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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, February 22, 2010

Happy Holi!

It was a holiday for Holi, the colorful festival of fun, frolics and friendship. We were fondly remembering how our son Alok's class friends would come on this day to play Holi, the game of spraying colors on each other. They would take him with them to another friend, and then to another and so on till they formed into a big group of Holi revelers driving on the roads of Delhi, drenching every one on their way. In the afternoon they would all come back to enjoy a big feast of food, made especially for the festival by my wife, Inderjeet. With Alok gone to America for higher studies, we were missing all the fun we had on this day, when the doorbell rang. We thought it must be some neighbor come to give customary greetings for the festival, but no, it was the most pleasant surprise of the moment to see the same group of Alok's friends at the door with all their clothes drenched in colored water. It was like the earlier years, they were returning after enjoying Holi and decided to stop by to pay their respects and greet us on this great occasion. After the very warm Holi hugs and symbolic applying of dry colors (Gulal) on our foreheads, they settled down to have tea and snacks with us. We were so overwhelmed and touched in our heart to hear Bawa, Alok's best friend, saying with obvious sincerity and affection before leaving:

“We miss Alok today as much as you must be missing him. We would try to visit more often, but definitely on Holi next year to enjoy the festival with you and relish Aunty's delicious delicacies . Think of us like Alok is still here with you.”

This is what Holi is all about. A day dedicated to love, affection and togetherness, irrespective of difference in age, gender, caste, creed or color. Not to speak of friends, including the estranged ones, meeting and having fun together on this festival, even enemies turn friends on this day. As the spring is on its last leg in the landscape, India cuts loose for a day for fun and hilarity amongst one and all. Holi is an excuse for Indians to shed inhibitions and caste differences for a day of spring fever and Big Fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets, adults extend the hand of peace, and everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder (gulal) and water over each other. Corresponding to the atmosphere of festivity during Holi is the decrease in inhibitions of the participants, both social and otherwise. The women especially enjoy a degree of freedom during the festival which is not otherwise available to them routinely. They deviate from the norms of conduct by boldly participating in the fun of color splashing on their male counterparts. This reversal of roles is interpreted as leading to greater love and understanding of the other. The festival's preamble begins on the night of the full moon. Bonfires are lit on street corners to cleanse the air of evil spirits and bad vibes, and to symbolize the destruction of the wicked Holika, for whom the festival was named. The following morning, the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing. Marijuana-based bhang and thandai add to the uninhibited atmosphere. At noon, the craziness comes to an end and everyone heads to either the river or the shower, then inside to relax the day away and enjoy the festival delicacies in front of TV, telecasting special Holi songs from Hindi movies.

