WHAT TO EXPECT AND ASK ? BY SANDEEP SILAS

WHAT TO EXPECT AND ASK ?

SANDEEP SILAS

Don’t make me so big that I think I own Your Earth

Don’t give me so much that I think I can command the oceans

Don’t place me so high that I forget I am human

Don’t make me so powerful that I am distanced from hungering humanity

Don’t give me all what I ask, lest I forget the struggle and the value of achievement

Let me live with the mountain and the sea in perfect harmony

Let me watch in amusement the flight of birds

Let me eyes think my body is moving with the flying clouds

Let me touch the trees and the green leaves

Let me smell the beautiful flowers, fragrance pervading my soul

Let me feel the warmth of another human hand

Let me not shy away from extending a helping hand

Let me seek shelter in times of trial in You

Let me pray for easing the suffering of others

Let me be a part of You

Make me an instrument of Your will

Your wish to become my path

Your design to become the plan of my life

Your command to be my endeavour

Your presence to be my feeling

Your proximity to be my pride

Your grace to fill my soul

Your holiness to become my divinity

All this I ask and no more

If you think this is the way

May your lips too utter this prayer

(Copyright: Sandeep Silas)

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What goes into the making of your cup of TEA? by Sandeep Silas

What goes into the making of your cup of TEA?

Tea, the cup of multipurpose uses! From political, spiritual discussions to head ache relief, tea is sometimes had just like that, as a tradition of family getting together or public socializing.

Have you ever wondered what time, labour, machine work, packaging that goes into getting you the cup of tea? Or as we once enacted the play, “Tup of Twee !”

 

Bringing you an insight that is worth a watch!

Tea Garden in the Himalayas!

Plucking the tea !

Withering of tea leaves !

Rolling

Drying Process

Sieving

Segregating

Finally, the golden cup of tea!

George Orwell’s eleven “golden” rules for the ultimate tea experience, is a delight for the person who loves his/her cup of tea!

(Quote): “When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.” (Unquote)

Reading the tea leaves

Reading the tea leaves has been not only a favourite pastime but, an indulgence of the tea table! I bring to you some pieces from Literature in English those celebrate the tea !

The Portrait of a Lady: “Under certain circumstances,” declares Henry James at the opening of The Portrait of a Lady, “there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

The Mad hatter’s tea party (1865): “By the middle of the 19th century, the ceremony of tea had become so central to Victorian society that a short-lived periodical called The Anti-Teapot Review parodied so-called “Teapotism”. Lewis Carroll took aim at tea-table tittle-tattle with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter. “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

The Importance of Being Earnest (1894): “Wilde is at his most brilliant when taking the customs of the upper middle classes and subverting them: Algernon’s usurpation of the female tea-table in the opening scene of The Importance of Being Earnest is not just a consummate performance, it’s also a crucial indicator of his decadent aestheticism (something which many critics of the time saw as effeminate). After Algy scoffs all the cucumber sandwiches prepared for Aunt Augusta in the opening scene, the second act revolves completely around a tea scene: Cecily and Gwendolen both assert their engagement to a man named “Ernest”, during which tea descends into an elaborate war of excessive politeness (“Destestable girl! But I require tea!”, muses Gwendolen). At the end of the act, after Algy and Jack have been caught in their masquerades and are left to stew, Algy drowns his sorrows: “I haven’t quite finished my tea yet! And there is still one muffin left.”

The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock (1915):”Prufrock may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but the crisis of TS Eliot’s groundbreaking poem is actually all about tea: “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,/ Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” Of course, as the paralysed Prufrock finds, tea still leaves plenty of time to bottle it – “Time for you and time for me,/ And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/ And for a hundred visions and revisions/ Before the taking of toast and tea.” Needless to say he can’t summon the courage and consoles himself afterwards with the doubt that “After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,/ Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,/ Would it have been worth while …”

And so, let’s have a cup of tea!

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Sandeep Silas speaking at the Festival of Peace

Address of Sandeep Silas delivered in the distinguished presence of Hon’ble Union Home Minister, Government of India, Shri Rajnath Singh, at RIM event, Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on January 15th 2019 !

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ARKI: The Hidden Gem of Himachal by Sandeep Silas

Many stories are hidden within the layers of Time. What was once a kingdom, is now a fable; what was once a palace, is now ruins; what was once royalty, is now common; what was once a royal emblem, is now part of history.

Such is the story of the once powerful, once feared, once law, once hailed and once bowed down too! Everything fades away in time. Whether it is mighty possessions, unimaginable wealth, human feelings, or awe, or attachments, all, give way to the mighty layer of Time that settles all, as just another page of historical heritage, sung or unsung.

I had heard about this Arki Fort-palace, once the capital of Baghal Kingdom, now in present day Himachal Pradesh. Two hours drive from Shimla about 52 km Arki represents a bygone era. The road is the one going to Bilaspur-Mandi and at Shalaghat one has to take off to the State Highway for the residual portion of the journey. Hills looked dry in the December winter and village hamlets were warped in their humdrum existence. In far off places, nothing new happens. Seasons come and go and people brace again for the next. You grow as much, you sell as much, you make money as much as it suffices for livelihood. Tourists come and go. Some return, some never.

