Village of Tosh by Sandeep Silas

Sometimes you must do something that is adventurous or at least near adventuresome! You must never let the spirit die within you. It is just one life and one must live it as best as one can. I somehow connect to Nature in a way that I hear its voice, I see its hidden beauty and I hear its song!

So with two friends I ventured out one lazy afternoon and travelled in car overnight to Manikaran, the place famous for its hot spring and Gurudwara. We took turns to drive and a not so comfortable, but still great under the circumstances make-shift bed in the SUV in the rear was my bed for the night. Lights, stars, passing trucks and street lights kept me mostly awake but still I was in bed! One must be grateful for small mercies.

At 4 am we parked in the parking at Manikaran and slept till 7 am. By 8.30 am we were at Tosh, a village nestling in pristine beauty and caged in the simplicity of a mountain village life. The welcoming views were just breathtaking.

The peaks around Tosh Valley Village were covered in snow, except where there was enough sunshine for the day. It was December and it had still not snowed, thanks to global warming! I kept on looking with the wonderment of a child at the snow peaks around the glacier: Papasura, White Sail, Angduri, Pinnacle and Devachan. Two names definitely English, rest looked like given by the locals. Thanks be to God that no name changing spree by a self-seeking politician had affected the charming Parvati Valley.  Let the names be as handed over to us by Time. After all, it is a layer of history upon another.

But, where was the Village as a whole. I looked back from the glacial peaks and saw a Himalayan village that almost called out to me to discover what lay hidden.

But, first things first. Time to feel fresh and have breakfast. The Cafe at Pinky Didi’s seemed like a nice place and the omelette with buttered bread was just the thing one desired.

Tosh villagers have opened up homes for home stay with basic facilities and there is always a room to stay. Of course, in such scenic surroundings one tries to choose a place to stay with a view and so we did.

As I ventured out in the village in the morning hours I found  facets of life those are unimaginable in city environments. First of all, there was pleasantry and simplicity in the air, which is a rarity in a city these days.

A small boy hanging out on the grill of his home’s balcony was a picture of inquisitiveness and innocence.

 The Village School looked like a neatly wrapped textbook.

Signboards often reflect the educational level of the place and its marketing skills. But, who cares for English and presentation when all you want is good wholesome food in an inhospitable terrain.

With this bounty of Nature unfolded before me, my poetic sensibilities came to fore and I started looking for the “solitary Highland Lass”, as written by William Wordsworth

The Solitary Reaper 

“Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chant
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more. “
Such were the great poets of the times, whose poetry finds no equal still today in beauty and sensitivity.
I found a mother and child, who agreed to let me photograph her and in the background I saw a painting on the wall of her hut, which had the mother Goddess sitting above a lotus flower and the letters; “The Heavens declare the glory of God”. Yes, that is the faith with which they live in such an area where food for the day is the primary thought and not ambition.
A small girl suddenly came out of the precincts of her home to the common tap. She opened it, but there was no water. So she gave it a tiny thump with her small fist, put her lips to the edge and drank the little sip that came. It was a scene that could make William Wordsworth cry and celebrate in immortal poesy.
I couldn’t resist the tears in my eyes. So much for development and bombastic speeches!
Ahead a trio of boys played cricket without a pitch.  It was amazing that cricket could be the fancy of boys here in Tosh too. Thanks be to the cricket craze furthered by TV and Leagues like IPL. But, this cricket was without rules or a ground. All it meant was that you hit the ball and make runs. That is all the matters in life and the boys were learning pretty early.
During my interview for the Civil Service examination, the last question lobbed at me by the Chairman of the Board was: “So, Mr. Silas, what do you understand by the phrase- “It’s not cricket”.
I had replied instantly: “It’s not fair”.
What is fair and what is not, today I cannot say, having passed through many phases in life of being cheated, betrayed, and made a fool of, by the ones you trusted the most!
Smoke bellowed from a water heating contraption fired by wood in front of a hut.
There was a closed village temple. A beautiful structure built in wood and carved in Himachali style, it appealed as a prominent building in the small village square. I read a signboard “Do not touch”.  On inquiry I was informed that it is run by “Devtas” (spirits) and they had left yesterday, to return back after two and half months!
Time to lift up the gaze back to the mountains and remember the Psalm 121:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.”