Holi and Bollywood, the Indian counterpart of Hollywood, have a long standing bondage. The Film Industry never forgets to set a stage on fire by producing new songs on Holi. All these film songs on Holi show how Bollywood has contributed a lot to our cultural festivities in a very delightful manner. Playful, mischievous and joyful – colorful Holi takes on so many hues. It becomes all the more vibrant, sensuous, glamorous and mysterious in the Bollywood movies. Onscreen Holi is celebrated to add rare sensuousness and spice to a film. A drenched sizzling heroine in white, pursued by the lovelorn hero along with jubilant junior artists, present a colorful spectacle onscreen. The naughty camera does justice to the heroine’s figure as she twirls and swirls to escape the splash of colors. Who can forget Mother India`s flirtatious Holi number – ‘Holi ayee re Kanhai’ and Navrang’s ‘Arrey ja re hath natkhat,’ which is all about sweet mischief. In Kati Patang, Rajesh Khanna declares his naughty mood through ‘Aaj na chhodenge bas hamjoli khelenge hum holi’ to the blushing Asha Parekh. In Dhanwan, Rajesh Khanna flirts unabashedly with Reena Roy, singing ‘Maaro bhar bhar bhar pichkari’. In Hello Brother, Salman Khan teases Rani Mukherjee in ‘Chandi ki daal par sone ka mor’ and in ‘Baaghbaan’, Amitabh celebrates Holi with the elegant Hema Malini in ‘Holi khele Raghuvira’. Ramesh Sippy used Holi to set a hillarious mood that would prevail when Gabbar Singh attacked the legendary village Ramgarh. Dharmendra and Hema Malini, along with the villagers, danced and celebrated Holi in the song ‘Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain, rango men rang mil jaate hain’ forgetting about the looming danger. In Yash Chopra films, Holi takes on a myriad tinge. The unforgettable ‘Rang Barse’ in Silsila effectively captures the conflicts, the romance and passion of the characters. Big B throws caution to the wind, as he croons the song penned by dad Harivansh Rai Bachchan and flirts recklessly with Rekha onscreen as Jaya and Sanjeev Kumar watch on. In Mashaal, the popular ‘Holi aayi holi aayi dekho holi aayee’ serves as the occasion for love reunion for Anil Kapoor and Rati Agnihotri as well as Dilip Kumar and Waheeda Rehman. In Darr, Chopra injects suspense and a sense of foreboding through ‘Ang se ang lagana sajan mohe aise rang lagana’, when the stalker Shah Rukh Khan disguises himself in Holi colors to steal a moment with Juhi Chawla. Chopra`s Mohabbatein too has a match-the couples Holi song, ‘Sohni sohni ankhiyon wali’, that went on to be a big hit. In Rajinder Singh Bedi`s poignantly penned Phagun, Holi celebration turns sour when Waheeda’s stinging remark makes the sensitive Dharmendra desert her and a long separation follows. But, the melodious ‘Phagun aayo re’ leaves an indelible impact on the audience mind. Music director Rajesh Roshan greatly contributed to Holi revelry through his ‘Mal de gulal mohe’ (Kaamchor), and Apne rang mein rang de (Aakhir Kyon?). Most recently, songs like ‘Koi bheega hai rang se’ from Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, ‘Dekho aayi Holi’ from Mangal Pandey and ‘Do me a favour let`s play Holi’ from Waqt have carried forward the trend of Holi in films.

With Holi, the festival of colors, just a few days away (March 1, 2010), celebrations have already begun in the holy towns of Uttar Pradesh. Holi of Barsana, the birthplace of Radha, a village, 42 kms away from Mathura, is of particular interest. Here, men from Nandgaon, the land of Krishna come to play Holi with the women of Barsana and hope of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji's temple. But, instead of colors they are greeted with sticks by the gopis. Hence, the Holi get its new name here-Lathmaar Holi. Smart enough, men come fully padded as they are fully aware what kind of welcome awaits them and also the fact that they are not allowed to retaliate on that day. In this mock battle of sorts, they try their best not to be captured. The unlucky one's however, are forcefully led away and get a good thrashing from the women, who can thus be identified with the cowherd women who were the playmates and lovers of Krishna. All in the spirit of Holi. And they are a great attraction for tourists from within the country and abroad.

With a large population of Indians settled in the United States of America, Holi is celebrated with gaiety and lot of fanfare in this country. Different societies formed by the Indians and religious organizations help people to celebrate this joyous festival. Music programs and Holi Meets are also organized by them to mark the occasion. These meets help the new generation to identify with their cultural root. Children learn to understand the significance of celebrating festivals and know legends associated with them. Great enthusiasm for the festival can be specially witnessed in cities where large number of Indians have settled. Holi celebrations are particularly marked in the city of New York. Here Holi parades are taken out. There is so much revelry here that it becomes difficult to imagine that New York is not a part of India. Next to New York is the Stanford University in San Francisco Bay Area where Holi is celebrated with amazing enthusiasm. Asha Stanford's Holi 2009 was Bay area's largest Holi event . Celebrated at Sandhill fields, Stanford, it was a blast with colors, water, music and great food. The highlight of the event was music and dancing with DJ playing Hip-hop, Bhangra and Holi music, and much much more with fun-packed games and delicious Indian food. Hopefully, the economic melt down will have no effect on the scale and enthusiasm of the celebrations at the Stanford or anywhere else in USA at this year's Holi on March 1, 2010.

Happy Holi!


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