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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 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.


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