This is perhaps the faith which sustains people and life, here and everywhere!

I was face to face with faith!

It was cold and head and ears had to be well covered. Lunch was at a Cafe which served hot Dal and Cauliflower vegetable, which we ate more than we normally did. When the cold is biting you from everywhere, hot food is more than welcome!

It was time to relax and forget there was a worry in the world. People say that foreign tourists come here for the hash. World’s best hash is grown nearby in Malana.

Evening fell and what was a rocky mountain turned into gold! Such was the effect of awesome Nature!

My friend was brave enough to sit in the balcony  during the night for some time and watch the stars. He found the night sky so romantic and clear, the stars nearer.

The flora at Tosh is Himalayan Blue Poppy, Iris, Marigold, Primulas, Buttercups and Balsam. They say you can once in a while see a brown or black bear. The rest of the sky is ruled by Lamagiers, Bull Finches and Rose Finches.

Next morning it was time to go ahead like travellers usually do  and leave the visited place like a happy memory in the minds eye.

The shepherd dog will keep the watch and count the sheep! So must all tales be told and lived by others who follow in your footsteps!

Distance: New Delhi to Toas by road 560 km; Route: Delhi-Ambala-Surendranagar- Roopnagar-Kasol-Barshana- Manikaran-Tosh.

Trek: Tosh to Kheerganga


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Amber Touch by Sandeep Silas

Amber Touch by Sandeep Silas (Borough in the Mist, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; 2007)


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5th Annual Ibadat-e-Aman, peace bridge of music by #Sandeep #Silas

A Sufiyana evening !

Saturday March 18, 2017; 7.00 p.m.; The Amphitheatre, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Free Entry on First Come First Served Basis

Kindly be seated by 6.45 p.m.

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Lagney Lagey #Jab #Dil Ko by #Sandeep #Silas

(Lagney lagey jab dil ko by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ruhani Khayal; 2014)

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#Tin #Gods by #Sandeep #Silas


Tin Gods

Tin Gods by Sandeep Silas in Borough in the Mist (2007)

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By myself in Bali by Sandeep Silas, published in The Hindu

Sandeep Silas visits the Indonesian island and comes back with memories of tourist beaches, the music of the angklun and glimpses of India everywhere


How do you see a country of 17,000 islands? That when 6,000 of which are inhabited! So you go to the place you’ve heard most about and which promises a generous share of the sun and beach.

The word ‘Indonesia’ has an India connection — “Indos” means Indian and “nesos” means islands.

India here is every where and in everything — statues from the Ramayana at road intersections; people greeting you with “Namaste”, temples, folk performances of the Ramayana, wood craft, the confusion of shops coming right up the street, and the unevenness of order. The reason was not far to find.


Indian traders brought Indian culture and religion here in 1st Century A.D. In 7th Century A. D. the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya in South Sumatra was epitomised in the building of the Borobudur Buddhist sanctuary. In 13th Century A.D. East Java saw the emergence of the Hindu empire of Majapahit, which lasted two centuries, uniting Indonesia and parts of the Malay peninsula. The Indian Government is helping restore the Prambanan Temple near Yogyakarta. Islam came in the 16th Century, again with traders, and today is the dominant religion here. Interestingly, Marco Polo came to Java in 1292 A.D. but the Europeans did not come until the 16th Century, when the fragrance and flavour of spices could not hold them back anymore. The Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, British, Japanese… all have been players in the archipelago till Soekarno proclaimed independence in 1945 A.D.


