7-10 of Subhuti’s Pune Diaries
These four excerpts were written during December 2013.
Read previous sections of The Pune Diary
Pune Diary 7: Celebrating Sannyas
Carry me home… to the wonderland
Where my heart can shine…
Carry me home… to the wonderland
I love singing this song, which was played last night by a live band at Celebrating Sannyas, now held in the resort’s plaza area. This is the time when people who want to commit to the spiritual path have their new name announced over the sound system, then they sit on a black zafu cushion in the middle of the marble floor, under an all-glass pyramid roof, listening to a quote from Osho that guides them inwards.
After the quote, the band plays a slow meditative number for a few minutes and then abruptly shifts gear to a fast dance rhythm. At this point, the seated ones leap up and all their friends rush in from the sides and hug them, then we all dance together.
I don’t know whose idea it was to shift the event from Osho Auditorium to the plaza but it’s a definite improvement. The whole thing has a warmer and more friendly feeling to it. Maybe it’s because of the open air cappuccino bar behind us and the easy flow of people between the ceremony and the café.
I usually get a sneak preview of the songs. The band rehearses all morning in a small room behind the Galleria. You can hear them on your way to lunch in Meera and peek in the window to see who’s in the singing line-up. The talent is in-depth and the music usually succeeds in bridging the considerable gap between rock ‘n roll and meditation.
For me, the really impressive thing is that it all hangs on whether there are enough musicians around to make up a band. People are coming and going from the resort all the time, so it’s never the same line-up for two weeks running.
Arjun, guitarist and all-round musician, heads up the band and it’s fascinating to watch him conduct it, live, during the celebration. It’s almost like they wing it, shifting from guitar riffs to drum solos to a capella singing, making it up as they go along.
I guess it’s always been a dream of mine to sing in a band, but so far I didn’t get further than a humorous song in one of the resort’s ‘Meditators Got Talent’ variety shows. With a couple of friends, I sang a remix of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’, adapting the lyrics to be more culturally relevant for India, singing ‘No Sugar, No Chai’….
Meanwhile, the Pune winter weather is weird and unpredictable. The cold evenings disappeared for a few nights but now they’re back again, so I found myself in the embarrassing situation of having to revisit Arti, the little old lady with the all-purpose shop at the end of German Bakery Lane, and asking her “Can I have the blanket you bought from me a week ago? It’s too cold at night!”
She gave it to me without charge. “Just bring it back to me when you leave,” she said.
Pune Diary 8: Sounds of Koregaon Park
My stay in Pune has been transformed, thanks to a lucky break: my dear friend, