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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, April 15, 2009

The God's Gift!

In one of our annual vacations after our wedding, Sanovar was our dream destination, a very beautiful village in the interiors of Himanchal, about sixty miles beyond Simla. After spending a day in Simla, we started our journey to Sanovar on horses, as the motor-able road ended at Kufri, ten miles from Simla. Most part of the journey was along a river that reminded us of the River of No Return. We covered the journey in two days, spending a night on the way in a forest guesthouse, where the waterfall, hitting the stones in the river, produced the perfect beat of the Sound of Music. It was a breathtaking sight when we reached Sanovar. Higher mountains surrounded the small village at a hight of ten thousand feet. The natives of the tiny village had added color to the place, with their multi-colored dresses and cute hutment. Their Chieftain's log house had a charm of its own, with beautiful flowers blooming all around. He himself was also a very pleasant person with an impressive personality that commanded respect and reverence of the entire community. He welcomed us to the village on our arrival at the forest guesthouse on the outskirts of the village. And the next day he accompanied us on our walk on trails in the forest, on the way telling us tales revolving life in the mystery land on the mountains. The story that engaged our attention most related to “Chur Peak”, the highest peak in the area at a height of 14,000ft.

“The name Chur Peak came from king Chur who once upon a time ruled the entire area on these mountains. He did not have a son to continue his dynasty and felt distressed, especially as he grew older and older. Time was running out for him and the queen to have a child. When they had almost given up hope, the queen dreamt that they climbed to the peak and were struck by the sight; Lord Shiva was sitting there in meditation. They too sat at his feet in prayer. When Lord Shiva opened his eyes, he was pleased to see the king and the queen praying on the peak and blessed them to have a beautiful boy. In the morning she narrated her dream to the king, who immediately decided to climb up to the peak with the queen, even if it was too difficult for their age. With their determination and the elaborate arrangements made for the climb, they arrived at their destination but were disappointed on not finding Lord Shiva there. However, they still sat on the peak and prayed to Lord Shiva for a son. Within a year of the climb, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. There were huge celebrations and the king also ordered construction of a Shiva temple on the peak. Since then the temple has been attracting thousands of childless couples from far and near, who climb to the peak to pray for a child. Many couples come back to climb the peak again, this time to thank Lord Shiva on having been blessed with a child after they had prayed at the peak.”

We had been married for four years but did not have a child. We had been yearning for one. We thought our trip to Sanovar was a godsend opportunity to pray at the temple on Chur Peak. Next day we started on our climb early in the morning, taking the trails leading to the temple. By mid day we were on top of the world. That was how we felt looking down from the peak. Lord Shiva's statue built, made in stone, stood majestically on the mountaintop. It looked like the Lord was keeping a watch on his creation from Chur Peak. We both prayed to Lord Shiva to bless us with a child, as he had blessed king Chur and his queen, and thousands of devotees who climbed the peak after them. And Lord Shiva blessed us too. Jeet, my wife, was pregnant within weeks after our prayers on the peak. When we looked at the baby boy Jeet gave birth to, we had absolutely no doubt that he truly was a gift of Lord Shiva. As he grew up, his godly qualities of kindness, compassion and caring were quite obvious, and all the more strengthened our belief that Alok, as we named him, truly was God's gift.

Alok was brilliant in studies, but second only to the best boy in the class. Jeet once told him that if he worked a little harder he could easily stand first in the class. His reply was, “I know Mom, but that would make Rohit feel miserable as he is so used to standing first.” Jeet could only wonder at his compassion that motivated him to sacrifice anything to make others happy. As Alok was kind to others, God was kind to him. When he wished to go to USA for higher studies after his school graduation, it was almost impossible to achieve this ambition. The government would not grant permission to send remittances in foreign currency for studies abroad because of very stringent foreign exchange rules. Nothing short of a miracle could help Alok cross this hurdle. And there it was. Jeet had a chance meeting with a Member of Parliament, who happened to be very close to the Finance Minister. He went out of the way to help us get the government permission to send our son's fees in foreign exchange to the University of San Francisco, for his tuition and hostel fees. And Alok left for the United States at the age of seventeen.

Today, Alok is amongst top computer technologists in Silicon Valley and we are happy to have joined him here after our retirement in our respective jobs. The way he cares for us always reminds us of Chur Peak where we were blessed to have him born as the God's Gift.