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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.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reunited After Ages!

A TALE OF TWO GARDENS is a slim collection of poems Octavio Paz wrote, while Mexico’s ambassador to India. These poems provide a spirited view of Mexico and India as complements, and the two gardens of the title are his childhood garden in Mexico and the garden of his home in India. “A Tale of Two Gardens” is a fluid, transcendent poem, defining what makes for a sense of place while describing these two particular gardens which, conflated, transcend time and geography. The poems of Octavio Paz draw our attention to the fact that no two people are so passionately and naturally attracted to each other, and no two countries are ever so close to each other culturally, as India and Mexico.

Historians and researchers have been working hard to get to the bottom of the affectionate bondage between Indians and Mexicans, and come out with startling conclusions that the Mexicans are our own kith and kin who wandered out ages ago to the other side of glob. There is definitely an important connection between the old Vedic people and Mexico's Maya-ancestors. The Mayans are actually referred to in the Mahabharata, as a tribe having left the Indian subcontinent for Ceylon where they inhabited the province of Maya. Later, they went to the Americas. The Mayans were excellent international shippers and traders, builders and astronomers. Recent studies suggest a link between Indus Valley civilization and Mayans of Central America. The studies focused on the calendars of the two advanced civilizations. The Indus Valley inhabitants followed a calendar based on the movements of Jupiter, and the Mayans followed one based on the Venus. In the Puranas, a secondary Hindu scripture, the texts further state that they lived on opposite sides of the Earth. Mexico and India are at opposite sides in longitude. The Hindu story of the churning of the ocean has been found in carvings in Mexico, as well Mayan representations of a tortoise carrying twelve pillars similar to Indian illustrations. Mayan structures in Central America had many similarities between the design and construction methods of the Mayans and that of the ancient Hindus.

Language is one of the major keys to determining the movement and migration of races. Two-thirds of all the aboriginal regional names of Mexico are either variations of the name of Lanka or Tamil names of West Indian regions. This is a major key to the understanding of their ancient Sri Lankan and Tamil India origins. A Mayan culture hero was Ishbalanka (Xbalanca) meaning in Tamil, "Shiva of Lanka" who was supposed to have made the footprint on top of Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka; modernly, in line with the prevailing Buddhist culture, it is known as (Gautama) ‘Buddha’s footprint.’ Palenque, the ancient capital of Guatamala, derives from the Tamil Pal-Lanka, meaning "Protectorate of Lanka." Guatemala (the main habitat of the Mayans) may derive from Gautemala, meaning "A Subsidiary Land of Gautama Buddha." Ceren was a name of Ceylon, some Mayan ruins in El Salvador are called Ceren. Mayon was one of the names of Ceylon's cult religions, still existing among a few aboriginals living on the island.

The Mayans are well known for their astronomical accuracy through their studies of the cycles of Venus, yet their whole system of astronomy and cycles derives from their ancient Hindu past. Astronomy played a significant role in Mayan culture. Venus in particular had a pre-eminent status. Testimony to this rich tradition is borne out by Mayan temple art and the few available Codices, or sacred books, of the Mayans. The sidereal Mayan astronomy is akin to the Hindu system . There are also the similarities between the Maya rain-god Chac and the Vedic Indian Indra, and the Maya monkey-god and the Vedic Hanuman. The Vedic origin is further enhanced by the frequency that the elephant motif is found in Maya art, especially the earlier works of the Maya, such as at Copan, although the elephant never existed in the region. Like the Vedic culture, the Maya had a pantheon of demigods, many of which have similarities to the Vedic deities. Mayan gods like Xiuhtechutli and Xipe Totec have their Vedic counterparts in Indra and Agni. Indra, like Xiuhtechutli, was the rain god and guardian of the Eastern Quadrant, and Agni, similar to Xipe Totec, was the god of sacrificial fire, born in wood and the life force of trees and plants. You can keep counting the similarities and there seems to be no end.

Punjabi-Mexican Families

Jayasri Majumdar Hart's ROOTS IN THE SAND is a multi-generational portrait of pioneering Punjabi-Mexican families who settled, a century ago, in Southern California's Imperial Valley. Through the use of sound footage, archival and family photographs, personal and public documents, Hart tells the touching and inspirational story of a community that grew out of a struggle for economic survival in the face of prejudice.

By 1910, close to 5,000 men from Punjab found jobs in the American West. These men had journeyed across the ocean, not to settle in this country, but to earn money enough to return to their home country of India. However, poor wages and working conditions convinced them to pool their resources, lease land and grow their own crops. A number of the men settled in the Imperial Valley, just north of the Mexico border, where they used water from the Colorado River to irrigate the desert, a way of farming familiar to them from their homeland. As the men prospered, they wanted to marry and settle down, but immigration laws forbade importing brides from India. So the men turned to the Mexican women working in the fields who, much like the women back home, covered their heads and bodies from the blazing sun. Valentina Alvarez married Rullia Singh, Rosario Perez married Purn Singh and Silveria Jill married Phoman Singh. They were among the earliest couples in a cross-cultural wedding boom born out of necessity in the Imperial Valley. It is these resilient and innovative people and their stories that ROOTS IN THE SAND explores. The film goes on to document the Punjabi-Mexican families' resourcefulness in overcoming political and economic obstacles placed before them time and time again. The stories are told with affection and pride by children and grandchildren.

There were perceptions of similarities that the men expressed about their new lives and that their descendants continue to voice. These perceived similarities, the senses in which the descendants in California today feel about Punjabi and Mexican culture, language, and religion. There were similarities of physical appearance and even of language (“Spanish is just like Punjabi, really”), as Moola Singh of Selma, California, who has thirteen children from three marriages with Mexican women says:

“ I never have to explain anything India to my Mexican family. Cooking the same, customs and the way of living in India same as in Mexico. Everything same, only language different. . I went to Mexico two, three times, just like India. They sit on floor there, make tortillas (roti you know). All kinds of food the same, eat from plates sometimes, some place tables and benches. India the same, used to eat on the floor, or cutting two boards, made benches.”

Isabel Singh Garcia said that the Mexican-Hindu children had their own little community during her childhood. The marriage of her parents, Memel Singh and Genobeba Loya, was a good one, she said. Her father and her mother have been dead for more than 30 years, but she clearly remembers them and her Sikh uncles. Growing up on a peach orchard with her parents and sisters provided a mixing of cultures. They attended Catholic services and had regular visits to the Sikh temple in Stockton.

"The Mexicans and the Hindu were compatible," she said. "They had a lot in common. The Mexicans had tortillas. The Hindus had rotis, a bread that is like a tortilla. We took the best of two worlds and made one world. We became one big, close family. Actually, we felt we were always a one family, somehow separated and now reunited after ages."


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