Tilak Rishi's weblog
Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...
- Name: Tilak Rishi
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.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Friday, February 12, 2016
Vasant Panchami In Lahore!
It is still very hard to reconcile that I can never return to live in Lahore, the beloved city of my birth. On August 15, 1947, Lahore had become part of Pakistan, the newly created country out of the partition of India, and I along with millions of non-Muslims had to migrate to India. Even though the unfortunate Partition tragedy is history now, and ushering in of the new millennium since then makes it more so, my mind, whether in India or the States, never stops landing back in Lahore, reliving the sweet memories of the first 15 years of my life that I spent in that great city. The sweetest and the most exciting of them is, indeed, of the keenly awaited kite-flying festival of Basant that our entire family celebrated with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm on the fourth floor terrace of our house. The best part of our pleasure was that our father, who never allowed us to distract him from his books on any holiday, would willingly join us to enjoy the festival. It was always a full house on the roof top with our family members, my best friend Bazal and friends of all my brothers gathering in full strength to cheer every time we won the kite-fight in the air by cutting the kite-cord of our adversary, with the bursts of drums and trumpets. My mother and sisters joined in the festivity by making us feast on the most delicious meal for lunch and nonstop supply of snacks throughout the day, all served on the terrace.
Basant Panchami festival brings the news of advent of spring, where the whole environ baptize in romance. The pleasant cool breeze supersedes the cold winters, the flowers swing in the air in their full youth-- there is air of merriment everywhere. Vasant is the season when nature is at its beautiful and bountiful best. Flowers are in full bloom and trees sprout new shoots. It is a season when nature regenerates and every thing is fresh and new. New life is evident in the woods and fields. Wheat and other crops enliven with new life and vitality. Mustard fields turn into a heady mix of yellow and green as the blossoms add color, poetry and romance to life. Basant Panchami has a specific meaning, Basant means Spring, whereas Panchami means the fifth day of the spring. It falls on Panchami - on the Waxing Moon. The festival lies in the month of January-February. This year it falls on Wednesday January 20.
In Lahore the season of spring started with the Basant carnival, an orgy of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and cultural events in which all communities participated with unprecedented unity. Actually the Muslim, more than Hindus, had a special role to play during Basant because it was they who specialized in making the kite-cord and kites. Karbla, a sacred Muslim place in Lahore, was famous for making of the most sturdy cords for which orders had to be placed well in advance. Lahorites and out-of-town enthusiasts would wear glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring - “Aya Basant Pala Udant”(come spring winter vanishes) - as they would say. Nighttime kite-flying in the walled old quarter around the 16th century Badshahi mosque and Lahore fort opened the festival. Ancient mughal palaces throw open their doors for all-night parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights slashing the sky. Stars from the Lahore ( now known as 'Lollywood') film industry performed with classical Qawali musicians at parties in traditional haveli homes. White paper kites shimmered in the night sky, diving and soaring as rival fliers joust in duels marked by battle cries of Pecha! and victory shouts of bo kata!
In post Partition Lahore, when there are no Hindus left there, Basant festival is still celebrated with the same enthsiasm as in the past, before independence. Pakistanis from across the country flock to Lahore for the festival, crowding the Islamabad to Lahore motorway to catch a glimpse of the flying paper fighting kites. Top hotels report full bookings - "It is an event not to be missed," they say. Basant continues to occupy an important part of the culture of the city. Flying kites is a major part of the festival of Basant. This interesting inaugural act of the festival is performed in the walled, old part of the Lahore city. Important historical buildings like the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque lie at close proximity to this quarter of the city. During this time, most of the palatial buildings of Lahore open their large doors to allow nightlong parties. People of Lahore, who stay abroad, visit their home city at this point of the year to partake in the festivities. Lahore is dressed in an appropriate spring attire, and the festival events include musical performances, art and flower displays, books and handicrafts stalls as well as the Canal Mela (festival) during which decorated and illuminated boats and floats are displayed on Lahore Canal. The most internationally popular event of Pakistan, the Basant festival transforms Lahore skies with a plethora of colorful kites, and has a long tradition of kite tournaments and battles. Tourists from far and near also make it a point to be present in Lahore during the Basant Festival. More than one million people are expected every year to attend the Basant festival, which marks the start of spring. Rooftops are in high demand - rentals for the night have been reported to sky rocket. Organisers work all week to light up an estimated 12,000 rooftops. Residents and revellers crowd into public parks, shopping centers and hotels and on to the rooftops of all big buildings. The festival draws people from as far away as the US and Australia. The festival is also marked with concerts and parties, attracting hundreds of Indians arriving in Lahore, including some of our top film stars. "We love our guests and Lahore is a very safe city," ensures the city's mayor.
