't get any sleep last night? Burning the candle at both ends? Grab a power up item and watch your energy level return.

3. Best looking body in the game. That's right. Heroes and heroines always have the best looks out of all the characters -- never worry about being ugly again.

4. Being able to perform the most amazing, impossible tasks without losing any limbs or teeth. You'll be able to scale walls with ease, jump large distances over pits and take out small armies simply by performing a spin attack. Acts of bravery will help you score with everyone and media will call you Super Hero.

5. Free stuff available everywhere. Food, clothes, money and everything else you need to get through life will be available for free in parents' home, may be in people's home as well.

6.Cheat codes. Basically you’d have the ability to do whatever the hell you want with just the right button sequence. Of course, you have to find the codes first though and hoard them away from your friends, so they don’t have the ability to input codes too.

And so on...


1. Monsters, monsters and more monsters. Everywhere you go in the world, there will be monsters and you'll spend more time killing them or running away from them than going showering.

2. Annoying music. All day long you’ll have to listen to your theme music playing unless you go into a shop or a dungeon, then you’ll be treated to different annoying music. You better hope to God that someone didn’t program your life game with midi themes or you’ll never be sane again.

3. Freeze ups. Imagine driving down the street and the whole world freezes up. Waiting for the world to get moving would be a real pain in the neck, especially if it’s the tenth time that day and you’re late for work.

4. Single Story-line. Instead of being able to do anything and go anywhere you wish, your game life was programmed with a single plot line which you must follow to the letter till death.

5. People asking you for money or items. “Can I borrow your car? I’m going on an urgent appointment and my car just broke down.” “Hey, can I get 500 bucks from you? I really need to buy that power band and I’m a little short.”

6. Think of the taxes. Never ending and not really worth what you get from them.

And so on...

Oh God! Could you kindly press a button on your video game so that all the cons vanish and I only have the pros to live my life. I don't mind even if that would make my life mundane.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

About Houston, Texas (USA)

Reading about Houston in Amitabh Bachchan's blog (Day 103), I'm tempted to add something more on the city from what I know from friends living in Houston:

Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, has a population of more than 4 million. Its residents, representing a variety of cultures, contribute to Houston's strong international orientation in the arts, entertainment, commerce, and education. From multi-cultural extravaganzas such as the Houston International Festival and the Houston International Film Festival in the spring to the Italian, Caribbean, Greek, Hispanic, Mediterranean, Egyptian and Indian festivals in the fall, immigrants from all over the world find numerous diversions that remind them of home. The city also offers a broad variety of ethnic cuisines, such as Chinese, Ethiopian, Bangladeshi, Greek, Indonesian, Indian, South American, Japanese, Persian, Mexican and Thai. Between festivals and dining at a favorite ethnic restaurant, the residents also enjoy the traditional performing arts. Houston is a huge city and pretty much conservative, where the family and good old fashion values still remain. It's a city full of nice people. You will rarely find a person that will not hold the door open for you, joke with you in the supermarket line and just be tempted to make small talk. The people are the soul of this city. They have the best attitude among all cities in the U.S.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Letter to Big B on 100 days of blogging

Dear Amitji,

Hundred Days!

It's celebration time. Completing 100 days is always a celebration time. More so for you and your readers and respondents. Writing blogs continuously for 100 days without a single interruption, in spite of tight shooting schedules, Unforgettable Tour and not keeping well at times. Wow, what a stamina, what a determination. Hats off to you Amitji. It is a great achievement which no celebrity blogger has achieved so far. Heartiest congratulations for being on top in blogging, as you have been on top throughout in the field of acting.

Hundred days celebrations remind me of veteran journalist and writer Khushwant Singh's column 'Malice towards one and all' in the Hindustan Times of 4th July, 1998. Therein he commented on celebrations connected with Atal Behari Vajpayee government completing 100 days in office, with the remarks “there is nothing magical or mythical about surviving 100 days.” It was an interesting column, as all his columns are, which I would have loved to reproduce here if I could lay my hand on it. However, please permit me to repeat my response to KS on the topic of 100 days celebration:

Hundred Days

Sir, - Apropos “100 Days” by Khushwant Singh (HT July 4, 1998). Of course, there is nothing magical or mythical about surviving 100 days, but when we look at the 13 days of the survival period of the last Vajpayee Government, the occasion does deserve celebrations on a grand scale. The fate of governments in India is somewhat similar to that of films. In bygone era the success of movies was marked by Golden Jubilee celebrations and in the early years of independence, governments also had an impressive long run. Vajpayee government is made up of all the ingredients of a hit movie formula. A great suspense that keeps you glued on seat-edge throughout – “will she? will she not?” - the ongoing infighting amongst partners that has no parallel, and the never before seen surprise element of explosive magnitude that makes it a runaway hit. An entertainment par excellence, it will not be a surprise if the Government goes on to celebrate its silver jubilee or even golden jubilee, provided the House does not dislodge the government as is often done by many picture houses which replace the running hit by a new release, expecting it to be a bigger hit. - Yours etc. Tilak Rishi

Regards and once again – Heartiest congratulations on 100 days of blogging.

Tilak Rishi (USA)

Feeling Lethargic? Learn From Cats!

Lethargy is a state of indifference from the Greek lethargia. It means feeling lack of energy, drowsy or tired. A lethargic person may also feel sluggish, uninterested, inactive, difficulty in performing daily routine or difficulty in concentration. When lethargic, learn from cats:

It is natural for cats to spend a lot of time sleeping. A cat will sleep an average of eighteen hours a day. The modern domesticated cat is prone to lethargy primarily because the human caregiver overfeeds and under-exercises her! Of course, there are other causes of cat lethargy.

There are many diseases which can result in lethargy. Usually, the first symptom to look for is anemia. Check your cat's gums for a bright pink coloring. If the gums are quite pale and if your cat is also suddenly acting lethargically, see your veterinarian.

The loss of a loved one, whether human or animal, can sometimes cause a cat to go into a depression. Time and lots of tender, loving care will usually get her back into activity. A change of diet to a high quality, well-balance food with more calories will sometimes do the trick.

A past frightening experience could cause a cat to curl up and stay in a safe place each day. Patience, time, and sometimes another cat will get this cat going again.

Just plain boredom can be the cause of lethargy. Provide more playthings, more playtime with you, or another cat to get your cat up and moving again. Two cats are usually happier and more active than one!

The greatest cause of lethargy is too much weight. An overweight cat is susceptible to heart disease, circulation problems, and other medical concerns. A fat cat's food must be restricted! Do not give her treats or table-scraps. Select a high quality food. Combine weight loss with exercise!

Sound familiar?!