The Light Within by Sandeep Silas

THE LIGHT WITHIN

SANDEEP SILAS

I am where the hydrangeas grow
And the rain showers the hills

The whistling thrush sings on my window
A song of love and peace
No matter the lightening, no worry the thunder
There is a time for everyone which shall come on its own

I’ve stopped searching the sky for whispers
I’ve forgotten the feeling of lying on grass
I don’t walk on dew anymore
I am content with the rain that the heavens pour

No more I look for oceans in her eyes
Nor do I wonder what Nostradamus says
The trifling nature of humans is nothing before the might of Time
It was all written in your stars when you were sent to earth
The pleasure and pain
The walks, the falls and the rise again
How people shall pinch your feathers away
When they are envious of your flights
How Brutus will stab his Caesar again
How Shylock will demand his pound of flesh
You are no more in your mother’s womb, my child
You better brave the new world order
The tempests, the stones and the mocks

They come again and again
To spite you and to harm you
They are not imaginary fears
They are the plots of the imperfect
Who have not felt the presence of God
And are afraid not of His mighty sword

Many like Alexander have come and gone
Their ambitions carried away in drops of poison, of their own making
Only the Kookaburra, and the Whistling Thrush remain
To narrate the story of yesteryears
Still they carry on with puffed chests
The airbags, those a mere pin can deflate

I’ve given up chasing butterflies, those hover on blossoms briefly
They will go on living on flowers, sipping sweet nectar
Carrying the pollen unwittingly
To other pastures and foreign lands
I have become the undying witness to the passing time

I know every Achilles has a soft heel
No one lives beyond his time
All pebbles of the river bed, disintegrate slowly
Till they become just sands of Time

I look to the light that lives within
Call it by any name, it is the same
It is the candle of the good deed
It is the fire of the funeral pyre
Choose your light with wisdom and care
You are the Light that lives within

(Written: Shimla: June 9, 2018; 6.05 am to 8.22 am)

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A Bed and a Plough by Sandeep Silas

A Bed and a Plough by Sandeep Silas in “Borough in the Mist”

 

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6th Ibadat-e-Aman (Video Recording), February 9, 2018

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Rann of Kutch… ocean of salt or salt of the earth? by Sandeep Silas

The Bible in the Gospel of Mathew 5:13 reveals a meaningful phrase:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its
flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing,
but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.”

When I cast my eyes the first time on the Rann of Kutch I felt this come to me very powerfully. We had come to the White Rann by evening, my brother and I. We had first travelled from the Tent City by bus, then by camel cart to enter this territory that was for many years a salt wasteland without a human visitor.

Modern day travails and stressed out lives in the cities have led men to discover and reach such places to feel the grandeur of Nature and be engulfed with an awesome feeling.  There is something beautiful and wondersome in Nature; it kind of overpowers the senses and tells you that all the efforts and boasts of Man are just empty whispers of the impermanent!

The Tent City is set up every year for six months when the weather is good and the salt is walkable, the slush having dried and the whiteness the best. The tents are comfortable and more than that give a feeling of adventure, a difference, which we all look for from daily routine.

The Sun was about to set and that gave us a spring in gait to walk as far ahead as possible from where there is no interference between the Sun’s glory and its colours as it dies another day, and the bewitched eyes.

The voices of onlookers created a noise that was incomprehensible to the ears. I was reminded of a play, in which we actors were to stand on stage and act as if engaging in avid conversation, while all we were to say was “gabble, gabble, gabble…” The Party in theatrics is nothing but gabble, gabble or bla, bla…

The majesty of the Sun was unparalleled. The more it went towards its imminent demise for the day, the more it glowed! Bright orange, blood red, mango yellow, and then a blob of red disappearing slowly but surely.

Its path for the day had been traversed, its duty done, it seemd to have set in our portion of the hemisphere but in fact it was rising in another. What a beautiful lesson in duty it is, to keep on shining with glory be it this part of the world or another. It also reveals that no Sun can forever shine in one part of the earth, it has to travel to another!

The White Rann, a huge expanse of raw salt, a pure offering of the retreated Arabian Sea conveys a strange indescribable feeling of awe and surrender, lying quiet in its immensity, clothed in silence, and soaked in Nature.

