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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, January 21, 2009

Love Story - 1947

The fondest memories of my life in Lahore were the moments spent with Indu, my sister's best friend, who lived next door. With her very sweet, sober and sacrificing nature, Indu had also won my mother's heart and became her most favorite amongst all our friends. In fact, the entire family had taken a fancy for her and loved her a lot. I especially felt that a very special bond was beginning to develop between me and Indu, which made life look more beautiful and exciting. She would always stop by to be with me for a while in my room upstairs, whenever she crossed over to our side of the terrace to see my sister. She would be eager to show me her latest painting, while I would be waiting for her to read my new writing. Day by day, and year by year, as we were growing and coming of age, we loved to spend more and more time together, and missed each other when we did not meet any day. It, therefore, came as a big shock when Indu had to move to Karachi, along with her parents, for a long period, where her father, a very flourishing electrical contractor, had got a big government contract for electrification of the harbor in Karachi that would take at least two years to complete. It was indeed a very painful parting.

The Partition was a very big price India paid to attain independence from the British. At least one million men, women and children were killed and over ten million uprooted on both sides of the border, following the religious divide of the country in 1947. Thanks to my best friend Bazal and his brother Aziz, who was an army officer, we were escorted safely across the border into India. My heart started to sink as we left Lahore, thinking of Indu and her family, who were in Karachi, which also, like Lahore, had become part of Pakistan. I could only pray for them, which I kept doing till we arrived in New Delhi, our destination, where my father had decided to start from scratch, after having lost all he had in Lahore.

From day one of my enrollment, BD became my best friend in the college. He belonged to a farming family that owned big farmland on the outskirts of Delhi, who had been paid handsome amount of compensation by the government for acquiring their land for rehabilitation of refugees from Pakistan. This made BD one of the most affluent students in the college, the only one then to come to college in a car, and the most popular for generous spending on fellow students for their treats. No wonder, he won the presidential poll in the college union elections overwhelmingly. The victory in the college elections made BD ambitious to stand for the presidential seat of the Delhi University Students Union. The girls' college, where entry of boys was totally prohibited, opened its gates to boys once in a year only, to facilitate campaigning for the university elections. Well equipped with the publicity material, BD and I entered the gates of Indraprastha college for the first time, with a mission to win over majority of the votes from the college. We headed straight for the college union office to seek support of the office bearers in our campaigning. As we entered the open door, I could not believe my eyes when I saw Indu standing there, talking to some other students. At first startled, she screamed with joy finding me in front of her, and instantly gave me a very warm and long hug. It had never happened before in their very conservative college, a girl giving a hug to a boy in the college campus, but Indu could not restrain her spontaneous reaction to my sudden appearance after the fateful Partition and its aftermath, even if it must have caused shock to her companions.
“Oh my God, what a surprise! It's so wonderful to be together again!!” She screamed with joy, still clinging to me.

In the four years gap, she had grown into a great looking girl, adding a lot of grace to her beautiful body. I introduced her to BD who was standing speechless at our surprise reunion, and she introduced us to the other three girls, who were all office holders in their college union along with Indu, who was the president. After being greatly relieved to know that all in our both families were safe and fine, I came to the crucial topic that brought us to her college. She assured BD that since no student from her college was contesting for the seat of president in the university elections, she would easily enlist their support for him. BD was overjoyed and was only too happy to give us a ride to my place when Indu expressed her desire to meet my family without any delay. BD eventually won the election.

After graduating from our different colleges, Indu and I studied together in Delhi University for our post graduation. We met everyday and loved to spend most of our free time together. After we had left the university on completing our post graduation courses, and joined our respective professions, she as a senior teacher in Delhi schools and I as an executive in corporate sector, we still managed to meet almost every evening. We had fallen in love, far more deeply than ever before. For our families and friends we were an inseparable couple. It, therefore, was no surprise for anyone when many years of our courtship culminated into a happy marriage, with no twists and troubles in our love story. Today in California, on the verge of celebrating 50 golden years of our wedding, we still sometimes feel our story has just begun, when I look forward to see Indu's new watercolor painting and she waits for my latest blog, like it all began in Lahore.


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