Tilak Rishi's weblog

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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, May 30, 2016

Conquest Of Mount Everest Day!

May 29 is the memorable day of the most inspiring event in history that happened in our lifetime - the conquest of the Mount Everest by man.
11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa of Nepal, become the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. The two, part of a British expedition, made their final assault on the summit after spending a fitful night at 27,900 feet.
Mount Everest sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia, lying on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a 19th-century British surveyor of South Asia.
Setting up a series of camps, the expedition pushed its way up the mountain in April and May 1953. On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.
News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.

The most inspiring event it was, because many mountaineers from around the world thereafter tried to climb up to the summit of whom some have, indeed, succeeded and brought glory to their respective countries. From India’s perspective, team of nine Indian mountaineers conquered Mount Everest 50 years ago and created many records. Here’s a look at the amazing team. It was on May 20, 1965 that Late Lt Col Avatar. S. Cheema stood atop Mount Everest, thus becoming the first Indian to achieve this feat. During that expedition, which was led by Captain M S Kohli, 8 other team members, Major HPS Ahluwalia, Ang Kami, Phu Dorji, Harish Rawat, Sonam Wangyal, Nawang Gombu, C P Vohra, & Sonam Gyatso, too summited Mount Everest, thus eclipsing the record of 6 members atop Mount Everest that was set earlier by an American expedition. This record by the Indian Expedition came to be known as “9 Atop Everest”. The Successful Indian Expedition of 1965 Indian Expedition had many “Firsts”:

First Indian team to successfully climb the Everest.

First time three climbers stood on the summit together.

First time nine climbers reached the summit, setting a world record which India held for 17 years.
First Man in the World to climb Everest twice – Nawang Gombu.
First time that the Oldest (Sonam Gyatso at 42) and the Youngest (Sonam Wangyal at 23) climbed Everest together.
First Nepalese to climb Everest – Phu Dorji.
First time the story of Everest climb in cartoons, written by Mala Singh, daughter of Khushwant Singh, was serialized in the Illustrated Weekly of India.
First time a full-length 90-minute film on the Expedition, with music by Shankar-Jaikishan and commentary by Zul Vellani, was released in cinema halls throughout India.
To honor this historical event, the Government of India conferred Arjuna Awards to the entire team. Additionally, eleven members of the team were also conferred with the Padma Bhushan or Padma Shri awards.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Indian Postal Service brought out a special Stamp and First Day Cover.
Captain M S Kohli, who led the 1965 Everest expedition, has written several best selling books on the historic climb.
“Life's a bit like mountaineering - never look down.”
-  Edmund Hillary
“It has been a long road. From a mountain coolie, a bearer of loads, to a wearer of a coat with rows of medals who is carried about in planes and worries about income tax.”
Tenzing Norgay

American Visa For Aspiring Students

Going to America was for most a dream that was difficult to realize, especially for students aspiring to study in the U.S. An over cautious counselor at the embassy often turned this beautiful dream into a dreadful nightmare. Unless the applicants were able to set at rest all his/her misgivings on their true motive to go to the U.S., there was no way the visa would be granted. The applicant must confidently answer stock queries such as these:
“Why do you want to go to USA for higher studies? Do you know that some of the Indian universities are rated higher than the university you want to go to in the U.S.?”
If after some more such questions, the counselor was still unable to unnerve the applicant, he/she would come up with trump cards:
“Do you know how expensive it is to pursue higher education in the U.S.?”
“Can your parents afford it?”
“How much do they earn?”
“How much is their saving?”
“What is the value of their assets?”
And so on, and would conclude that their worth was not enough to afford the applicant’s education in the U.S.. But fortunately for Alok, our son, in his case the counselor concluded otherwise. The financial papers that I had prepared for him to present at the interview, plus his cool and convincing way to answer the questions impressed the counselor, especially his masterstroke reply to the last question:
“There is no computerization in your country, then why you want to go to study computers in the U.S.?”
“Someday automation will have to be introduced in India to keep pace with the West, and then there will be need for computer engineers. I want to be the first among them, after I graduate in computers from a university in the U.S.”
And Alok was granted the visa to go for higher studies to the U.S.. and he flew to his faraway destination at the age of seventeen.

Footnote: The above piece was prominently published in the Hindustan Times as my “Letter to the Editor” around the time our son successfully cleared the interview with the U.S, Embassy Counselor in August of 1982, as a guidance to other aspirants who were yet to appear for the visa interview.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dalip Singh Saund - Contestant Of Another Kind!

