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Shimla? What the hell is wrong with you?

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That cage is a very good idea to save it from dispersing by the monkeys, dogs, and cows. I appreciate Shimla’s municipal corporation for this, but I really pity Shimla for its public. The garbage collectors also don’t care to put inside the cage. There is no lock on the door of this cage. Why we are still throwing it just outside it. There is some serious psychological error when it comes to trash disposal. Nothing will work, the govt’s all measure will fail if the public and the employee don’t co-operate.

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Idries Shah: Remembering the Shimla Born Sufi Thinker

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Idries Shah born in shimla

By- Stuti Beri, Educator and Independent Researcher based in Bhilwara, Rajasthan

South Asia has been a land where cultures met, religions interacted and thrived while retaining their own identity, and yet making allowance for a spiritual merging leaving no trace of difference prevailing in the physical space or within the domain of reason. An example in this context is the Sufi Movement which invariably spread the message of love being the only means of seeking the divine. One of the greatest seekers, thinkers and teachers who spread the Sufi tradition outside this land was Idries Shah. Though he spent all his life in the United Kingdom, but he was born in South Asia on 16 June 1924, in a small Western Himalayan town of Shimla (the then Summer Capital of British India and currently part of Himachal Pradesh, India), to an Afghan-Indian father and a Scottish mother.

Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare. But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.” Idries Shah

Abandoning the shore, his early year travels with his father, Ikbal Ali Shah (An author and diplomat who penned the biographies of Kemal Atatürk and the Aga Khan III) engaged in his Sufi work, gave him exposure to prominent intellectuals and statesmen from the east and west, and greatly affected his sensibilities as a young child allowing him such opportunities of intellectual gain which aided him in becoming a man possessing a highly broadened vision of the world, and a luminary who unveiled the mysticism associated with Sufism and laid bare its practical approaches to life.

He authored over three dozen books ranging within a wide spectrum of spirituality, psychology, travelogues, and cultural studies. “Shah devoted his life to collecting, translating and adapting key works of Sufi classical literature for the needs of the West. Called by some as ‘practical philosophy’, – these works represent centuries of Sufi and Islamic thought aimed at developing human potential to its fullest form.”

Idries Shah’s initial works dealt with minority belief systems based on magic and occult. But one of his significant work ‘The Sufis’ published in 1964 came as a breakthrough wherein he gave Sufi mysticism a more assessable and readable form appealing to the Western intellectuals and brought to forefront the world of Sufi mysticism. He presented Sufism as constantly changing and adaptable to different modes of life, and each time taking a new form to suit different people, at different times, in different ages, thus giving Sufism a Universal position. He wrote that, “The Sufi doctrine is known in the West as a scientific method of inductive proceeding, and subsequent Western science is largely based upon it.”

Shah gave the spiritual wisdom of Sufism being more of a psychological treatment making it a scientific instrument assisting an individual in achieving self-realization, a way of human evolution, i.e., development of our conscious towards the higher realms of life. In the preface to his book ‘The Sufis’ he wrote “Sufism, the “secret tradition,” is not available on the basis of assumptions which belong to another world, the world of intellect.” It deals with connecting to an inner voice, like the one comprising of prophetic, intuitive or telepathic powers functioning beyond the dominion of reason. Further, he talked about the stark difference between scholasticism and Sufism, “Scholasticism is interested in accumulating information and making deductions from it. Sufism is engaged upon developing a line of communication with ultimate knowledge, not with combining individual facts, however historically exciting, or theorizing in any way at all.”

He also worked profusely in bringing the Sufi tradition of storytelling and folklores to the masses, while understanding the way these stories would affect one psychologically. He reincarnated the stories to accommodate his western audience, and one of his most famous and recognized stories till date are centred on a wise fool Mulla Nasrudin. These anecdotal stories full of humour and intricate wisdom also became a part of his documentary Dreamwalkers aired on BBC in1970. In Shah’s study circle people use to read, analyze, and uncover the hidden layers of meanings these stories contained. Yet these stories proved apt for people of all ages imparting the right kind of wisdom at the right time. Revealing newer perspectives these stories became a tool to churn ones consciousness and provide a new lens to view life.

