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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Elite And The Ordinary!

The very topic of public schools (private schools in USA) vs government schools (public schools in USA), takes me back to the fond memories of my dear friend, a very honest and hardworking income-tax consultant, whose death was very sad, sudden and untimely, due to heart failure. He succumbed to the severe shock of a prominent public school refusing admission to his five year old son. May God give peace to his soul, and strength to all others to bear such a disappointment when their ward is denied admission in a public school. May I request them not to take such a refusal too seriously, as this certainly is not the end of the world for them or their ward. Year after year, there has been so much improvement in government schools' infrastructure, education and administration that they are getting as good as public schools. In fact, some government schools are even better than many of the so called public schools in providing better facilities and staff salaries.

In India, due to the British influence, the term "public schools" implied non-governmental, historically elite educational institutions, often modeled on British public schools. However, more recently the term 'public' has been used much more loosely and can refer to any type of schools that take pride in publicizing themselves as English medium schools, and are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE). One of the supreme ironies, of course, is that even sixty years after securing independence from the British, we are still slave of the English education system, which has divided our society into two parts, the elite and the ordinary. Those who can afford to send their children to public schools are considered to come from the elite part of the society, and the rest, of course, are the ordinary folks. And yet another irony is that the middle class, who may not be able to afford the exorbitant price of public schools, still try their best for admission of their children into those schools, even if they have to suffer severe financial strain for being included amongst the elite. Unless the government starts to show some serious thinking on the subject, we will be stuck with a system which cripples state education, preserves the class structure and permits a few thousand frightening, retentive educational institutions to rule over us, and extract as much as they can from the poor parents.

Is there any way to save our government school system? Yes . First and foremost, the government must demolish the division in the school system by moving forward with uniform, national standardized testing for all schools, government and public, under one central board of education. Along with this we need to establish solid and uniform academic standards for grade promotion and graduation in all schools. Next, we need to better attune education in government schools to the experiences, interests, and aptitudes of today's young people. We know that the chance of success is limited for a child that comes from a home where the parents are unable to afford time and environment for education of their children. Although requiring parents to be actively involved in their children's education is a thorny issue, government school systems should require school administrators to have conferences and even workshops with parents whenever their children run into academic or disciplinary problems.

Here is an example of a principal of a government school, if followed by other principals, I am certain government schools will prove no less than any private school in imparting good education. This principal was so perfect in her profession that whichever school she was transferred to, amongst hundreds of schools under Delhi Administration, she turned it into the best school in the district. The administration very often shifted her to one of the weakest schools with the objective of improving its ratings, and the posting invariably proved rewarding for the school. Once they transferred her to a school that no principal ever wanted to put her foot in, as it was sure to bring her a bad name, and no one wanted to blemish his or her career by being in that school. As was expected of her, she accepted the challenge very cheerfully, and began to work in right earnest to bring up the school. It was located in poorest of the neighborhoods, where living conditions did not allow the students to study at home, even to do their homework. She had to work very hard on that school, meeting every parent to personally persuade them to improve the environment for studies at home, and to dissuade them from forcing their wards to work for a living while they needed to work hard on their studies for a better life ahead. In one year she had made so much difference that it was difficult for the officers in the education directorate to believe the school's results that took the top ranking amongst all the schools in the district. The community started worshipping the Principal and would not let her leave when the administration again wanted to transfer her to improve another weak school after some time. The entire community, hundreds of men and women marched to the administration office in procession to protest the transfer and to plead for the principal to stay in the school. It was for the first time in the history of Delhi schools when the parents went that far to force the administration to cancel transfer orders of a principal.

There is no dearth of dedicated principals and teachers in government schools. If only the government gives them their due recognition and encouragement, there is no way the government schools would be left behind even the best of public schools, and do not succeed in demolishing the division of the society, born out of the existing school system, into the elite and the ordinary.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Job Loss

As soon as we were back from our trip to the U.S., we had a bad news awaiting us that shocked me beyond words. I learnt it from our industrial consultants in Delhi that while we were away in the States, the factory which I had worked so hard to set up in Alwar and worked day and night to make it one of the most reputed and flourishing factories in the newly developed industrial area in Rajasthan, had changed hands. I felt very hurt for having been taken for a ride by my Managing Director, who I suspected, must have been planning the sale when he sent me on paid vacation to the U.S. with my wife. I felt particularly pained by the fact that my MD, who would always consult and confide in me on all matters pertaining to the management, totally ignored me while taking such an important decision. However, when I went to Alwar, I found that several other factories were also sold or shut down because of drastic power cuts as a consequence of major breakdown of atomic power plant which would take months to fix. It gave me some consolation to know that several other industrial professionals were also sailing in the same boat, facing the severe storm of sudden job loss. I knew such a consolation did not help to pay my bills, but it did give me some collective courage and strength to face the storm. Here are some statistics of the job losses, which show we have global company to go through the ordeal, which in India may be of much shorter duration than in the rest of the world, as analyzed by the International Monetary Fund.