William Wordsworth’s “It Is A Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free…” came to my mind:

“It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.”
The Sunset gave way to twilight; the much celebrated time of the parting day when birds return to their nests, cattle hordes run back, the priests rise to retreat within their temples and offer prayers, kitchen fires light up homes and smoke billows out of chimneys.
The sunstruck visitors too retreated and a hush fell upon conversations and hearts. Some kind of a fulfilment that one experiences after a tete-e-tete with Nature.
The Tent City revealed under the lights what it had hid as ordinary during the day. Here were some puppets, there was a rickshaw, a boat, a lighthouse, and a guard tower. Huge spaces served as welcome lounge, dining halls, recreation centres, playgrounds, VIP Meeting Place, and medical assistance. In the midst of many circular fields around which the living tents were erected, there were sitting areas so designed as to give a complete view of the 36 or so tented enclosure. I was reminded of the medieval ages when armies used to march on foot, camp in tents as they advanced and conquered more territory.
Food was local Gujarati style and you could have as much as you want.
A cultural programme followed after the tent city dwellers returned from watching the Sunset. A local band played songs, people danced Garba (Gujarati traditional dance) and some went to the eye of a telescope for stargazing.
The Tent City also dishes out small adventures like para-motoring and rope gliding. The record has been safe so far.
Sleep under a tent was fast though initially the ears kept on hearing conversations in adjoining tents as there were no concrete walls but cloth curtain wall those separated one tent from the other.
Morning tea came in a flask at 6 a.m. and in 10 minutes everyone was expected to be on the bus for the sunrise. This time the bus took us to a different area. Here the State Government has built a huge steel Viewing Tower, which can accomodate more than a hundred people at one time. We decided to walk far ahead so that none stood between us the rising Sun.
The rising of the Sun was as charming as its setting. The two events in metaphor and in real life were absolutely different, but the player was the same. The soft glow, called in Hindi, ‘Laali’, gave way to more defining moments those could be captured in the eye of the camera. Kabir’s couplet came to mind:

कबीर का दोहा

“लाली मेरे लाल की, जित देखूँ तित लाल |
लाली देखन मैं गई, मैं भी हो गई लाल ||”

The softly rising Sun, changing colour from orange, to yellow to red to white, coloured the sky amazingly in its ascent.
The plain white ocean of salt  before it absorbed its colour and stride kept on changing from orange hue to a golden one!
The salt of the Earth, though trampled under our feet, had not yet lost its flavour nor its purpose!
There is still hope in humanity!

 

(Text and Photographs by Sandeep Silas)

 

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DD National telecast of Ibadat-e-Aman 2018, on February 23rd 2018

GOOD EVENING INDIA programme

15.40 minutes onwards…

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Photographs of 6th Ibadat-e-Aman 2018

Ibadat-e-Aman, peace bridge of music; February 9th 2018; Stein Auditorium; India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Poetry in English: Sandeep Silas

Dance & Drums: Chandana Dancers Guild, Sri Lanka

Inaugurated by: H.E. The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in India, Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara

 

 

 

 

 

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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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A Toy To the Adult by Sandeep Silas

The Kalka-Shimla Railway

Like smoke wafting lazily from a candle, blown by a kiss of the wind, chugs the Kalka-Shimla train.  The mist, held by the hills and the pines, lowers itself in a welcome to the traveller.  Its freshness brings alive the sensations hitherto forgotten and buried under the pace of life.

If you look down history lane with a telescope, you find the gallant  and  fearsome Grouches of Nepal walking  into  Sikkim  in 1814.   The ruler of Sikkim, helpless, appeals to the East  India company and the Company Bahadur extends security.   At the  close of the war in 1816, under the Nepalese Peace Treaty the  British `mandarins retained a huge tract of land, which also included the ridge on which Shimla was later built.

One  Major Kennedy, built for himself a house at  Shimla  in 1822.   The  Governor General’s were quick to  realise  that  the environs  of Shimla offered them an England in India.   Lord  Amherst  spent the summer in 1827, followed by his  successor  Lord William  Bentick.   However,  the journey  was  not  particularly comfortable for the Gora Sahib.  Ponies, or jampans – sedan chair fitted with curtains, slung on poles borne by bearers, over a  43 mile mountain track made mule of a man.

It  was only for a correspondent, to conceive the idea of  a railway  line, that time waited for, till Nov. 1847.   A  passionate plea in the Delhi Gazette by this gentleman advocated the sketching  of a railway line to Shimla – “We may then see these  cool regions become the permanent seat of a Government, daily  invigorated  by a temperature adapted to refresh a  European  constitution, and keep the mental power in a state of health,  beneficial both  to rulers and the ruled”.  The earliest field surveys  were conducted  between 1884-95.  While the railway surveys  were  on, The  Hindostan and Tibet Road, 58 miles, was opened during  1850-56.

The signing of a contract between Secretary of State and the Delhi Umbala Railway Company in 1898 signalled the beginnings  of the  line.  The journey to a cooler paradise became a reality  in Lord Curzons’ time.