Baghal Kingdom dates back to 1640 AD when it was founded by the Parmars of Rajput clan. The story goes that Rana Ajai Dev, eldest son of Raja Amar Dev of Dhara, Malwa,  undertook a pilgrimmage in AD and on way back from Badrinath Shrine established his own principality of Baghal in Sairi Valley. In 1643 AD Rana Sabha Chand built his capital at Arki, where it has remained till date. The formidable Gurkhas captured the territory in the early 19th Century and Rana Jagat Singh had to live in exile at Nalagarh. Here, comes the Alliance with the British of the local ruling clan, with whose assistance they drove out the Gurkhas and took control of their Kingdom. The British conferred the title of Raja upon Rana Kishan Chand and the State ranked 8th among the Punjab Hill States in order of precedence. Baghal State possessed 311 sq km of territory and sway over 413 villages. In 1893 AD it was allowed to maintain an infantry of 150 and 1 Gun.

I reached the gates and the gatekeeper asked for my visiting card and then went inside the palace premises to seek permission. I had been under the assumption that a Heritage Hotel ran from the palace, but was rudely face to face with a dilapidated structure much under the category of ruins. The erstwhile Durbar Hall and a later building were in a state of preservation but under lock. Where were the famous frescoes that I had come looking for?

Someone greeted me and I found a young handsome man in early thirties come with a girl child in his arms. He introduced himself as Rahul Dev Singh, the youngest scion of the family. His daughter Padmaja Kumari said a shy hello to me. I learned she goes to Play School in Shimla. Rahul was most intrigued by my coming all the way from Shimla just to see the frescoes. I told him that I am a student of History and am most interested in palaces and forts, even though they might present a ruined face. We made off to a great conversation right in the midst of the erstwhile palace with monkeys trying to announce dominion. I asked him about the frescoes and he showed me the arches of the Durbar Hall, which had wall paintings and frescoes, done by artists of that era. I could use a good camera and take photographs he said.  The architecture definitely had Mughal and Rajasthani influence but the art was most outstandingly of the “Pahari School”.

We spoke of current day politics, my service in the bureaucracy, my writings, his lineage, his grandfather who used to hold his Durbar right there in a Hall, the wars his family had fought, the Gurkha occupation of their kingdom, the regaining of it with the help of the British, the ranking of the State amongst the Punjab States, my sons and their field of education, and many other things. I told him of my bloodline from mother’s side going up to a Kingdom of North Bengal. He also told me that they were originally from Malwa. It never seemed that I had met him for the first time and there existed some connection of the past. He told me how his grandfather encouraged the family ladies to cut their hair, learn dance and have a modern lifestyle. Now, he felt he had become a modern traditionalist and also like the common people believe in common superstitions. We laughed as I admitted that I too never cross a path if I see a black cat run across ahead of me. I wait for someone else to do it. We laughed as we have no justification for all this, but still irrationally we keep doing it. Sometimes the commonness of living overtakes us as much as we would consider ourselves to have a royal lifestyle.

Suddenly, he thought he might be holding me back from my exploration so politely took leave, “So, when you finish you will take your leave?”

“Yes”, and many thanks Rahul. If you come to Delhi please come home.”

He disappeared with his lovely daughter inside the palace living portion and I was left to face the ruins in solitude.

The Durbar Hall arches had beautiful frescoes of Goa Port, War Scene, Dagshai, a Cathedral which reminded me of The Vatican, an Indian Fort, Ayodhya, an European port, the port of Daman, warship anchoring at Thalaserry port, etc. The arches had been painted both sides. We get a feeling that the artists had a good impression of Indian and European ports, albeit they did not miss out on the Indian fort and garden. The war scene fresco had been done in very fine lines and showed arrows flying both sides in such detail.

The administrative block to the right of Durbar Hall was overgrown with shrubs and the steps led down to the horse and elephant housing area.

Right in the midst stood a Peepal Tree, magnificent and a witness to all that glory that was once there. Below, it a small temple with a tiny Shivlinga had been built, perhaps by the Home Guards who loved there for a long time.

The view up, to the palace was a telling one, as it took the glance from ruins to a living palace structure. Time, can change many things, but not everything. Far ahead the valley opens to face many mountains placed in a row.

How strange it must feel to face a truth every sight that here was one’s own kingdom and palace and now a different reality. The reality of a peoples’ democracy and a system of choosing a leader through public ballot. I, for one, could go mad with such strange truths, had I to live with them every day of my life.

Rahul’s elder brother Harvashvardhan, is trying to restore the palace premises by way of opening up a Heritage Hotel, which is a great way to preserve and conserve a slice of history for posterity. The grandeur of the days must be re-created and visitors experience how life was lived then and how that memory is preserved now.

The things of the past do shape our future and should be allowed to sweeten our present days.

 

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Homage to #Mahatma #Gandhi on the occasion of his 150th Birth Anniversary ! by ‘Deep’

 

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Chimes of La Gruyeres by Sandeep Silas

India Outbound

Nov-Dec 2014

Chimes of La Gruyeres

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Enchanted Life of Castles by Sandeep Silas

India Outbound

July-August 2014

Enchanted life of Castles

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Vallrobe Caves- The underground magic by Sandeep Silas

India Outbound

May-June 2014

Vallrobe Caves

 

 

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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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