In the midst of hotly contested elections for the primaries in the country (USA) presently, we do see many a contestants glow with oversized egos on the stage lit with thousands of bulbs till late at night, night after night. But I wish to bring to light another contestant, of another time, who was born in India but fought his first ever election on the US soil, and that too in a very low key contest that he won hands down.  

Dalip Singh Saund, the first native of Asia elected to the United States Congress, came to study at the University of California, Berkeley in 1920 and after completing his M.A. in 1922 and his Ph.D. in 1924, it became clear that he would make the United States his home. But he found few career avenues open to him. The only way Indians in California could make a living was to join with others who had settled in various parts of the state as farmers, and so in the summer of 1925 he decided to go to the southern California desert valley and make his living as a farmer.

Life was not easy for the young farmer. His first lettuce crop was a total loss. But even with the demands of farming he was still able to find time for study and for public speaking. Saund thus began his political career with the crusade for political rights for Indians. With the support of nearly two thousand Indian residents in California — a task which was not all that easy — as well as many liberal organizations, a bill was finally introduced in Congress by Mrs. Clare Booth Luce and the Honorable Emanuel Celler which would allow Indians (and Asian residents) to become American citizens. The historically famous Luce-Celler bill, receiving support from President Truman, was at last passed and made law on July 3, 1946 amidst the cheers of the Indians in Imperial Valley.
The passage of the Luce-Celler bill and his subsequent acquisition of American citizenship opened the door of American politics for Saund. Already actively involved in his local Democratic party affairs, Saund ran for and was elected, in 1953, a judge in the town of Westmorland, where he served for four years. His campaign, however, was not without its hardship and prejudice. One particular incident remained vividly in Saund’s mind throughout his political career. Just before the election day, in a public restaurant, a local prominent citizen came up to Saund and said loudly, “Doc, tell us, if you’re elected, will you furnish the turbans or will we have to buy them ourselves in order to come into your court?”
“My friend,” Saund replied, “you know me for a tolerant man. I don’t care what a man has on top of his head. All I’m interested in is what he’s got inside of it.”

In 1956 he decided to run for U.S. Congressman from the 29th district of California. Judge Saund faced formidable challenges running a cash-strapped campaign as a Democrat in a district that had always voted Republican. Saund relates that his colorful opponent, Jacqueline Cochran Odlum, who flew her own plane from campaign stop to campaign stop, hosted a widely advertised barbecue in the Riverside County fairgrounds, with a stellar lineup of guests, including Bob Hope. Still the grassroots campaign won many supporters and when the ballots were counted Saund won. He served three terms, working vigorously for  all the constituents of his district. While running for re-election for a fourth term in 1962, Saund suffered a disabling stroke that ended his political career.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao"!

“You can judge the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”.. These are the words of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit  Nehru. Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. It remains a valuable vantage point, a time to take stock and look ahead. India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women. India has more female doctors, surgeons, scientists and professors than the United States or any other country in the world. There is a National Human Rights Commission for Women that handles all human rights violations against women. There is a National Council for Women that advocates policy for Women. There is an entire ministry for women that formulates and implements policy for them. Through the Panchayat Raj institutions, over a million women have actively entered political life in India. When the former US President Bill Clinton came to India on state visit, he was most impressed by a totally women-controlled ‘gram panchayat’ of a village near Jaipur, where he spent a good time with the panchayat members and even danced with them, an event most publicised in the media worldwide. The women's movement in India is a rich and vibrant movement. It is true to say that they are among the most liberated, the most articulate and perhaps even the most free women in the world.

In India, women have been respected since ancient times. In Hindu mythology, Saraswati is the goddess of education, Parvati is the goddess of might and Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Man needs all three - education, might and wealth. Women of the Vedic period (circa 1500-1200 BCE), were epitomes of intellectual and spiritual attainments. The Vedas have volumes to say about these women, who both complemented and supplemented their male partners. Scholars believe that in ancient India, the women enjoyed equal status with men in all fields of life. Even in the present time, the astonishingly wide social and political spectrum spanned by the "women in power" challenges popular assumptions. Indeed, much progress has been made to protect and promote women’s rights in recent times.

