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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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Priceless Bangles

At the JFK International airport in New York, we had to wait for our flight for almost the whole day, arriving at nine in the morning, for a flight to New Delhi at seven in the evening. This was the most economical option for us on our last day of the trip to the U.S., when we had already exhausted whatever little foreign exchange that was allowed by our government for travels abroad. After sitting for sometime in the airport lobby we realized the time literally stopped if you kept looking at the clock, so we started to look around. As soon as we did that, the time started flying with every flight that took off from the airport. It was interesting to watch passengers arriving to take their planes, some in such a hurry as if testing their great athletic fitness by running to reach the flight gates, and some others like us, who found airport lounge a fine place to pass their time in leisure. The young girl sitting next to us seemed to be of the second type. She was already there when we came and had been consuming cigarette after cigarette since then. My wife initiated a conversation with her, while I wondered how she took so long to do that.
“Are you also waiting to take a flight?”
“No, I'm waiting for my boy friend. I arrived earlier from Rome and he was expected to receive me at the airport.”
“You had gone there on vacation?”
“No, I'm coming here on vacation. I'm from Italy and studying in Rome. My boy friend is American and lives in New York. We met when he came to Rome last year as a tourist. This year he invited me to spend my holidays with him in New York....” And she went on and on, talking about her boy friend, about herself, and all their plans in life together. While she was talking, she also went on admiringly touching and looking at my wife's Bengal-crafted bangles.
“I love the bangles you are wearing.” She said after exhausting all the information she had stored about herself. And my wife responded instantly by removing both the bangles she was wearing in one hand.
“Take them, these are for you.”

As my wife was giving her the bangles, another woman who was watching them, came over.
“Are you selling these bangles?”
“Oh no, just giving as a gift. You like to have?”
“I would love to, but not without paying the price.”
“These are not expensive at all. Please accept these as a present.” And she started to remove bangles from her other hand.
“These are beautiful bangles and look quite expensive. I cannot take them unless you accept to take the cost. Anyway, I am in a hurry to see off someone, and would be back with you soon.” And she rushed to another lady who was entering the lobby. At the same time the other girl's boy friend had come and she left thanking my wife for the wonderful gift.

After a while, the other woman came back.
“Now I have all the time to talk to you. Your beautiful silk suit says you are from India.”
“Yes, we are. And you?”
“I am from Italy. I have visited India many times. I love your country. What time is your flight?”
“At seven in the evening.”
“Then why are you so early at the airport?”
My wife told her about our visit to the U.S., sending our son to University of San Francisco, and spending all our dollars on the trip without saving for a day's trip to see New York city. As soon as my wife completed the last sentence, the woman immediately took out a hundred dollar bill from her bag and wanted to give her.
“Since you have not seen New York and you still have plenty of time, go and see at least some parts of the city.”
When she did not accept it in spite of her insisting, the lady said let that be towards cost of the bangles, which in the meanwhile my wife had given her as gift.
“Ok, take it as a loan, and return it when I visit India next time.”
“No, we really don't need the money. But do meet us and stay with us when you visit New Delhi.”

They gave each other their addresses, and promising to see us in India she left, but not without leaving the hundred-dollar bill on my wife's lap.
“I will need it when I am in India. And thanks for the priceless bangles.”

Traveling is a great experience. You come across people, meet them momentarily, and remember some for ever. We could never forget the Italian lady, even long after our first visit to USA.


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