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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, October 05, 2010

Guest Obama God In India

President Barack Obama's visit to India may have been dubbed by both the countries as a "defining moment in the history of our bilateral relations", and the President may in his own words, “look forward to the history that we will make together, progress that will be treasured not just by this generation but by generations to come,” but what he is going to cherish for ever is the traditional Indian hospitality that will be showered on him by the warmhearted people of India whichever place he chooses to go to. This is not just a journalistic prediction based on positive thinking, but on the astonishing experience of five of the President's predecessors, including the three living former presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Can President jimmy Carter ever forget Carter Village in Haryana state, named to honor his visit to the village, or President Bill Clinton the village women of Noyla, who did away with their traditional veils to dance with the President, or president Bush, the tumultuous welcome he received in India which was beyond any imagination? No, never, these are the most treasured memories that will remain with them for ever. Now when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and over one billion citizens of India look forward to give a very warm and heartfelt welcome to President Obama and the First Family, let us look at what the traditional Indian hospitality is all about in common man's everyday life and culture.

The one thing that takes any tourist to India by surprise and also deeply touches him is the warm hospitality of Indians. A ready smile on the face, always willing to go out of the way to help somebody, exuding genuine happiness upon meeting a person - these are some of the common traits tourists find in maximum Indians. Even strangers on the road are so friendly and hospitable. If you ask them where a certain shop or place is located, chances are people will not only give you the direction, but also accompany you to your destination, especially when the place is nearby. Indian people feel that their guests must be given proper warm hospitality, which certainly requires extreme care and attention. So it's understandable why the tourists visiting India want to come back again & again. Many prefer to stay with families as far as possible. The aroma of sizzling vegetables, warm curry, lentils, and rice greets guests as they enter the foyer of a traditional Indian home. Most Indians live in a joint family where the womenfolk form the backbone of traditional hospitality. Apart from taking full care of all their family members, they never ever let a guest go away unfed or unhappy from their home. Indian women are great cooks and can scurry up delectable dishes in no time. Because the home is a reflection of an Indian family's life and pride, most go to great lengths to make a visitor feel comfortable and secure. Accordingly, Indian hospitality is a reflection of the family, their home, their culture, and their country.

E.M Forster's novel, A Passage to India, depicts India during the British colonial era. Amongst themes of cultural awareness, British and Indian relations, respect, and tolerance, Forster weaves aspects of Indian culture and daily life throughout the novel. Forster provides many examples of Indian hospitality through his main characters, Dr. Aziz, a Muslim doctor from Chandrapore, and the English Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Adela Quested.

During a party, Mrs. Moore, curious about Indian culture and in search of the "real India," wonders if another guest, Mrs. Bhattacharya, would mind her visiting some day. When asked what day is convenient, Mrs. Bhattacharya, a proud Indian woman, quickly replies, " All days are convenient." When asked what time, she replies, " All hours." The guest is the first priority: prior plans become secondary and inconveniencing your family is never an issue.
Forster stresses the point that a guest in India may receive the pleasure of being respected and cared for, but a true host, when being hospitable, finds, "that it is more blessed to give than to receive." In addition, A Passage to India, shows that for Indians, hospitality is not only a beneficial ideal but also a priority and even a dream. Aziz explains to Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore that, " one of the dreams of my life is accomplished in having you both here as my guests".

Here is the age-old story that strengthens Indians' strong belief in their traditional hospitality:

A man who had never missed his daily prayer at the temple, one day spoke aloud, addressing God, "Oh God, I have been coming every day to your home, but you have never visited mine. I do not want any favors from you, but I do wish and pray that you pay a return visit to my house at least once." He heard God saying that He would visit him the same day, though late in the evening. The poor man kept sitting at the entrance of his cottage waiting for God. It was getting darker and colder, but he did not move in, hoping to receive God at the entrance. He had lit fire to keep himself warm. Late at night a passerby stopped to warm himself by sitting near the fire. The man offered him a cup of tea and a piece from the cake he had made for God. The passerby thanked him profusely and went his way. The man kept sitting till the next morning, but God never came. At his daily prayer at the temple, he complained to God that He had not kept His word to visit his house the previous evening. He again heard God's voice, "I did come my son, and enjoyed the hot cup of tea and the piece of cake you served, and also the warm comfort of fire you had lit. Thank you for your hospitality."

The above story and the Sanskrit adage, "Atithi Devo Bhava," meaning the “Guest is God”, dictates the respect granted to guests in India, as also gives meaning to the title - “Guest Obama God In India”!


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