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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, October 14, 2013

Remembering Dussehra in Lahore

Whenever there is such a festival of the magnitude of Dussehra, I cannot restrain myself to go into the nostalgic memories of celebrating them in my growing up years in Lahore.There was something strikingly unusual about this golden land of dreams and legends. It was a heart-rendering experience to leave our beloved Lahor for good and seek refuge across the border that was created by the Partition of the country. Suddenly Lahore had become a foreign land. Nevertheless, I belong to a generation, born and brought up in Lahore, that even after a lapse of over six decades is emotionally attached to this great city as deeply as ever. My memories of boyhood are still fresh in my mind and often come back, especially when celebrating festivals and fairs, which were celebrated with pomp and show, as never seen anywhere else.
Lohdi, Basant, Holi, Baisakhi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id, Moharram, Gurpurav and Christmas were symbols of a composite culture, for all communities participated in them with equal enthusiasm. Dussehra specially was the most anticipated occasion to enjoy because of the Dussehra holidays in schools, from ten to fifteen in different schools, and the only holidays free of any home-work to worry about. The spirit of celebration took over from the very first day when Ramleela in almost every neighborhood was inaugurated by a prominent person from the area, attracting enthusiastic viewers, especially children who were for once allowed to spend late nights out. Ramleela processions attracted large crowds of people who would line up in bazars and stand on balconies of houses to be able to witness them. The great attraction was the parade of jhnkis or floats, elaborately set up on bullock-carts with a miniture stage where ameteure artists would enact incidents from Ramayana. Some of the jhankis depicted colorful scenes from the epic. Seated on them were also singers who entertained the surging crowds. The onlookers used to occupy vantage points in bazars hours before the arrival of the procession. The festival of Dussehra, which lasted nine days, concluded on the tenth day with the biggest fair on the banks of River Ravi, where the effigies of Ravan and his clan were burnt. Dressed in colorful costumes, people from all communities, from far and wide in the province, assembled there for fun and excitement and enjoyed themselves heartily. We always looked forward to the occasion enthusiastically and saved pocket money to buy playthings and other novelties. The shopkeepers from the city would set up stalls of sweetmeats, toys and eatables of various kinds. There were magicians, jugglers, acrobats, mimics, actors, singers and dancers who entertained the crowds with their performance, receiving rewards for the display of their skill. Full of mirth and merriment, the fair was attended in large numbers enthusiastically. There was hustle and bustle, merry- making and excitement wherever one looked, with people of all ages standing, staring and amusing themselves. It was easy to lose oneself in amazement at this splendor, tumult and commotion.
I was very happy to know from Yahoo news: “People in Lahore city of Punjab province celebrated Dussehra with pomp and pageantry. A large gathering was held at Krishna Mandir, Ravi Road, where hundreds of Hindus gathered to celebrate the occasion.” I was instantly reminded of the hit song of the bygone era: “Ye Zindagi Ke Mele Dunia Mein Kam Na Honge, Afsos Hum Na Honge.” Interestingly, the song was picturized in the backdrop of Dussehra Mela!