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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, February 03, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day arrives with a cheerful mood and cherished memories of romantic moments for everyone. Love and romance fills the air as the birds call out to blissful happy times ahead. It's the season of love and hearts speak to one another creating the perfect ambience for celebrating the spirit of Valentine. What began as a ritual remembrance of a recalcitrant priest has bloomed into a love festival stretching to the farthest corners of the globe. Back in third-century Rome, the story goes, when Emperor Claudius II banned marriage because he thought single men made better soldiers, one passionate priest named Valentine continued to wed young lovers. Later imprisoned for his defiance, Valentine fell in love with a young girl who came to visit his cell. Before his death, the priest wrote her a letter--the first valentine. Nearly two millennia later, Valentine's Day is a $14.7 billion industry in the U.S. But other countries are cashing Cupid's party, too. The Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentine cards are sent worldwide each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas. The association also estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

India, as a nation, adores Valentine's Day. Ancient scriptures and sculptures have shown that India has been a land of love for many years before this day actually started being celebrated. It took a while for India to welcome the Valentines Day. This is a day of romance and love for many Indians. The youth especially take keen interest in the day. Collegians have their own innovative and stylish ways of impressing their loved ones. Exchanging gifts like teddy bears and chocolates or personalized gifts have taken a rage in India. In the metros mainly, disco's and party venues have  various parties organized for the people wanting to have a good time with their loved ones. This day gives a reason for those married to express their affection to their spouses. Jewelry is one of the main gifts exchanged and which is available in different designs in India. Flowers are the most commonly given momentos. Despite complaints from religious groups that it is an affront to Indian tradition and culture, and further westernizing the Indian populous, Valentine's Day has now become a widely recognized and celebrated day with Indian people. The messages of the small number of protesters is being ignored by most people, especially the younger generations. In Delhi, smart restaurants are fully booked for February 14th and card shops and florists are expecting to do record business. The Indian Post Office is also cashing in. It has launched a set of floral-scented stamps for Valentine's Day and hopes this will encourage people to send letters and cards to each other, rather than relying on emails and text messages to express their love.

Euphoria of Valentine's Day festival can be experienced weeks before the festival. Television, radio and print media start creating hype about the festival by covering all facets of it. Gift marketers and card companies launch a rigorous campaign to lure the youngsters. Card and gift shops are interestingly decorated with symbols of Valentine's Day including roses, cupid and heart shaped balloons. Shopping malls in metropolitan cities organize fun-filled competitions and distribute discount coupons to lure the consumers. On February 14, the Valentine's Day restaurants, discos, Cineplex, pubs and pizza parlors see a particularly busy time as couples celebrate the day in togetherness. Many boys and girls even propose to their sweetheart on this romantic day. With the craze for getting married on Valentine's Day gaining ground among young couples, all guest houses, DJs, band parties and priests in Indian metros are over booked for marriages to be solemnized on the day. Caring for the wishes of their clients, many priests pronounce "shubh lagna" (auspicious time) for marriage on Valentine's Day. “The planetary combinations that day are just right for a wedding — the union will be stable and happy," they declare, and the priests have their hands full. More than 50,000 couples line up to get married on Valentine’s Day in the capital of India. Priests say that’s a conservative estimate. There are favorable planetary combinations on other days, too, but the combination with Valentine’s Day is a hit with the youth.

On this auspicious day of love and happiness when millions of marriages are taking place all over indian cities, apart from as many proposals, I have a message for the mighty forces of Ram Sena, Shiv Sena and all the allied Senas, who have declared war on all the love birds who dare open their wings on the Valentine Day in India. May I remind them of their own revered deities of the Hindu mythology, whose stories of love and sacrifice they must have read and reread as they grew up, and before them their elders and before them their ancestors in all ages. Perhaps no other faith glorifies the idea of love between the sexes as Hinduism. This is evident from the amazing variety of mythical love stories that abound Sanskrit literature, which is undoubtedly one of the richest treasure hoards of exciting love tales. Set in a land of great natural beauty, where the lord of love picks his victims with consummate ease, these stories celebrate the myriad aspects of the many-splendor emotion called love. Classical love legends from Hindu mythology and folklore of India, like Shakuntala-Dushyant tale, legend of Savitry and Satyavan, Radha-Krishna Raas Leela etc., are both passionate and sensuous in content, and never fail to appeal to the romantic in us. These fables fuel our imagination, engage our emotions, sense and sensibility, and above all, inspire us to celebrate love. May I call upon the commanders of all sorts of saffron Senas, to call back to barracks all their brigades and let love bloom on Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day!


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