But, truly a big BUT, there is a big black spot that mars the beauty of all the good work done so far for the empowerment of women worldwide, particularly in India, that necessitates the need to seriously spread the message - “Beti bachao, beti padhao”. The second part of the message - “Beti padhao” - has worldwide significance, especially for poor countries like in Africa, South America and some parts of Asia where parents cannot afford to educate the girl child, and also in some Islamic countries where it is considered a taboo to educate girls, but the first part of the message - “Beti bachao” - is most unfortunately and shamefully, relevant to the Indian society in recent times. It is a strange contradiction in the society norms, that on the one hand we worship the girl child - ‘kanjak poojan’ - to please Devi Maa, particularly during ‘navratres’, and on the other we hate to have the daughter-in-law give birth to a girl child. To give an example from personal experience, we were shocked when on our last visit to Alwar we came to know from son of of our very good friend there that his parents have started hating his wife since the day she delivered her second child, who also happened to be a girl, their second daughter. We were wondering over this attitude of our friend, because our friend, if not filthy rich, is regarded amongst the few very rich persons of the city and could not have been bothered by the thought that the girls would cost him a big fortune for their wedding when they grew up. But his son believed that was exactly the cause why his parents hated their daughter-in-law crossing all limits that they do not want to live with them any longer. He explained that in their community the dowry system is at its costliest as much of the family money is finished in daughter’s marriage, and, therefore, daughters are considered a curse. If this is true of the community to which our friend belongs, which, perhaps, covers the largest population in the country, then I believe the major thrust of “Beti bachao” campaign needs to be targeted towards all the communities that traditionally are stuck with dowry system to the extent that they would rather do without a daughter in the family, than fight to free themselves from the  evil of dowry.

Going to Marry,
Set an example.
Been Married,
Create examples.
Mother India needs you.
This is least you can do.
Neither ask nor give Dowry.
Her Daughters will be,
Proud of you!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Komagata Maru Memorial Day

This weekend when America is observing Memorial Day, a federal holiday, to honor its soldiers killed in action, another kind of Memorial Day is being observed by Sikhs all over, especially settled in Canada,  for those who were killed or suffered because of the Komagata Maru historical incident that happened in Canada over a century ago.
The Komagata Maru incident began on May 23, 1914 when a Japanese steamship attempted to dock in Vancouver. It had departed Hong Kong a month earlier. Of the 376 passengers aboard, 340 were Sikh, 12 were Hindu and 24 Muslims from India – also subjects of the British Empire. Sir Richard MacBride, then Prime Minister of British Columbia, refused to let the ship board. “To admit Orientals in large numbers would mean the end, the extinction of the white people and we have always in mind the necessity of keeping this a white man’s country,” he said. A popular song in parts of British Columbia at the time was ‘White Canada Forever’. A section of the lyrics reads “We welcome as brothers all white men still, But the shifty yellow race, Whose word is vain, who oppress the weak, Must find another place”. It took two months for the court of appeal to rule against the Komagata Maru passengers. The conditions of their temporary stay were far from comfortable. Canada’s navy escorted the ship out of its waters.
The British feared that those aboard had intended to start a rebellion (Ghadar) upon arrival in India. When the Komagata Maru arrived at the Budge Budge, Calcutta, on September 27, 1914, the passengers were deemed political agitators. The British wanted to arrest the organiser Gurdit Singh Sandhu and other political ‘agitators’. This political standoff ended in bloodshed as the British killed 19 people who attempted to flee the ship. Those who had successfully fled were tracked down and imprisoned. Others were put under house arrest until World War I ended.
In 1952, then Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated a monument to those killed in the incident, near the Budge Budge. The monument is locally known as the Punjabi Monument and is modelled as a ‘kirpan’ rising up toward the sky.  Many travel great distances to honour the dead each year on September 29.
A plaque commemorating the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was placed in the Vancouver harbour in 1994.
A monument in remembrance of the Komagata Maru incident was unveiled in July 23, 2012. It is located near the steps of the seawall that lead up to the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building in Coal Harbour.
A stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was released by Canada Post on May 1, 2014. The first phase of the Komagata Maru Museum was opened in June 2012 at the Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver Ross Street Temple.