Idries Shah’s works gained for him universal readership and recognition from many literary writers and his pupils like Ted Hughes, J.D. Salinger, Doris Lessing, and an endless list of admirers coming from different professions. His books were translated in many languages and were read world over.

Idries Shah’s effort weren’t limited to propagating the Sufi thought through his writings, rather he established a notable institute for charity education, Institute of Cultural Research (London), to support scholarly talks and debates on various aspects of human behaviour, culture and Sufi tradition, which later transformed into The Idries Shah Foundation. Meanwhile he also started the Society for Sufi Studies and in 1960 developed his Octagon Press to publish and distribute translated Sufi classics and his own works.

All his life he produced books with a feverish devotion towards Sufi wisdom and lived the life of a true Sufi going beyond the pain and limitation of the physical body, which his later age ailments caused him. Leaving his magnum opus for enlightening the generation to come he left his worldly abode on 23rd November, 1996 for his passage beyond the clutches of corporal life.

Doris Lessing writes about him in his The Daily Telegraph obituary, “He was a many-sided man, knowing a great deal about a variety of subjects, and that meant that listening to him was an education in more ways than one. He was the wittiest person I expect ever to meet. He was kind. He was generous.”

Staying away from the guru or cult system Idries Shah, a Sufi thinker, teacher and writer, unfurled to the world a treasure chest of Sufi Wisdom inspiring many a prominent personalities and common readers across the globe. Just like he believed, his books are a legacy he left for the spiritual seekers, scholars, readers, Sufi practitioners and for any commoner, who is searching for sanity in chaos, and is aiming at communicating with one’s truer self or knowing a deeper meaning of life while being surrounded with a sense of lifelessness. His works eco his brilliance and make it equally viable for any individual to get drenched in that brilliance and get answers to the questions arising in his quest ridden soul.

“What you seek is seeking you.” says Rumi the great Sufi mystic and poet. So for anyone seeking the path of Sufism while living and facing the struggles of everyday life, absorbing the light emitting from the works of Idries Shah would act as a pivotal point in his journey, not for knowledge but for wisdom, not to live life but to know it, to experience a sense of completeness, a universality within, to go on his voyage to encounter the all promising, encompassing, maddening, unconditional and mystic love essential to seek and connect with the divine within.

The union of the mind and intuition which brings about illumination, and the development which the Sufis seek, is based upon love.” Idries Shah

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

 

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HP Govt Again Faces Heat Over Lifting Restrictions on Tourists Haphazardly, Utility of e-Covid Pass in Question

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Viral video of himachal tourist cars

Shimla-RT-PCR report to enter in Himachal Pradesh is no longer a condition for visitors. As soon as the HP Cabinet announced this decision in its last meeting, tourists from neighbouring states started booking hotels in Himachal in advance. The decision cheered the hospitality industry which has borne huge losses as two peak sessions were washed off due to lockdowns and Covid related restrictions. But, at the same time, the rest of the public is in panic, especially after watching a video showing over one kilometer of traffic queues at the Parwanoo border on Sunday – a day before new guidelines came into force. A large number of these tourists had no idea about the date from which the new rules would come into effect and did not carry an RT-PCR negative report or registered on e-Covid portal. According to the police, they were asked to return as the new rules were applicable from 14 June onwards.

The video was shared by mainstream media too, expressing shock over the desperation of people to enter the state to get respite from scorching heat in neighboring states.

Except for the hoteliers and stakeholders in the tourism industry, the scene appeared nothing less than a nightmare considering repeated warnings issued by the government itself over the third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. The government’s advance warning about the possibility that children might be more vulnerable during the third wave is creating more panic. After witnessing the rampage of the second wave in the state, this scene shook them. Most people were against removing the mandatory condition of furnishing an RT-PCR report for visitors. Others said this crowd of tourists would fuel the third wave and the devastation that it would bring with it. Some said “tourists are not welcomed”, others commented, “hills are not calling, stay away tourists”.

There were suggestions for the government to at least arrange rapid testing of visitors at the entry points. Questions were asked over government’s mechanism to ensure safety against spread of infection. 

