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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.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Father And His Brothers

Dear Amitji,

Today, September 10, is birth anniversary of my late father. May I have your permission to use this pious platform to pay homage to his memory by sharing a very special chapter from his life, to be cherished for his love and respect for his brothers:

My father was born in Dasua in Punjab. He had two other brothers, both his weakness, one elder and one younger to him, though all three having very different personalities. Elder, Mulk Raj, was a very popular village poet who participated in almost every ‘mushaira’ in his hometown as well as small towns and villages spread for miles around it. No ‘mela’ or mushaira was a success without the sound of his loud voice introducing himself from the stage to the large crowd come to hear poets from far and near in the district:
“Meem Mulkraj mera naam samjho,
Kad madra te thathli zabaan samjho..”

After schooling in Dasua, my father left for Lahore where he did his B.A., M.A. (English) and B.T. (Teachers’ Training), all with very high scores, and settled down in successful career in two jobs - Vice Principal in D.A.V. High School and as Chief Representative of Oxford University Press, London. He had also called his younger brother to live with him in Lahore, who also did his M.A. (English) from Government College and made a name for himself as Champion Gymnast of Punjab. He went to Srinagar (Kashmir) to settle in sports goods business - a factory and a showroom, all with financial support from my father. After they were well settled, both the brothers completed legal formalities to transfer their share of the huge ancestral property in Dasua to their elder brother, so that he could freely indulge in his love for poetry recitals without worrying for day-to-day living expenses which could be comfortably met from the income generated by the property - rents from shops and residential tenants in a portion of the property. All three brothers well settled in their respective pursuits, comes a crucial twist in the story of the youngest and father’s most favorite  brother:

Uncle remained so busy in his sports business in Srinagar that he never came back to Lahore after leaving, though we have been going to him for many a summer vacations and enjoyed his hospitality. The only time he came was when he  attended my sister's wedding. He came with a contingent of the famous Kashmir cooks, to supplement the cooks hired locally, so that a wide variety of Mughal and Kashmiri cuisines could be served at the wedding dinner. After the wedding was over and all the guests were gone, including the out-of-town relatives who had stayed on for some more days to enjoy my mother's hospitality, father took the first available opportunity to have a brother to brother talk on whatever was bothering uncle that had affected his health so badly. As if waiting for the opportune time to talk about his troubles to father, uncle responded to father's initiative with detailed narration of what really had happened to disturb him so much:
“I made the biggest mistake of my life in having relationship with Shakun. She had left me shaken, breaking my heart and leaving me broke by stealing all my money. All her love and devotion to me was a well-planned ploy to deceive me of my money. Like a fool I went on falling into her well knit trap and took long and frequent vacation from work to enjoy life with her at various resorts in the Valley. She even manipulated that I empower her brother to look after the business when we were away on vacation. He abused my trust by making many dubious deals during my absence, including raising money against mortgage of the factory and fraudulent transfer of funds to his personal accounts. I came to know of it only after they had disappeared, deceiving me of all that I owned except the shop. I'm now left with nothing except a small inventory at the shop and some furniture in the house.”
Father kept listening to him quietly, without interrupting him even once. He spoke only when he saw that uncle had said whatever he wanted to say.
“I appreciate your telling me all that you have gone through. The most important thing for you now is to stop worrying about it, and not to blame yourself for the crime committed by Shakun and her brother . Treat it as a bad patch in your life, which can be there in anyone's life. But that is not the end of the world. You must move on to make a fresh start. I would suggest that you start with the shop first, filling it with sufficient stocks to increase its sales, for which I will give you as much money as you may need to buy goods. After the shop is in full gear and starts giving enough profits, you can go for expansion of business by buying back your factory or by setting up a new unit. But before all this, you must get your health back by getting rid of your worries and trying to recoup in a very relaxed atmosphere. For this, you have to stay with us till you are absolutely fit, even if it takes weeks or months.”
Father stopped only when he found tears from uncle's eyes starting to fall on his hand with which he was holding uncle's hand throughout their conversation. Uncle was too overwhelmed to say even “Thank you” on hearing father's affectionate words, though he said it all through his body language, by bending to touch his brother's feet.

It was decided that uncle would spend at least one month with us, his first ever vacation with the family in Lahore ever since he had left for Srinagar. He soon started making remarkable progress in restoring his health and regaining his high spirits. Uncle was persuaded to extend his stay for another two weeks, after the one month period originally planned passed too fast. But the time did not stop even during his extended stay, and the day had come when he was all packed to depart early next morning by bus for Srinagar. At dinner that evening, the last one with uncle before he was to leave the next day, he invited the whole family for a holiday with him in summer, and father readily accepted the invitation. He was still very concerned about uncle's business and was keen to see him resettled after the big set back he had. But destiny did not let it happen. Uncle had a massive heart attack early morning when he was getting ready for the journey, which he did not survive. He had breathed his last before the doctor arrived and declared him dead.

To keep his name and memory alive in Srinagar, uncle’s most beloved city, father sent my elder brother to Srinagar with money to buy inventory for the shop, which was to be given over to his trusted shop assistant, Rashid, with the condition that he would never let the shop close down to let uncle’s memory live forever.

With regards and best wishes for PINK

Tilak Rishi