In response to calls for the government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, on May 18, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a formal "full apology" for the incident in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in this house to offer an apology on behalf of the government of Canada for our role in the Komagata Maru incident. ... More than a century ago, a great injustice took place. On May 23rd, 1914, a steamship sailed into Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. On board were 376 passengers of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin. Those passengers, like millions of immigrants to Canada before and since, came seeking better lives for their families, greater opportunities, a chance to contribute to their new home. Those passengers chose Canada. When they arrived here, they were rejected.
No words can erase the pain and suffering they experienced. Regrettably, the passage of time means that none are alive to hear our apology today. Still, we offer it fully and sincerely, for our indifference to your plight, for our failure to recognize all that you had to offer, for the laws that discriminated against you so senselessly, and for not apologizing sooner. For all these things, we are truly sorry. ... Just as we apologize for past wrongs, so, too, must we commit ourselves to positive action, to learning from the mistakes of the past and to making sure that we never repeat them. That is the unique promise and potential of Canada.”

Thus concluded and erased for ever over a 100 years old black chapter on anti-Sikhs racial policy from the pages of  Canada’s history, around the same date when it was written on arrival of Komagata Maru on May 23, 1914.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chestertown Tea Party Day!

Today, May 23, is the day of the  Chestertown Tea Party, that provided one of the strongest pillars on which stands the world’s most powerful country, United States of America.

The Chestertown Tea Party was a protest against British excise duty on tea which, according to local legend, took place on May 23, 1774 in Chestertown, Maryland as a response to the British Tea Act. Chestertown tradition holds that, following the example of the more famous Boston Tea Party, colonial patriots boarded the brigantine Geddes in broad daylight and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River. The event is celebrated each Memorial Day weekend with a festival and historic reenactment called the Chestertown Tea Party Festival.

The Tea Party event reminds me of back home in India where I grew up very fond of tea parties, of the original kind, friends' and especially my own birthday tea parties. I can easily call those one of the best days of my life when, as children, we longed for the next birthday tea party and made it the most memorable time ever with innovative games we enjoyed and the goodies we ate that invariably included cake, sandwiches and a variety of snacks. That was the time when the Britishers were counting their last years of the colonial rule in the country. During over 200 years of their dominating presence in India, perhaps anywhere they went in the world, two of their most traditional identities they always left behind – the English language and addiction to tea. They both remained with us even long after they had departed. What began as birthday tea parties in my childhood days had gained favor in many forms as I grew up - an Afternoon Tea Party suitable for many celebrations. When I would like to host a party that isn't as involved as a dinner party, a tea party was the answer. It was an ideal format for a bridal or baby shower, a retirement party, a birthday celebration, or time to catch up with good friends. It could be a very formal affair at some of the more elegant hotels, or it could be as casual as a pot of tea and some cookies.

As time passed, I saw tea parties taking another interesting form, known as Kitty Party, particularly popular amongst the elite women of New Delhi, my hometown in India. You can call it a time pass for bored housewives. From gossiping to enjoying a hearty tea, kitty parties became the new benchmark of social mobility in Delhi. An all out gossip session, a great place to flaunt your new outfit, share jokes and family feuds, a venue to showcase your creativity and a much awaited opportunity to shred your ma-in-law to pieces! The most common type of kitty parties were patronized by housewives who had plenty of time at hand once they packed off hubbies to office and babies to school. However, lately Kitties are much maligned as they are often associated with idle housewives who have nothing better to do but gossip.

After our retirement in India, we moved to USA to be with our only son settled here. Interestingly, though this country is amongst the biggest coffee lovers in the world, it was born out of the historic Boston and Chestertown Tea Party, 1773. Like the “Quit India” in the forties' India, the colonists were enthused to push for independence with the slogan, “Take your tea and shove it.” That’s how the idea of independent USA was conceived.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Sarbjit" -A Big Applause For Aishwarya!

Heartiest congratulations and best wishes to Aishwarya on release of her most anticipated movie ever - “Sarbjit”. It is already the most talked about movie at the Cannes where it was premiered last Sunday. Critics’ rave reviews from Cannes, especially showering praise for Aishwarya’s best performance ever, have already created a buzz for the movie in Bollywood:
Talking about the film’s buzz in India, trade analyst and Editor of Supercinema Amul Mohan revealed, “Expectations are good. I treat Sarbjit as a comeback for Aishwarya as there is a lot of performance in it. Plus there is this whole angle of it being a biopic, which has been the flavour of the year right now, so it ticks a lot of boxes. The anticipation of this film is high and they had a decent outing at Cannes too. They got fairly decent reviews over there, so that’s only going to add to the push they get  in India.”
I cannot resist sharing with my readers excerpts from some of the reviews by reputed film critics:
BizAsia Movie Review: ‘Sarbjit’

18th May 2016 12:22 am
@Amr1ta amrita@bizasialive.com

‘Sarbjit’, directed by Omung Kumar, sees many firsts but the most promising and arguably eagerly awaited first is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a completely deglamorized role. She essays the role of Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister, whose only quest in life after his imprisonment is to get his freedom. With Randeep Hooda playing Sarabjit and Richa Chadha as Sukhpreet, Sarabjit’s wife, it seems this film has much more to offer than just the varied star cast.