From lawyers in Paris to factory workers in China and bodyguards in Colombia, the ranks of the jobless are swelling rapidly across the globe. Worldwide job losses from the recession that started in the United States in December 2007 could hit a staggering 50 million by the end of 2009, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. The slowdown has already claimed 3.6 million American jobs. High unemployment rates, especially among young workers, have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France. Last month, the government of Iceland, whose economy is expected to contract 10 percent this year, collapsed and the prime minister moved up national elections after weeks of protests by Icelanders angered by soaring unemployment and rising prices.

While the number of jobs in the United States has been falling since the end of 2007, the pace of layoffs in Europe, Asia and the developing world has caught up only recently as companies that resisted deep cuts in the past follow the lead of their American counterparts. Millions of migrant workers in mainland China are searching for jobs but finding that factories are shutting down. Though not as large as the disturbances in Greece or the Baltics, there have been dozens of protests at individual factories in China and Indonesia where workers were laid off with little or no notice.

As each day brings more bad news on the economic crisis, the monetary cost of the mounting job losses might be far easier to measure than the mental toll on the millions of people who suddenly find themselves out of work. The one upside -- if there is one -- is that people losing a job today might feel less of a stigma about their job loss because they have so much company. It may be harder to find a job and harder to finance the things you need, but it is easier in terms of feeling less singled out.

Job losses are always painful, and the recent recession and sluggish recovery have meant real hardship for many people worldwide. It is important, however, to shun hysteria and demagoguery in assessing what is going on with the labor market and why. The employment picture today is that of a temporary, cyclical shortage of jobs caused by the recent downturn; there is no permanent shortage of good jobs on the horizon. Even in good times, job losses are an inescapable fact of life in a dynamic market economy. Old jobs are constantly being eliminated as new positions are created.

Job loss can have a profound effect on your emotional well being. There is a typical cycle that most people experience. This cycle includes denial, anger, frustration, and eventually adaptation. Emotional issues aside, a number of practical issues must be addressed. We must determine how long our financial resources will sustain us. We must also decide if a career change is in order. Then we must begin to plan for the future.

Experts say there are a number of things you can do to ease the stress of unemployment:

* Tell your family about the job loss. Don't try to keep the job loss a secret.
* File for unemployment benefits right away, and find out about continuing your health benefits.
* Take a few days of "me" time and pamper yourself to get into a better mindset.
* Turn your work day into a day of looking for work.
* Don't isolate yourself. Continue to socialize. Look for volunteer opportunities.
* Exercise regularly and eat well to keep yourself healthy and to help stave off depression.
* Practice some sort of relaxation, such as prayer, meditation or yoga.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Letters From A President

In the U.S., when the nation is celebrating Presidents' Day, I cherish my most joyous moments of receiving letters from a great President.. During the period our petition for immigration to USA was under process, my wife and I went through the most interesting experience of watching the vigorous campaigning for the ensuing presidential elections. We got so engrossed in the ongoing campaign that we forgot we were till then visitors only, and looked more American than the Americans in reacting to the results of the election. We celebrated the victory of the president elect, Bill Clinton, with sweets and such enthusiasm that was similar to one whenever our favorite candidate won back home in India. I immediately posted a letter congratulating the president elect, even though I knew he would not see my letter as it would be lost amongst multitude of such letters. But to our great surprise, I got a prompt reply from the president elect. It encouraged me to write again on his inauguration as President of the United States. Within weeks I received an envelope with the White House marking. Presiden Bill Clinton had personally acknowledged my letter of congratulations.

Later on, during eight years of his presidency, I wrote several letters on varied subjects to President Clinton, and I am proud to possess his personal replies to each one of them. His replies were much more than mere acknowledgments of my letters; they reflected how much he valued the views of others, especially of the common people like me, whom he cared for and placed above others.

