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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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time To Celebrate!

December 14, 1960, was the D-day when our decade long love and courtship culminated in happy marriage. In our 50-years' journey together, there were, of course, many joyous moments which we'll cherish for ever. But there also were few bad times which even if we try to forget, we cannot. This is what life is all about. Thankfully, like in 'feel good' films, the bad patch passed over early in our journey and the going thereafter was just good most of the time. I would like to first mention the two most anxious moments of our life together, before recalling some really good times till date.

Jeet was my mother's best friend after our marriage, and a true follower of the traditions my mother believed in – 'atithi devo bhav' (guest is God) . There was hardly a day when God had not visited our house. We really were having a wonderful time with mother around when she was suddenly diagnosed with serious condition of cancer and died within a few weeks. It was too big a loss to bear, especially in early years of our marriage when we were still settling down to lead a happy married life. Before she breathed her last in the hospital, she kept holding Jeet'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.” This wish we have always tried our best to fulfill.

The second biggest setback was the sudden failure of my fast growing start-up because of a very sinister maneuvering by my rivals in the business. After serving for the first twenty years of my career as an executive in one of India's biggest companies, I started my own business of retail sales of consumer durables which flourished so fast that even my competitors of long standing could not match my sales. What they did not digest was how could I, operating from home, defeat them despite their big showrooms and large establishments. They manipulated delay of deliveries to my customers from the manufacturers during the festival sales season, which not only caused colossal monetary loss to me but also credibility with my customers for future business. During this worst time of our life, if it wasn't for Jeet, I would have completely fallen apart. Throughout that bad patch she always stayed positive. I don't know how she did it those days when she had to wake up at five in the morning and drag herself to take the bus to work and attend to our kid on coming back. She was exhausted, but never failed to turn the focus and her attention on me and to find ways to come out of the financial crisis, which we did overcome, earlier than could be expected. Knowing that she has been there for me through thick and thin has made life wonderful.

Birth of our first and only child was, of course, the happiest moment of our married life. When we looked at the newly born baby boy, we were immediately transported to our trip to Sanovar, a very beautiful village in the interiors of Himanchal, about sixty miles beyond Simla, and our dream destination in one of our annual vacations. There we had also climbed “Chur Peak”, the highest peak in the area at a height of 14,000ft., where Lord Shiva's statue stood majestically on the mountaintop. We had both prayed to the Lord to bless us with a happy married life and a beautiful child. We had absolutely no doubt that Alok, as we named him, truly was a gift of God. As he grew up, his godly qualities of kindness, compassion and caring were quite obvious to every one who came in contact with him.

Our next happiest moment was when Alok went to USA for higher studies after graduating from St. Xavier School in Delhi. As Alok was kind to others, God was kind to him. When he wished to go to USA for higher studies, it was almost impossible to achieve this ambition. The government would not grant permission to send fees in foreign currency for studies abroad because of very stringent foreign exchange situation. Nothing short of a miracle could help Alok cross this hurdle, and there it was. Jeet had a chance meeting with a Member of Parliament, who happened to be very close to the Finance Minister. He went out of the way to help us get the foreign exchange permit from the government. And Alok left for the United States at the age of seventeen to pursue further studies at the University of San Francisco. Today, he is amongst top computer technologists in Silicon Valley and cofounder of Yunteq, a start-up company of cloud computing which is creating waves with wonderful prospects for progress.

One of our proudest moments as a married couple was our close interaction with Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India. As officials of International Cultural Forum, we took a group of children to Prime Minister Nehru's residence for his blessings before the children were to leave for a Summer Camp in the then Soviet Union. Mrs. Indra Gandhi, the PM's daughter, treated us with refreshments while Pandit Nehru remained attentively engaged with us in his study speaking to us about the beautiful Black Sea site where the children were to spend the summer months. Indeed, it is beyond imagination how extraordinary we felt when we came out after spending the most wonderful hour of our life with the great world leader.

We also always feel proud of our interaction with former president Bill Clinton, even if by correspondence. During the eight years of his presidency we wrote several letters on varied subjects to President Clinton and we're proud to possess his personal replies to each one of them. The unique privilege of corresponding with President Bill Clinton remains our most rewarding experience in life, next only to experiencing the greatness of Pandit Nehru.

One thing we realized and always remember is that when you are really up to it, you can find happiness from even little happenings in life, as we discovered from the innumerable day to day incidents, interactions and experiences, some small and some big, but all giving us great pleasure when they happened. The most significant of these happenings for us was my joining Aravali Ispat Ltd., Alwar (Rajasthan), one of the most modern foundries in Northern India. Far bigger than the happiness of building our house in Alwar was our unique bonding with my managing director, the noblest man we ever met in life, and his very loving family. Our relationship remains as solid today, several years after my retirement, as when it started in the seventies. We continue counting our blessings such as these and thank God for His benevolence. While we pray for health, happiness and prosperity for all our friends and family on the eve of our 50th anniversary, we cannot describe how delightful we feel on this day to join our son Alok and daughter-in-law Ranjan, who insist it is just the time to celebrate.


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