The bosom of the highly erratic Shivalik hills was parted by a 96 km. railway line on Nov. 9th, 1903.  Three years  of  labour by dedicated engineers and labourers in limestone and shale rocks saw through an astounding feat.

The line passes over 864 bridges and  under 102 tunnels.  Two-thirds of the formation is  laid  on sharp curves– sharper than a damsels !

The British chose the narrow gauge dimensions of 2′-6″ as the  hills  tolerated no more than a whisper to rise  the  arduous 1519  m   between the plain and the hill.  The treachery  of  the hill formation was bound by a silver thread, reassuringly.  Lofty stone  bridges,  arched in their effort of holding the  rail,  at times  three-tiered  too, arrest the sight of a  traveller.

The dark tunnels aplenty on the ascent, bring more than an opportunity to a honeymooning couple.  Excited whistles and natural  cries rent the air when you travel.  A curious mix of chill and  warmth permeates the atmosphere.

The  journey from Kalka to Shimla is absolutely out  of  the world.  Immediately on arrival at Kalka one sheds off his inhibitions  like snake-skin.  The toy train provides  a  breath-taking view  of the Kushalya river, the moment it enters the  foothills. The  serpentine splash of mercury  keeps disappearing  and  reappearing  with each bend for some time.  Passage through the  Koti tunnel makes you hunt for a coat and the air jabs you, the moment you hit Jabli, 1240 m above sea-level.

Three  picturesque loops near Taksal, Gumman  and  Dharampur provide  photo-opportunity  to an enthusiast.  But wait, more  is to follow.  The ascent is steady.  The train huffs and puffs  its way across green meadows, capsicum fields, red-roofed chalets and half  timbered houses.  Each coach has chuckle under its  wheels. Through  aged  in  service, it does not sigh, for  it  carries  a pleasant  burden.  About seven coaches form a train, to  accommodate  about 200 passengers per trip.  The extremities of  weather do not dislodge the determination of the 700 horse power B-B type diesel  engines.   They run to the call of  duty  in  temperature ranging  from  0-45  Celsius and in snow which  averages  2  feet during  winters.  What to talk of the annual rainfall of  200-250 cm   received  by  the hills!  The average speed  of  25-30  kmph ensures that “hurry” is removed from the psyche and replaced by a naturalness of demeanour.

If  you want to taste the beauty of nature  in  exclusivity, travel  in the Rail Motor Car.  There are four of them and  three date to 1927, while the last dates to 1930.  A group of 18 can be housed  in  this vintage experience.  You will  be  surprised  to learn  that  the original White & Pope petrol engines  fitted  by Drewery Car Company Ltd., London, were replaced during the second World  War as petrol was scarce.  Americans supplied  the  diesel engines to the car, from General Motors, U.S.A.

Surprises  escape the visage as nature unrolls  its  bounty.  Gurgling  brooks flowing down mountains, passing under the  stone bridges,  present  a pleasing sight.  Clouds of  mist  decide  to tumble down and gingerly touch you, enlivening your senses.   The train  meanders through Kumarhatti, then enters the Barog  tunnel which  is  more than a kilometre long, precisely 1144  mts.  This tunnel  crosses  the Panchmunda ridge, about 900 feet  below  the road. At Barog, it is mealtime, on the morning trip.

 

Through the English firm of “Spencers” which built the restaurant at Barog is no longer there, but the English hospitality continues to live.

From  Barog  to  Kandagthat the train  runs  downhill,  past beautiful  and quaint retreats of Solan and Saloghra.  The  final climb begins at Kandaghat.  Gradually, solemn forests of  deodars and  pines  replace the meadows.  The abundant  green  fills  the soul.   At Shogi, a heartwarming view of the Chail valley  brings numerous  anecdotes associated with a Prince to the fore.  It  is said  that this Punjab Prince, pinched the bottom of  an  English class on the Shimla ridge, and was thence banished from English society at Shimla.  Undeterred, he built for himself a palace  at Chail, a nearby resort.

Past Taradevi, the railways take you under Prospect hill  to Jutogh,  winding  its way like a naughty current of  air  teasing you, tickling you, till it pauses at Summer Hill.

The  prospects of a fullsome holiday brighten up the spirits of each  traveller. Finally,  like the last birth pang it burrows under the  Inverarm Hill, to emerge and deliver a happy child at Shimla.

The  transformation of a traveller from an adult to a  child is  complete.

As little as a train journey brings out the  child in  the  man, to chuckle, laugh and indulge in  childlike  pranks around the invigorating forest paths of Shimla.

 

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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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Strangers by Sandeep Silas

…….Contd.

(Borough in the Mist by Sandeep Silas)

 

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