Thank you so much for your message. I've been touched by the many expressions of encouragement and support I have received from people like you across our country and around the world....

The above excerpt is from a letter he wrote when he was passing through the most difficult days of his presidency as well as his personal life. Motion for his impeachment on account of the Monica Lewinsky scandal was being hotly debated in the Senate. While praying for him to pass through the ordeal without any harm to his position, I sent him the following clipping from one of my letters published in the Hindustan Times, New Delhi.

From mythology to history to date, there is no dearth of powerful men who succumbed to seductive advances of women of all sorts. If all those men had to face a “Starr” of their time, determined to dig out all the lucid details of their love affairs and had recorded the same for the humanity to read, the world would have found that “Clintonitis” was not something new, but had been there all along. And talking of powerful men of mythology and history, seduced by women, there is a striking similarity of the situation of President Clinton and the episode in Hindu mythology where the great sage Vishvamitra was seduced by Menka and disturbed during his deep meditation in the Himalayas. Even the names of the two women are alike – Menka and Monica. Menka had been specially sent by the detractors of the sage with the mission to disturb him and make him discontinue his meditation, which if completed, would have made him the most powerful sage of all times. Who knows the President's adversaries, to cut short his presidency, also might have planted Monica. And who knows, as Vishvamitra was still revered as one of the greatest sages in Hindu mythology in spite of the Menka episode, Bill Clinton will also be acclaimed as one of the greatest presidents in the U.S. history, irrespective of the Monica incident.

As it happened, sage Vishvamitra's analogy perfectly fitted President Clinton's case. Like the sage, he not only overcame the happening unharmed, but also became far more popular amongst his people than ever before. In fact he was one step ahead of the sage; while the mythological Menka did succeed in her mission to disrupt the sage's meditation, the present time Monica miserably failed to distract President Clinton from his presidential duties that he performed as efficiently as ever, during the ordeal and thereafter.

President Clinton seemed quite touched by my sentiments and support, especially my comparing him to the Hindu sage, as he not only started to address me as a friend and by first name, but also began to value my views on various subjects much more seriously, as was reflected in his replies. President Clinton's second term in office ended the same year he visited India, and with that ended my most joyous moments of finding in my mailbox envelopes from the White House. However, the unique experience of corresponding with President Bill Clinton remains my most rewarding experience in life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Call It Kamadeva Day!

This blog is especially addressed to the brigades of Ram Sena, Shiv Sena and all the allied Senas who have declared war on all the love birds who dare open their wings on the Valentine Day in India. According to them, the self acclaimed saviors of the Indian culture, it is anti-Indian (read anti-Hindu) for lovers to express their feelings of love for each other, even if it is done as simply as sweet exchange of the blooming beautiful red roses or writing romantic messages on MMS or giving greetings through Valentine Day cards. May I remind them of their own revered deities of the Hindu mythology, whose stories of love and sacrifice they must have read and reread as they grew up, and before them their elders and before them their ancestors in all ages.

Like Cupid who is the God of love in Roman philosophy, Kamadeva is held to be the god of love according to Hindu mythology. The name Kama-deva (IAST kāma-deva) can be translated as 'divine love' or 'god of love'. Kama can be literary translated as wish, desire or longing, especially as in sensual love or sexuality. Kama in Hinduism has another significance. It comes under the four goals of life -Dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Kama involves the enjoyments of life that includes sexual fulfillment, sensual gratification, sensual pleasure , love, and also the aesthetic enjoyments of life.

Kāmadeva is represented as a young and handsome winged man who wields a bow and arrows. His bow is made of sugarcane with a string of honeybees, and his arrows are decorated with five kinds of fragrant flowers. The five flowers are: Ashoka tree flowers, white and blue lotus flowers, Mallika tree and Mango tree flowers. A terracotta murti of Kamadeva of great antiquity is housed in the Mathura Museum, UP, India. The deity of Kamadeva along with his consort Rati is included in the pantheon of Vedic-Brahmanical deities such as Shiva and Parvati. In Hindu traditions for the marriage ceremony itself, the bride's feet are often painted with pictures of Suka, the parrot vahana of Kamadeva. Kamadeva also becomes the object of certain devotional rituals for those seeking health, physical beauty, husbands, wives, and sons.

