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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.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Mother's Open House

As much my father liked to be left alone with his books, my mother loved to be in the midst of family members and her friends, both big in numbers. Her circle of friends spread from the elite of the society to its weakest sections, the later being her weakness. She not only liked their company better, but also felt happy caring for them. Her greatest happiness was hosting guests, friends and relatives, some coming from other cities and overstaying for weeks to enjoy her hospitality. A true believer in the age-old saying that God visited us disguised as a guest, she kept the house always open for everyone to enjoy its hospitality.

My wife was my mother's best friend after our marriage, and a true follower of the traditions my mother believed in. Between the two of them, they had made the house look like a marriage home, where festivities and feeding never ended. There was hardly a day when God had not visited our house. Our open house always had a guest, invited or not. Some guests frankly admitted that they found peace in our house whenever they had a disturbed mind and came just to enjoy the festive atmosphere here when the going was far from good at their place. And mother reciprocated by giving such guests the special treatment that they remember all their life. On Sundays specially, it was always a full house. We had to come prepared at the breakfast table with information on our friends coming over to spend the weekend with us, as she must plan the menu for their lavish lunch. And if by any chance we did not expect any guests some Sunday, we must come to the table with planned program of full day outing on the day, a substitute for the Sunday guests. We really had a wonderful time with mother around, and we as well as our friends very much missed her absence when my brother persuaded our parents to move to his palatial house in Pathankote, where he had headquarters of his large lumber company. He thought he could afford a far more luxurious lifestyle with his large household establishment that would allow them complete rest, enjoying all the comforts of affluent life.

Eagerly wanting to spend great moments with mother, we were excited as never before, to take the train to Pathankote on the very first day of the summer vacations. Our happiness to see the parents in my brother's great mansion with so many servants on their beck and call, did not last long. They, especially mother, missed the hustle bustle of life in Delhi, where in her open house the guests were welcome anytime of the day, all days. The joy of hosting her friends, our friends, and relations from far and near, was now a far cry. The frequent knocks of the friendly neighbors, the sound as beautiful as of the bells at the temple entrance, was not to be heard here. It was too lonely for the liveliest person on the planet. She could hardly hold back tears that kept pouring from her eyes, when she pleaded for taking her back to Delhi. But that could not be. There was no way we could convince, even talk to, my elder brother on the subject. That would amount to undermining his true intentions to insure the most comfortable life he could provide to parents compared to what they were having at our place. Having spent splendid vacation with her, we were heart broken to hear her parting words, “I'll see you soon in Delhi. I don't want to die here, so far away from you.” And she was so true to her words; she did not die there.

Within a few months, mother did come back to Delhi, though not destined to live in her open house. She was driven direct to hospital in serious condition. During her last days when doctors had given up on her cancer, mother continued to have her high spirits intact. She asked me to bring packets of the finest sweets, and gave them to doctors, nurses and the hospital staff, as a parting gift from a grateful patient, whom they had taken care of so well. They had tears in their eyes, but smiled all the same, as they had never seen anyone celebrating life so beautifully till the end. Before she breathed her last, she kept holding my wife's hand and spoke the last words, “I may not come back home with you, but promise you will continue to keep the house always open for everyone to enjoy its hospitality.”


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