The road took me to Nusa Dua. Once inside the Italy-like tip of the Indonesian shoe, I learnt it is an insulated area for tourists, with little or no interaction with Indonesian people save what is dished out by the hotels. Past the Namastes, floral greetings and bamboo music it was left entirely to me to discover the Balinese way of life.

28dmc_nusa_1094950gNusa Dua Beach in Bali. Photo: Sandeep Silas

A break took me to Kuta Beach, which, along with Jembaran, is a favourite with tourists. Crowded, confused and scarred by the memory of the 2005 bomb blasts, the place still buzzes like a bee.


A while later I saw the most stunning examples of woodcraft. Most of them celebrate Jatayu’s sacrifice as it tried to protect Sita from being captured by Ravan. Ram and Sita, too, were captured in wood.


I selected a depiction of an Indonesian couple in the rice fields as a souvenir, having enough of the Ramayana in my home country. The batik here is irresistible, so be prepared to be divested of a few thousands of rupiahs if you enter a showroom. One thing I must record is the simplicity of the ordinary Indonesian. They appear so human and appear so starry-eyed as they feel that your situation in life is better. The very mention of ‘India’ generated a friendliness.

I couldn’t hold my steps early next morning. I ventured out for the sea. But, wait, I was held in my tracks by the beautiful song of the Bali birds. Dawn was about to be. The sun was still in the sea. But, the birds knew it long before it is time to welcome a new day. There was an excitement and a welcome hidden in that chirping. I recorded a video clip.

The beach was calm. Sea-washed! I sighted fresh algae that the waves had brought to the shore.


Click, click, click went the shutter, capturing the golden road to the sun on the water surface. It lasted about ten minutes, this heavenly bliss before normalcy returned and it was like any other day. The virgin rays falling on the beach, the trees, the beachside temple and on my face were all in my camera.

Next day was a day full of diplomatic nuances, debates and a draft declaration. The evening promised Ubud — rice fields and ethnic dance. I travelled almost an hour from Nusa Dua and reached a restaurant complex called Laka Leke, situated amidst the rice fields. Everybody sits here in spacious pavilions and witnesses the Kecak and fire dance. The venue is illuminated by flickering oil lamps. When the queen enters on her palanquin, bare-chested men raise their hands and bow their heads in welcome. Kecak is actually the Balinese version of the episode of Sita’s captivity. The men play the monkeys, crying ‘cak-cak-cak’ and circling Sita as they dance, the fire adding an element of mystery to the scene. Hanuman, the monkey god, comes to rescue Sita, gives her the ring of her husband Ram and consoles her. Now, the only difference in the Balinese Ramayana and that which we know in India is that there the story ends with “lived happily ever after”, while in the Indian version she had to go through the ritual of Agni Pariksha (fire ordeal).

28dmc_bali_1094949gNurturing culture: Ramlila in Bali. Photo: Sandeep Silas

The Taman Ayun Jagatnatha, is dedicated to god Sang Hyang Vidi Wasa. The capital Denpasar has many community temples. There’s Pura temple in Mengwi sits on a tableland. All temples have a turtle and two dragons in stone signifying the foundation of the world.


The Balinese dress and dance during festivals — Galungan and Nyepi are the main ones. The harvest thanksgiving festival is Makepung and held from August 8 to 12 at Jembaran. The islands’ most famous sea temple is Tanah Lot, where rituals were conducted and offerings given to the guardian spirits of the sea.

The simplicity of Bali’s music appealed to me a lot. There is the angklun, an instrument made of slit bamboo, which is held in hand and shaken to release the musical notes.


I carried an angklun back home, and whenever I think of Bali I just go and give it a little shake.

Keywords: Indonesian islandBali 

(Published in The Hindu, May 27, 2012)

Note: 8 photographs added at the time of uploading.


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Lakhtey Jigar by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ranai-e-Khayal




Turn around and call out to me sometime

Don’t you ignore me darling another time


Why do you watch the lustre of the setting Sun?