It has to be said that the story of Sarabjit Singh is a tragic and emotionally moving one. Kumar, as director, has to be applauded for the way he has put the story across, achieving a well-rounded view of how each member of Singh’s family would be feeling in the length of time he was in jail for. He shows that he knows each of the characters well and it seems he’s really done his research in terms of the intricacies of the story and which parts he wanted to include in the film. It is commendable that the story comes across as sincere to the core but powerful, tragic and heartening at the same time…….It was almost a given that such a film would evoke performances that would enhance the story that the makers want to convey to the audiences. Rai Bachchan gives what can be described as her best performance till date as Dalbir; she manages to tug at the heartstrings with the emotional scenes and you can’t really take your eyes off her portrayal of Dalbir’s passion for the cause. Her scenes with Hooda are some of the best parts of the film overall, albeit a little heartbreaking at times. Hooda himself seems to continue to outdo himself with every film and ‘Sarbjit’ once again puts him up there as one of the most talented, understated actors in Bollywood today. His pairing with Chadha is also an interesting and fresh one. Chadha is near-perfect as Sukhpreet and adds a great support to Rai Bachchan when needed. Their scene in the second half together where Sukhpreet vocally supports Dalbir’s fighting spirit is one of the most beautiful in the entire film. Aside from this, the reunion scene between the family and Sarabjit is also particularly poignant. Darshan Kumaar’s small but pivotal role gets a well-deserved special mention – he’s one actor who seems to fit into any mould. Ankur Bhatia, who plays Rai Bachchan’s love interest, is also worthy of a mention for his performance – he makes a mark even in a short but sweet role in both the first and second halves.

…….All in all, it has to be said that Kumar has delivered a truly heart-wrenching story without misplaced grandeur and with distinction that perhaps very few would have been able to achieve…..overall ‘Sarbjit’ is  indeed a good watch and a must-see. Rai Bachchan and Hooda are truly gems to watch sharing screen space and the former has shown that she’s definitely back… and glamour has nothing to do with it!
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5

Here are some other quotes and statements connected to “Sarbjit” which speak volumes to motivate watching the movie as a must:

Omung Kumar's much awaited biopic Sarbjit has garnered much attention for its hard-hitting story line, powerful trailer and melodious music. Ever since the makers have released their entire music album, the makers have been receiving immense appreciation from everyone across the board. With a versatile music album consisting of a varied range of soundtracks, the album has songs sung by some of the top singers of Bollywood like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh, Arijit Singh and many more.

As a mark of tribute to this innocent farmer, the singers of Sarbjit did an exceptional gesture by charging no fee to the makers. A source from the production confirmed saying that "Singers like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh, and Arijit Singh who have given their melodious voice for the movie have sung for their love for the subject of the film. All the singers who are currently at the top in the music industry took this decision with their own will and love. We are grateful to them for their sweet gesture".
It’s not only team Sarbjit — Director Omung Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, who are busy promoting the film, but it’s also Sarabjit Singh's real-life sister Dalbir Kaur actively participating in film promotions.
Sarbjit traces the struggles of Dalbir (played by Aishwarya) who ran from pillar to post to get her younger brother Sarabjit out of the Pakistani jail but her quest ended tragically when he died in 2013 following a brutal attack by fellow prisoners.
She continues, "Aishwarya has done justice to the character. In fact, all the actors have been true to their part and have portrayed the emotions beautifully, be it joy, sorrow, pain, wait, fear, faith. I would get very emotional whenever I saw Aishwarya and Richa shoot for the film. In one scene, Aishwarya was on the phone, and she was being informed about Sarabjit. She was speaking exactly like how I had spoken back then. I broke down watching her.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Love Notes for Screen Goddess!

