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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.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Happy Janmashtami

Dear Amitji,

“Wishing all a very happy Janamashtami .. the birth of Krishna .. of divine eminence and of great belief .. may He look upon us with compassion and love ..” (DAY - 3068)

Sir, I cannot do better than to say ‘ditto’ to your above quote to greet all our Ef friends on the auspicious occasion of Janamashtami. For the belated greetings I can only say it is because of time difference between India and the U.S. where I have moved to. The West always brags of being ahead of the East, but God has always shown them their natural place by putting them behind the East in whatever they do every day. Isn’t it irony of their fate?

Sir, the memory of my celebrating the festival in Lahore is still fresh in my mind like it happened yesterday. My mother was as much into ‘puja-path’ as my father was far away from it - was it because he was too busy with his two jobs or did not believe in such rituals, we never bothered to think as long as both were very happy parents with tremendous respect for each other. What we, particularly I, were anxious to know was how our mother has planned to celebrate the next festival, with what sweets and at which venue - temple. For Janmashtami, she would always pre-arrange with our favorite tongawala to take us to Krishna Mandir, located in Wacho Wali, Rang Mahal, in a  commercial and residential lane, which had several Hindu temples, the biggest and the busiest of them being Krishna Mandir. Me, my friend Bazal, sisters Satya Behn and Toshi and, of course, our all purpose brother You, were her permanent companions for any such festival outing, even when she would go to Golden Temple in Amritsar to celebrate Guru Nanak Birthday. Our participation was only up to having the fun of the festival, for fasting and other rituals we would excuse ourselves for doing our respective studies or homework to which she would happily exceed to. Elaborate tableaux depicting Krishna's birth, was the main attraction at the temple that enthralled the devotees.

In New Delhi, where we settled down after Partition, Laxmi Narayan Temple (Birla Temple),  is one of the major attractions of Delhi and attracts thousands of devotees on the occasion of 'Janmashtami'.
Though crowds of  devotees pray throughout the day, but the celebrations begin only in the evening and reach its peak at midnight when the abhishekam (pouring a mixture of water and milk over the deity) is done. We only visited the temple once on Janmashtami day and were scared to go again as the crowd was too big to enter through it and many miscreants had sneaked into the crowed and trying to pickpocket or playing mischief with female devotees. It was beyond management to control them. Thereafter we always celebrated Janamashtami  in our own tiny temple at home. Jeet had continued to follow all of my mother’s traditional prayers and rituals during religious festivals.  

Jeet, after surrendering government accommodation in Moti Bagh on retiring from Principal’s job in Delhi, joined me in Alwar (Rajasthan), where I had my last job before moving to the U.S.. Here she found the temple of her liking, for her prayers on occasions like Janamashtami.
Jagannath Temple is built several meters above the ground in old part of the city. It has awe inspiring medieval architecture and rare floral motifs adorn its walls and pillars. The Garbhagriha has two deities of Lord Jagannath, one is movable while other is fixed. It is probably the only temple where two deities of one presiding Lord reside simultaneously. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra festival where Lord Jagannath is carried in a chariot called Indra Vimana. The chariot, earlier an elephant carriage, had been used by erstwhile Maharaja of Alwar and was donated to the temple later on to be used for the Rath yatra. As luck would have it, temple Pujari’s son worked in our factory as Labor Officer and made it very easy for us to visit the temple even when it was very crowded on festival days, by opening their private residential entrance specially for us. As long as we were in Alwar, festival pujas at the temple were as easy and comfortable as praying at home.

After moving to the U.S. and living in San Francisco Bay Area, we could not have found a better temple for Janmashtami puja than Hare Krishna Temple in Berkeley. This is their biggest day of festivity every year. They combine the festival with The “Festival of the Chariots,” known throughout India as the “Ratha Yatra” festival, performed for thousands of years in Puri, India. More than 3,000 people attend each year in San Francisco alone. Typically at this annual interactive parade, people pull three large chariots by ropes throughout Golden Gate Park, ending at Sharon Meadow on the corner of JFK Dr. and Stanyan Street around 1 pm for the Festival of India. Devotees look forward to a free vegetarian meal, live music, ancient Indian dances, exhibits, books, and more.

Happy Janmashtami!

With regards and best wishes

Tilak Rishi

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