Come sometime to me, and face the rising one


Don’t take the paths those take you far from me

Run sometimes to me and embrace me of your own


Lakhtey Jigar by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ranai-e-Khayal, 2012

Translated Book in English available on Amazon Kindle:

BEAUTIFUL THOUGHTS by [Silas, Sandeep]

For original Hindi version Ranai-e-Khayal please contact me.




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#Tribute to a #Mother!

Tribute to a Mother!


Happy Birthday Maa!

September 29th

Maa by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ranai-e-Khayal, 2012

Translated Book in English available on Amazon Kindle:

BEAUTIFUL THOUGHTS by [Silas, Sandeep]

For original Hindi version Ranai-e-Khayal please contact me.

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#ISTANBUL…#Sweet and #spicy by #Sandeep #Silas, published in #The #Hindu

ISTANBUL Besides its famed mosques and tourist spots, this ancient city offers a heady mix of spices and herbs in its bazaars, experiences Sandeep Silas


TURKISH DELIGHT Yes, Istanbul is very crowded but this vibrant city is full of life and rich in history

Istanbul had long teased my imagination. I had heard of it as glorious Constantinople, in the days of the Byzantine Roman Empire, its subsequent fame under the Ottoman’s, as Istanbul. It is a city which has contributed to political power, civil law, codes, art and culture, architecture and religion for many centuries and has today become a bridge between tradition and modernity. It has entered into the realm of cities those that have shaped civilisation and impacted the world. The whole problem was where to begin. There was so much to absorb at the same time. I quickly learned that it was built on seven hills. But where are the hills? Human habitation has quietly placed all the seven hills firmly under its seat. Yes, Istanbul is crowded.


The most famous monument I visited had this unmistakable stamp of history and the ages of Constantinople. The Hagia-Sophia is pronounced Aya-Sophia. This Church-Mosque-Museum of faith has been built thrice. The name means ‘divine power’ and the saga of its history says — 1,000 years as church, 500 years as mosque and thereafter museum. As it stands today, it was built during the reign of Emperor Justinanus and opened in 537 A.D. The plan is traditional basilica with a central dome. Together with three naves and its 107 columns it forms a splendid edifice. You look around and up and you keep wondering how huge it is and how delicately it has been decorated. Gold, silver, glass, colourful stones have been used to create an unparalleled effect. The grand mosaic work of the 6th Century is visible on the walls. A celebrated spot for the crowning of emperors was the famous mosaic floor under the central dome.

010Haiga-Sophia side view

It was turned into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 A.D. after Istanbul’s conquest. The Mihrab, pulpit, muezzin gathering place, preaching table, were added inside Hagia-Sophia in 16th & 17th centuries. More precious gifts came in from Suleiman the Magnificent and the later sultans.

Spectacle of faith

Once Turkey became a republic, Hagia-Sophia became a museum. What is of immense value today to humanity is the presence of the Mihrab and the mosaic image of Mother Mary holding infant Jesus at the same place — one on the ground, the other on the roof. It conveys the oneness of humankind and so much of God. I enjoyed this spectacle of faith present here because of history unfolding the way it did, now become a grim reminder and unifying symbolism. I greatly treasure the time spent here watching the carved pillars, discovering the seal of Theodora and Justinian in the columns, the other mosaics, the weeping column (originally part of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus) and the streaming sunlight from the many windows of Hagia-Sophia.

048True respect for different religions inside Haiga-Sophia

Close by is the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known popularly as The Blue Mosque, as the semi-domes and the inner of the central dome are decorated with blue calligraphy. It was built between 1609 and 1616 A.D. and in a way was viewed as a structure equalling Hagia-Sophia. One admirer has described it as the “unreachable symbol of lightness and elegance, with its six thin minarets and dome layout.”
Blue Mosque

In front of this Blue Mosque is the Hippodrome, now known as Sultanahmet Square. It was built by Roman emperor Septimus Severus in 203 A.D. and served as a meeting place for politicians, for chariot races and such other activities. Two Egyptian obelisks stand in the square sculpted with animals and motifs.