In his latest Blog, Big B revealed  about  hiding his injured hand under his pocket throughout the shooting of “Sharabi” and turning it into a trend in style. It reminds of another star’s similar style statement when Meena Kumari used to hide her one hand under the ‘dupatta’ or sari ‘pallu’ in most of the scenes in her every movie, because she did not want the audience to notice that she had six instead of the normal five fingers in that hand. There was no google search engine then to reveal the truth to curious fans of hers, so not many came to know about it. The ignorance on such stories because of the absence of information technology in the early era of Hindi cinema, takes me back in my memory lane, to where else, but Lahore days of my life.

Film fans in Lahore had only two English language film magazines then - in 1940s - to know off screen stories about their favorite stars. One - Cine-Herald -  was edited by B. R. Chopra, who later became famous as producer-director of hit movies with a message, and the second was edited by my brother, R. R. Rishi. Both these magazines were beautifully published on art paper and were highly priced as per the price range of the period - Re. 1/- , as compared to such magazines published in Hindi or Urdu language, which were priced 4 Annas (25 paisa) or 8 Annas (50 paisa) at the maximum. These magazines could cover conveniently cover stories on local filmstars, but were too far away from  the hub of mainstream Hindi cinema in Bombay. What they would do was to take such stories from ‘Filmindia’, priced at Rs. 2/-,  the most expensive film magazine published from Bombay and edited by the renowned journalist Baburao Patel, who also produced some movies when on the peak of his career and later turned into an active right wing politician, changing his magazine from  films to politics with the new name Mother India. My brother Raghu, that was his first name, would bring home the magazine from his office for me, not only because he knew  that I was a big movie buff even then and loved to read anything written on films, but also to pick up the best stories from its gossip column, perhaps, called ‘Believe it or not’, and to re-write the same in my words, which would be published in his magazine every month. My compensation for this help was a free pass for four persons for the latest release, which he used to get from the distributor of the film, and this was the most eagerly awaited and enjoyed entertainment for me and my school friends. The stories about the stars were mostly relating to their off-screen romance and relationships. This is what I came to know from working for my brother, so early in my life - 10-12 years of age:

Movie Stars and models don't look the same in "real life". One of the small comforts of watching a movie is knowing that those actors might be idols up on the big screen, but off-camera they're probably just like the rest of us. Every now and then, we come across actors whose real lives are even more incredible than their fake ones. Lights, camera, romance! It's no surprise that actors who have chemistry on-screen find themselves falling in love in real life too. But few stars enjoy fairy-tale endings depicted in their films. Breaking up is hard to do, even if you're rich and famous. They've entertained us for hours on end, but how much sad they have been inside is sometimes unimaginable. Normal occurrences begin to take on magical properties. There are moments in their life that deviate from the ordinary. Some such moments or happenings that occurred in the life of some legendary stars were picked up by me from Filmindia for publishing in Film Critic, in my language and style. Here is an example:

Shobhana Samarth – plane load of 'love you' notes for the screen goddess!

legendary beauty, actress of yesteryear, mother of Nutan and Tanuja, grandmother of Kajol and Mohnish Behl, she was at the head of a family that produced filmstars for three generations. In her heyday, Shobhana was often referred to as a beauty par excellence. When she starred as Sita in Vijay Bhatt's famous classic, Ram Rajya (1943), along with Prem Adip as Ram, the pair's performance was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audience's minds. In fact, people felt they were no actors enacting the Ramayana characters, but real Ram and Sita had incarnated to act in the movie. They were literally worshipped wherever they went together to promote the film, which was a huge hit. People even had their posters and pictures installed in their homes to worship and pray. Undoubtedly, they would have been flooded with offers to work together in many more movies, especially mythological, but it did not happen. Shobhana Samarth, the most unconventional actress of her time, was not available as she got deeply involved in relationship with her co-star of many films and the famous actor, Motilal. It was one of the most tempestuous relationships ever. Although a thorough gentleman, he enjoyed gambling, races and alcohol, which resulted in financial strains and frequent fights between the couple. Quoting Samrath: “We were forever fighting -- out of 365 days, we would fight 360 days. He reacted by drinking -- he had to drink because we had had a fight and he had to drink because we were happy. When I decided to quit Bombay and live in Lonavala, he objected. I went anyway. He had a flying license and he hired a plane and flew over my cottage, throwing stones with letters tied to them saying 'I love you.”