The video created a stir in the state and the HP government had to issue a statement on Monday. In its statement, the government assured the people that the entry of tourists would be monitored through the e-covid pass portal. The visitors would still have to register on the portal and obtain a pass, which would be scanned at the entry points at borders.

However, hoteliers and the public questioned the relevance of the e-covid pass when tourists are not required to present a Covid negative report. In simple words, it is not possible to ascertain whether a particular visitor is infected or not. They argued that the e-covid pass did not fulfil any purpose and only leading to long traffic jams as police is supposed to scan these passes at designated entry points. If there is no purpose of scanning e-passes, then how would it help to protect the state from a further spread of infection?

At the same time, hoteliers and others involved with the hospitality industry directly or indirectly, are hopeful that the remaining pint of this peak tourist season would provide them with some relief. The state of the popular Indian Coffee House, which is on the verge of closure, is an apparent evidence of the hit that the industry has taken.

The decision of the government came under pressure from the industry. The stakeholders’ associations approached Chief Minister with a request to let them have the remaining peak seasons as the state government didn’t provide any relief. Because no relief was provided, the industry has no other way but to ask the government to lift Covid related restrictions on visitors. Moreover, the industry isn’t sure how long this remaining peak season would last as monsoon has already arrived in the state on July 13. 

In May, Mohinder Seth, President of, Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association had written to the government explaining the plight of those employed with the industry.

He had said that hoteliers and businessmen involved in the hospitality industry did not receive any relief from the government and managed their units/services by spending from savings or by raising loans.

The units had somehow managed to pay salaries and other expenses for the April month, the association said, but expressed inability to do so for the May month as the working capital has dropped to zero, Seth said.

Today, a delegation of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India (HRANI) – a Northern outfit of the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India-approached the Chief Minister and requested relief for the industry, which is the hardest hit due to the restrictions and struggles to survive.

The government might have lifted the restrictions, but it appears to be clueless about the management of the crowd and influx of visitors. The government numbers on entry of tourists into the state are also in question. According to a report published in an English Daily,

“As many as 7,201 persons entered Himachal yesterday on 2,787 e-passes but the Shimla police claimed that 5,000 vehicles arrived in Shimla.”

The report further said,  “If this is the case, then either the police, manning the entry points, is being liberal in allowing vehicles without an e-pass or some other routes are being used by tourists.”

This brings us to the lack of any robust mechanism or strategy to balance the management of tourist influx and prevention against the spread of infection.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur-led government is again facing heat over its contentious decisions which appear to be devoid of any vision. Earlier too, Chief Minister has been alleged of being incapable to take decisions related to the interests of the state at his own. 

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Read HP Govt’s Revised 18-44 Years Age Group Vaccination Schedule and Timings for Slot Opening

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new vaccination schedule in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The vaccination schedule in Himachal Pradesh for the 18-44 years age group was revised again on Saturday. The HP government also issued new timings for slot opening. The revision came following receipt of fresh stock of the Covid vaccine.

The state government informed that the Himachal has received a new batch of 117, 830 doses on Saturday. Earlier, these doses were scheduled to be delivered in three separate batches on 16th and 26th June and 2nd July.

These doses would be administered to the said group before 21st June. Now, the vaccination session for the 18-44 years age group would be organized on 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th June. A mop-up round would be organized to administer left out doses, if any. Earlier, only two sessions were scheduled to be held for this age group on 14th and 17th June.

New Timings for Slot Opening in Himachal Pradesh

Registration for advance booking for vaccination would mandatory on COWIN portal or through Arogya Setu App. The state government has also made changes in the timings of slot opening. Instead of two days prior to the vaccination session, now the slots for registration would open one day prior to the session. The new timings for slot opening would be from 12 pm to 1 pm. Only 100 slots would be available for one session at each vaccination centre.

The government plans to hold a total of 1706 session from 14th to 18 June in which 1.7 lakh persons would be vaccinated. 266 sessions would be organized on 14the June and 360 sessions on the each remaining dates.

Prior registration for booking a slot would be mandatory across the state except in the tribal and far-flung areas where onsite registration would be allowed.

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