In Pakistan, Basant has been seen by some of the hardline Muslim parties as a custom of the Hindus. Islamic clerics have issued edicts each year branding the festival as Hindu in origin. They have often sought to impose ban on Basant. In fact, under their pressure Kite flying had been banned in Pakistan many times since 2005, but the ban has been lifted again and again, especially for the Basant festival. Others see Basat simply as a spring festival, and enjoy the same. Festival enthusiasts call it a rare chance to step out and celebrate in a country riven by Islamic militancy. "Let clerics do their business while we rejoice. It is the only colorful event in the country that Pakistan is proud of, The extremists are a tiny minority in this country, That's what Basant proves," they say. And the festivities go on, as always, during the Basant festival. The only concession some have made to the clerics' anti-Basant cries is to call the festival Jashn-e-Baharan (the festival of spring). The truth is that Lahore boasts of Basant being the biggest festival of the city, and will remain so whether they call it Basant or Jashn-e-Baharan.
Lahore - My Birthplace On Passport!
It was hard to believe that Lahore was now beyond our reach and we would never be able to return to the beloved city of my birth. On August 15, 1947, Lahore had become part of Pakistan, the newly created country out of the partition of India. As our plane took off from Srinagar for New Delhi, the capital of India, my mind started to fly back to Lahore with sweet memories of the first 15 years of my life that I spent in that great city.
There was a saying in Punjab, “Jinhe Lahore nahin dekhya, o jamaya hi nahin” (One who has not seen Lahore is like not born), and so true. Lahore was a very modern and clean city, with most of the areas street-cleaned every morning, and kept cool in summer months by mobile sprinklers of the municipality. Shining tongas, driven by well-fed and trained horses, were a pride of their owners and pleasure for the passengers. Anarkali Bazar, all the time bustling with browsers and shoppers, had the biggest and the most beautiful shops no other city could boast of. This also made it the star attraction for visitors and locals alike. Lahore was also an important historical place with many landmarks and monuments of the Mogul times, such as the Shalimar Gardens, built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan, and the Fort where Emperor Akbar had his court for fourteen years. The museum, the Mall, Lawrence gardens and the zoo were other attractions where people liked to go again and again.
Lahore was the cultural, intellectual and educational center of not only the Punjab province, but also the entire country. No other city in India had so many schools, colleges, cultural centers and institutions of higher learning as Lahore. The fondest memories of my life in Lahore were, of course, from my school days. Indeed, I was very proud of going to D.A.V. High school, the most prestigious school in Punjab, which topped in studies as well as sports every year. The school had the biggest library, located in a separate building within the school compound, the most modern gymnasium, a great swimming pool and large play grounds, apart from the top ranking faculty no other school could afford. The sweetest memory from my school days related to the most enjoyable time spent with my friends, especially Bazal, my best friend and next door neighbor. The Government College, considered the greatest institution for higher studies in the entire province of Punjab, was in our neighborhood. Apart from all the top class facilities and faculties there, the college was known for its large tournament standard swimming pool, where I, along with Bazal, would spend most of our summer evenings, thanks to Bazal's father who was a faculty member, and got us permission to use the swimming pool.
Bazal and I were so close that there was hardly a day when he was not at our place or vice-versa, though most of the time it was he who would be at our place. Everyone in the family loved him, particularly my mother who pampered him all the more ever since the day he had a miraculous escape from what could have been a fatal fall from our terrace to the street, three stories down. It was the day when everyone in Lahore would be on the terrace, looking at the sky that was covered with colorful kites of all sorts and sizes, large and small, round and square. One and all, Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, young and old, celebrated the Hindu festival of Basant, at the beginning of spring, as the festival of kite flying. As usual with all festivals, whether the Hindu Deepavali or the Moslem Eid, Bazal was celebrating Basant at our place by flying kites from our terrace. As he was totally engrossed in a match with a rival kite-flyer from another terrace, he suddenly slipped over the low fence and lost control. A split-second move by my brother to hold Bazal, saved his life.
Next to Mumbai and Kolkata, Lahore was the largest movie making center in India. Besides two big studios, Pancholi Arts and Shorie Pictures, that boasted of many super-hit movies, there were a large number of smaller units, which too had quite a few hit films to their credit. Many of the mainstream stars started their career in movies that were made in Lahore, and later moved to Mumbai where they became some of the biggest stars of Indian cinema. Lahore also had a large number of movie theaters where “House Full” sign was a usual sight, especially on Sundays and holidays. Wednesday matinees were reserved for women, when it was the “Ladies Only” show in all theaters at half the normal rates. My mother, a great fan of Hindi films, made it a must every Wednesday to watch the new release of the week, and I was her constant companion till I was twelve years old, the age limit for allowing boys in “Ladies Only” shows, if accompanied by a lady. That is how I became a movie addict, right from the time I was a toddler in Lahore till date.
Lahore always remained a living example of religious harmony where Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs and Christians lived in absolute peace till around the partition of India when communal tension started to spread throughout the city. It was then that my father decided to send the family to Srinagar (Kashmir) though he himself along with one of my brothers continued to stay in Lahore for quite sometime after the formation of Pakistan. My father firmly believed that sooner or later the atmosphere would calm down and life would be normal when the new Pakistan government settled down. But his logic proved irrelevant at that period of time, when mobs of fanatic Moslems attacked our house. He had a miraculous escape when Bazal and his brother, an army officer in the Pakistan army, not only saved their lives but also escorted them to airport for taking a flight to New Delhi. The brothers, Bazal and Aziz, truly represented the spirit of Lahore - the spirit of brotherhood.