stained-glass-inside-blue-mosque-by-sandeep-silasStained Glass inside Blue Mosque

The jewels and precious thrones inside Topkapi Palace remind you of the ultimate luxury in which sultans lived and ruled. First a Byzantine Acropolis in Seraglio overlooking the Marmara Sea, Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, it became the residence of the Ottoman sultans. It was built between 1460 and 1478 A.D. over 70,0000 square metres. The Bab-i-Humayun Gate separated it from the city and the Bab’us Selam connected it to the inner courtyard. All the administrative buildings are in this section. Most of the Turkish treasures are displayed in the museum here. Crowns, necklaces, the 86-carat Spoon Maker’s diamond, rubies and emerald studded turbans, weapons including Nadir Shah’s famed emerald dagger, thrones, porcelain, manuscripts and murals are not only captivating in sight but also in terms of being witnesses of history. Amongst the most holy and precious exhibits are the Staff of Prophet Moses, the hair from the beard of Prophet Mohammed, the cup and coat of The Prophet and his holy mantle. Little did I know that the most famous opera of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, completed in 1782, is inspired by a sad tale, with Topkapi (Seraglio), as the scene of an agonising separation! It tells of a Spanish nobleman, Belmonte, whose beloved has been kidnapped by pirates and sold to The Pasha who dwells in Seraglio. Dolmabahce Palace, on the bank of the Marmara Sea, became home for the sultans from 1856 A.D. onwards. It was ordered to be built between 1843 and 1856 A.D. Two interesting facts about Dolmabahce deserve mention. One, that its architectural design has eclectic elements from Baroque, Rocco and Neo-Classical styles blended with traditional Ottoman architecture. Second, that about 14 tonnes of gold in the form of gold leaf was used to gild the ceilings of the 45,000 sq. metre mono-block palace! The world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier in this hall, a gift from Queen Victoria, has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes! Now, people flock here to see Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s deathbed in Dolmabahce. The founder President of Turkey died in this room in November 1938 after an illness.

429Dolmabahce Palace Gate

At the Egyptian Market, the Nazar Boncuk was everywhere. It characterises Turkey, protecting the holder from affectation by the evil eye. Two tastes and colours were prominent here—a sweet called Turkish Delight and spices.

155Egyptian Market

I think these are the two distinctive tastes of Istanbul—sweet and spicy! Spicy, in the sense of taste that enhances the flavour; and sweet, which makes time measure up to a cup of delight! My last image while leaving Istanbul is of the Byzantine City Wall, which has been preserved wherever possible.

The wall has crumbled with ravages of time, empires have been broken, the republic is born, and Nazar Boncuk now keeps Istanbul safe.

571Sandeep Silas at Istanbul

(Published in The Hindu, February 13, 2012)

Note: Except opening picture, all other photographs added now


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Ittefaaq (Coincidence) by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ranai-e-Khayal






Coincidence by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’

Be grateful for your coming or treat it like a coincidence

Life is taking a sweet turn, this much I realize


Two days I don’t meet you and then it seems to me

That my life is ebbing out, with each breath I take


The heart’s yearning is now being revealed by the eyes

Your thoughts bring those of the angel Gabriel to me


Before your coming several questions surround me

Ti’s strange, only beautiful thoughts fill me, once you come


How do I tell you to stop for me during your own journey

Before you too, many others could not become my custodian


I roam restless with a measure in hand, from door to door

Never know when the beloved may appear as a doctor to soul


My days have started shrinking betwixt a few words

My musings narrate my story without you, to everyone


One ‘love’, brought ‘deep’, one ghazal, another time two

How will she ever understand, such intimate conversations


Ittefaaq by Sandeep Silas ‘deep’ in Ranai-e-Khayal, 2012

Translated Book in English available on Amazon Kindle:

BEAUTIFUL THOUGHTS by [Silas, Sandeep]


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