Generally described as the son of Lakshmi and Vishnu, he is also said to be the son of Brahma. Surrounded by beautiful nymphs (Apsaras), he loves to wander around specially in springtime, loosing his shafts indiscriminately, but with a preference for innocent girls, married women and ascetic sages. Shiva burned him to ashes as punishment for disturbing his deep meditation, but Kamadeva’s shaft had gone home and Shiva could not obtain peace until he had married Parvati. During all this time Kamadeva lay dead and love disappeared from the earth. At length Shiva allowed him to be born as the son of Krishna. The god of desire thus fittingly became the son of Lord associated with love.

Perhaps no other faith glorifies the idea of love between the sexes as Hinduism. This is evident from the amazing variety of mythical love stories that abounds Sanskrit literature, which is undoubtedly one of the richest treasure hoards of exciting love tales. The tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale format of the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, lodges a lot of love legends. Then there are the charming stories of Hindu gods and goddesses in love and the well-known works like Kalidasa's Meghadutam and Abhijnanashakuntalam and Surdasa's lyrical rendition of the legends of Radha, Krishna and the gopis of Vraj. Set in a land of great natural beauty, where the lord of love picks his victims with consummate ease, these stories celebrate the myriad aspects of the many-splendored emotion called love. Classical love legends from Hindu mythology and folklore of India, like Shakuntala-Dushyant tale, legend of Savitry and Satyavan, Radha-Krishna amour etc., are both passionate and sensuous in content, and never fail to appeal to the romantic in us. These fables fuel our imagination, engage our emotions, sense and sensibility, and above all, entertain us.

May I call upon the commanders of all sorts of saffron Senas, to recall to their mind all their gods, whose love- lores are the most revered part of Hindu mythology, before they order attack on lovers in India on this worldwide day of love, the Valentine Day. If they have problem with the Western name of the Valentine Day, they can as well call it Kamadeva Day, but let love bloom and spread its sweet fragrance everywhere for everyone to enjoy without fear.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Billu Sans Barber? Oh No!

Hundreds of hairdressers have slammed the Bollywood film "Billu Barber", forcing its makers to drop the word "barber" from the title, which is considered derogatory by them. Media reports said "Billu Barber", the story of a village hairdresser who is a childhood friend of a Bollywood actor played by Shah Rukh Khan, was criticized by an association of hairdressers who found the title offensive. Khan, Bollywood's most bankable star, talked to an association of hairdressers and salon owners and said he would hide the word "barber" from posters and billboards, and bleep out the word from the film, which releases on Feb. 1. Shah Rukh seems to truly believe in the saying: 'Any man who argues with his hairdresser should have his head examined'. or that 'a barber is the only person whose conversation you can follow, even if he talks over your head'?

A barber (from the Latin barba, "beard") is someone whose occupation is to cut any type of hair, give shaves, and trim beards. A hairdresser is a universal term referring to someone whose occupation is to cut or style hair in order to change or maintain a person's image. This is achieved using a combination of hair coloring, haircutting and hair texture techniques. Some barbers prefer to see themselves as hairdressers or hairstylists. There is a common misbelief that barbers do not perform any service other than hair cutting and that hairdressers perform all coloring and perms. In fact, barbers can cut hair, trim beards, color, perm, provide facials and shave. Many working stylists are, in fact, barbers. Today, barbers and stylists may be found working side by side in establishments known as male salons.

As a child, I never went to a barbershop. It was the barber who came to our house in Lahore every morning for my father's shave, and would cut my hair whenever needed. As I grew up and started going to the barbershop in our neighborhood in Delhi, I remember being fascinated with all the barber stuff. What I remember most though, was the distinct manliness of the place. Even as a young boy, I could sense that a barbershop was a cool hang out for men. Men would stop in not only for a haircut and a shave, but also to fraternize with friends. Barbershops were classy places with often stunning surroundings. Marble counters were lined with colorful glass blown tonic bottles. The barber chairs were elaborately carved from oak and walnut, and fitted with fine leather upholstery. Everything from the shaving mugs to the advertising signs were rendered with an artistic flourish. The best shops even had crystal chandeliers hanging from fresco painted ceilings. Despite this level of luxury, barbershops were homey and inviting. A memorable and heavenly man aroma filled the air, the smell of tobacco smoke mixed with the scent of hair tonics, pomades, oils, and neck powders. These aromas became ingrained in the wood and every cranny of the shop. The moment a man stepped inside, he was enveloped in the warm and welcoming familiarity. Many decades later, I’m rediscovering the barbershop in California.

A new type of hairdresser siphoned off the barbers’ former customers: the hairstylist salon. Places which were neither beauty salons nor barbershops, catered to both men and women. The problem is that many of the people who work at salons are not trained barbers. They’re cosmetologists. The difference between the two can spell the difference between a dopey-looking haircut and a great one. When I went to hair stylists, I hardly ever talked to the woman who cut my hair. I’d chat about my family and theirs and that’s about it. The woman who cut my hair usually ended up chatting with the other women in the salon, while I sat there awkwardly. Barbers, on the other hand, are interesting guys with interesting stories to tell. And I in turn feel at ease to say what’s on my mind. There is conversation about politics, cars, sports, and family. Guys read the newspaper and comment on current events. In between the banter, jokes are told and laughs are had. And everyone is involved: the barbers, the customers getting their haircut, and the customers waiting to get their haircut. Adding to the enjoyment is that a variety of men take part in the conversation; young, old, and middle-aged join in the mix. Barbershops are places of continuity; they don’t change with the shifts in culture. The places and barbers look the same as they did when I got my hair cut, decades ago in Delhi. It’s a straightforward experience with none of the accouterments of the modern age. There are no waxing, facials, highlights, or appointments. Just great haircuts and great conversation.

I think there’s a good argument that barbershops are among the last civic forums where do people go today just to talk with others in the community? Coffee shops? Every time one goes to a coffee shop, people are at their own tables minding their own business. Discussions in traditional barbershops shape political ideas in the community. Political debate in barbershops can be vigorous and engages young and old alike. So, if you’re wanting to get your thumb on the pulse of civic life in your community, head over to the barbershop. What a great way to bond with the men in your life! And some hairdressers had the audacity to declare the term 'barber' as derogatory, and Shah Rukh heard them and ordered hiding 'barber' from the title of his film Billu Barber? Billu sans barber? Oh no!

Friday, February 06, 2009

On That Fateful Day-2

Indu and I both loved nature and headed for Nainital, the beautiful hill-station on the Himalayan mountains, for our honeymoon. We enjoyed boat ride in the big and lovely lake, but what we loved most was long walks on the trails in the mountainous terrain. It was during one such walk, when we were coming back after enjoying breathtaking views of the snow covered Himalayan peaks from a famous peak near Nainital, I was shocked to see a man whom I definitely knew to have died long back in Lahore. He was standing at the gate of his gorgeous looking log house and greeted us warmly when we came near him. He invited us inside for a cup of tea, and we accepted his invitation with great pleasure. Apart from giving us the much needed mid-way break, it would provide me the opportunity to know the man who was still a mystery to me.

On entering the house, he introduced us to his wife, a very pleasant and warm person, who insisted that we have breakfast with them, and without waiting for acceptance she ordered the servant to make something special for us. The man was equally warm and made us feel at home by engaging us into interesting conversation that mainly covered his and his wife's hobbies. He was a painter and spent much of his time painting, while his wife was good at growing vegetables, fruits and flowers in their backyard. But all the time, question on the man's identity kept troubling my mind, particularly after knowing that he was a painter. The dead man who came to my mind instantly on seeing that man, had not only the same face and figure, but also the same hobby, painting. As this mind boggling question kept bothering my mind, the man himself came to my help with the answer, when Indu and his wife were in the backyard exchanging notes on their knowledge of gardening.

“I know what must have been troubling your mind ever since you saw me here. I'm surprised you did not ask the obvious question that crossed your mind on seeing me alive. Yes, I'm your same Maths Teacher and still alive. I did not die in the fire in my house on that horrible evening in Lahore. Well, here is the true happening that had remained hidden from the rest of the world so far.

“ One of the social programs that I was pursuing relentlessly aimed at rescuing helpless women of Hira Mandi, the 'Red Light' area in my neighborhood, who had been forced into prostitution after having been kidnapped by bad characters and sold to the brothels there. My wife is one of the women I had rescued, and was in my house waiting to be taken to her village at the opportune time, when there was a knock at my door at dead of night. It was the pimp of the prostitute from whose place she had run away. He forcibly intruded into the house to take her back and attacked me with a knife on my refusal to hand her over to him. But before he could do me any harm, she pounced on him with a sharp edged garden tool she had grabbed from my backyard, and he succumbed to the serious wound she had inflicted on him. I was too shocked by the incident to know what to do. After weighing various options I thought the best would be to first take her out to a safer place, if possible to her parents, and then report to the police. However, she was not going to let me take the blame for the incident for which she was responsible. She came up with an idea that she had read in a novel.

“The pimp, who was killed, had more or less the same physic as mine. We made his body look like mine by putting on it my clothes, slippers and glasses, and then torched the room so that the body was burnt beyond recognition. We escaped from the house with all my valuables and cash, after putting the house on fire too. We went straight to the railway station and took the earliest train to go to her native village in the hills near Nainital. After handing her over to parents, I stayed on in their house for some days when they insisted on it. Although I could have remained in that remote village indefinitely without anyone ever knowing my whereabouts, my conscience did not allow me to take that course. I decided that I must go back to Lahore and inform the police all about the incident, but leaving her out of the picture. But she was absolutely against my going to Lahore and admit to a crime that I had not committed. She was adamant on it and I had to postpone my return till she relented. While there, I found that her parents were extremely perturbed by the situation their daughter had put them in. They knew nobody would marry her after knowing that she had been rescued from the 'Red Light' area of Lahore. I offered to marry her, not so much to please her parents, which they were, as for our own happiness. We had fallen in love, right from the moment she ran into me in Lahore, requesting to rescue her. We did not say it in so many words, but all our actions thereafter reflected our deepest feelings of love for each other. After our marriage we shifted to this peaceful place for our permanent stay. Today I am feeling a great relief after revealing the truth to some one who knew me from Lahore. I did not want to die with the secret disturbing my soul”

We celebrated the survival of my most respected and adored Maths Teacher on that fateful day in Lahore, with the excellent food his wife served us.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stunning Cure For Stammering

Next to Mumbai and Kolkata, Lahore was the largest movie-making center in India before Partition. Besides the two big studios, Pancholi and Shorie, that boasted of many blockbusters, there were many more independent 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 the Indian film industry. My brother Raghu, editor of Film Critic, the only English film magazine of Lahore, had a big hand in boosting the image of some actors and eventually their career through the good coverage he gave them in his highly valued and well circulated monthly magazine. An upcoming starlet also aspired to become a big star one day, especially after reading the review of her first film in his magazine, which highly applauded her maiden appearance and predicted that she would be a great star some day. The starlet was so impressed by the beautiful lines on her acting in the magazine that she immediately sent a message to Raghu, inviting him to her house for an exclusive interview over lunch. Raghu was not at all excited on receiving the invitation. He was as fearful of meeting people as forceful he was in writing on them. Introvert by nature and handicapped by severe stammering, he was averse to socializing and avoided attending premiers and parties, or interviewing movie stars for his magazine. All the same, he did not want to miss the opportunity to feature an exclusive interview with the newly introduced film actress in his magazine. As on earlier occasions, when he passed on invitation to film parties and functions to my eldest brother Dev, Raghu requested him to interview the actress for him. Dev was only too happy to help him, as it was a golden opportunity to have a good time with the beautiful actress.

Dev, dressed in his best attire, looked no less than an actor himself, with his handsome face and impressive personality, when he rang the door-bell of the actress on dot that Sunday afternoon. With her ravishing smile the starlet received him so warmly that Dev either did not notice or inadvertently overlooked to correct her when she addressed him as Raghu. Dev's omission might have been absolutely unintentional at that moment of time, but his continuing to pose as Raghu throughout his stay with the starlet that afternoon was, perhaps, done with a purpose. It was Dev's dream to become an actor, and he had been trying hard to be one, but without any success so far. Who knows, he might have thought, meeting the starlet was a God sent opportunity to achieve his life's ambition. Knowing that she had a great regard for Raghu as an editor, for pushing her career by giving good publicity in his magazine, Dev thought the best way to get the starlet's help in achieving his goal was to let her remain under the impression that he really was the Raghu she liked and admired. He. of course, took Raghu into confidence, who did not object to his plan if it pushed his career. The starlet's respect for Raghu kept increasing with every issue of his magazine, which invariably had something good to say about her that resulted in her getting offers for better roles to play in forthcoming productions of big producers in Lahore. And correspondingly, she kept coming closer and closer to Dev, Raghu for her, at premiers and parties, till that fateful evening when she came face to face with the real Raghu.

B.R.Chopra, the journalist turned famous film producer, gave wedding reception at Lahore's Flattis on my sister's marriage to Surendra, the popular yesteryear singing star. The starlet was also there amongst a large number of invitees from Lahore's film world. It was there she met the real Raghu for the first time when Mr. Chopra, who was editor of Cine Herald magazine before becoming a film producer and knew Raghu well, introduced her to him. The starlet was visibly shocked and anguished on learning that it was not Raghu, but Dev, impersonating as Raghu, whom she had been seeing all these days. But she soon cooled down and was overwhelmed with compassion for Raghu on knowing that it was Raghu's own idea to send his brother to interview her, because of his severe stammering condition. Her admiration increased all the more for Raghu, the man who did so much to promote her career with his pen, yet did not come forward even for a word of thanks from her. She decided there and then that she would repay Raghu for all that he had been quietly doing to promote her career. She resolved to do her best to bring Raghu out of his complexes, and restore his confidence, which he had lost because of severe stammering. She started seeing him as often as she could, and went to premiers and parties with Raghu as her constant companion. Eventually they became intimate friends, and thanks to her determined efforts, Raghu got rid of his stammering surprisingly fast. Together they left Lahore, well in time before Partition, and moved to Mumbai for better prospects in their respective careers in the mainstream movie industry. Indeed, love is a many- splendored thing, it could even be a stunning cure for stammering.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Day After

The day after Indra Gandhi's assassination, I got a call from our friend, a successful entrepreneur running an embroidery factory on the outskirts of Delhi. I had recently given him professional guidance in expanding his business by adding another unit to his factory, which had just come into operation. Belonging to the Sikh community, he was scared to come out of the house that day because of the anti-Sikh disturbance in some parts of the city. He had called me to convey that till the situation calmed down he would not be able to go to the factory and had no other option but to seek my help in doing whatever I could for the safety of the factory, if there were riots in the area. He told me that he had also asked the manager of his retail store in the city to report to me at the factory and to remain with me during the difficult time. I immediately went to the factory, took necessary security steps along with the workers and the staff, and called the nearest police station to inform that since the owner of the factory was a Sikh, it could be a target of anti-Sikh rioters and requested for their preventive protection. The officer immediately responded by deputing two armed cops to remain on duty near the factory as long as it was required. All measures taken for safety of the factory, but the retail store manager had still not reported.

As was anticipated, a mob of rioters, shouting anti-Sikh slogans, came marching towards the factory compound. I was shocked to see some of them stopping to torch a house on the way, after bolting it from outside, with the obvious intention to burn the occupants inside alive. I asked the cops on duty near the factory gate, to please go and save their lives, but they preferred to look the other way, and let the rioters do whatever they wanted to do. They even had the audacity to advise me to go home and have a good sleep. It became clear from their attitude that they would do nothing to protect the factory from those rioters, if instead of returning from the house on fire they headed towards us. Exactly the same happened. The two cops did not challenge them at all when they charged towards the factory, obviously knowing that it belonged to a Sikh. As soon as they came closer, I instantly recognized their leader, a trade union activist whom I knew well since my first employment where besides other duties I also dealt with union matters. He too recognized me and warmly responded to my greeting. I pleaded with him not to torch the plant as that would throw so many workers out of work. He listened to me, as I had listened to him once and got all the demands he had made on behalf of the workers granted by the management. He agreed to leave the two plants, old and the new, that I had helped to set up, unharmed.

“The owner must thank his stars for your presence here that saved his factory from total destruction, on which we were determined. To give him the message that Sikhs must be punished for what they did, we will only torch his office, especially the chair on which he sits.” And they set the office on fire.

Not much damage was done. The fire was quickly extinguished with the help of workers after the rioters returned. Our friend, the owner, was very happy and grateful that his factory was safe, and the workers were the happiest as their jobs were intact. But there was one person who was not at all pleased with what I had done that day to save the factory. It was the retail store manager who was to join me at the factory that morning. He was cross with me for coming to the factory during the day of anti-Sikh disturbances.
“I had purposely avoided to be present at the factory that day. In fact, I wished the owner was there at the factory when the rioters came, and he had met the same fate as hundreds of other Sikhs who did not survive the killings. We could have then occupied the factory and run it as our own, like so many other Sikh establishments had been taken over by their employees after their owners had been eliminated.” He said in a complaining tone as if I had caused him a big loss by my presence in the factory on the fateful day.

I was shocked and wondered how wicked and mean a man could be. I was sad for our friend who had trusted such a harmful man for so long. And alerted him on the sinister intentions of his store manager, before he did anything devilish to harm him.