Book review published in DNA, India, July 14, 2013 about Farrukh Dhondy’s latest book.
This is posted in our Media Watch section and not in our Reviews (we would not even want to read it). We just wanted to draw your attention to what is circulating in the Indian press and book market at present.
Farrukh Dhondy (born 1944 in Pune, India) is a writer, playwright, screenwriter and left-wing activist of Parsi descent who resides in the UK. It is apparent from the review published by DNA, India, on July 14, 2013 (see below), that he (mis)used Osho and sannyasins to spin a tale of sex, crime, psychology and intrigue, eager to sell it to those who – like Mr. Dhondy himself – have no clue who Osho really is; to those who were too chicken-livered to expose themselves to a spiritual master, to those who only observe life from the sidelines, to those who are sexually repressed and trying to get a kick out of a sex-addled narrative. Although Mr. Dhondy was born in Pune, I doubt he has ever met Osho in person and if he did, it is transparent that he missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It appears the author does not own a website, but he could be contacted via Harper Collins, India who is his publisher.
Love, sex, religion and dhokha
A charismatic god-man, crimson robes, a philosophy that revolves around sex, foreign devotees and Pune. There are enough hints in the first few pages of Prophet Of Love to reveal whom the protagonist, a long-haired, bearded prophet, is modelled on. In Farrukh Dhondy’s latest book, a Rajneesh-like figure, Bhagwan Saket, is a guru who preaches philosophy and sexual healing at his Pune ashram and is a hit with foreigners and “lost souls” looking for meaning in life.
Dhondy plays himself, the reporter from UK investigating “the religion of the lost”. One part of the book is told from his point of view — investigating the ashram, meeting a former follower, Diamond, who is looking for a daughter she believes has been kidnapped by the Bhagwan. He is helped by a childhood friend and journalist Praful Surti.
Prophet Of Love is Bhagwan Saket’s story. His rise to guru-dom, the journey from a “thinking questioning boy to a thinking man” is told through the eyes of his guardian Chandrika. An infant Rahul is abandoned at a monastery by his parents following a prophecy that he would die on his seventh birthday.
Chandrika, a fellow monk becomes his guardian. When the prophecy doesn’t come true, Chandrika is told to kill him. Instead he escapes with the seven-year-old. The duo eke out a living in Delhi. Rahul later gets a job teaching philosophy in Bombay. While discussing the Freudian idea that reproduction is more fundamental than survival, he asks his class “would you rather fuck or eat?”; the women present object to this and he is sacked.
The duo then encounter two characters, Mr Bhavnani and Shanti, who play a significant role in creating ‘Bhagwan’. Rahul, who has the gift of the gab is the perfect candidate to take over after the death of their guru. He is taken to a newly-built ashram in Pune and within days, is preaching to Western tourists.
Rahul’s story is the most interesting. The writing captures his eccentricity, what drives his beliefs and how he handles situations, well. The boy comes across as someone with a skewed sense of morals, intelligent, well-read, persuasive and extremely witty. He chooses the name Saket because “It’s a place and a pun — ‘saket to me’, as the Americans say. It means heaven and that’s what they are coming to find on earth. There’s no such place so they may as well find me”. His first interview with Dhondy has him talking about English novelist DH Lawrence being a yogi because he was famous for talking about the power of sex.
In contrast, Dhondy’s own story is weak. It starts well but isn’t gripping enough.
You often wonder at the futility of the scattered sex scenes, the continued contact of Dhondy with a reporter who is obviously using him, and the lack of details of his investigation. Despite playing a big role in the story, Diamond is a very sketchy character. The latter parts of the story have too much drama.
Yet Prophet Of Love is good reading, especially for those who know about Osho ashram and its alternative spirituality. Dhondy’s dry wit shines through in these places. “There’s no such thing as charity,” says Bhagwan Saket. “That’s a Jewish concept.” Dhondy scoffs at the new names given to the ‘saketis’ (he calls them crimson people or crimsone), routinely referring to Ma Agnivarsha as ‘the year of fire’.
Dhondy has written a book that blurs the line between make-believe and the truth, and you are constantly guessing what is fact and what is fiction. Bhagwan Saket may be modelled on Rajneesh, but he could be any sadhu, using intelligence and words to hynotise [sic] people. Perhaps one line in the book sums it up best: “He talks philosophy without God.”
Joanna Lobo, DNA (Follow @djoiiii)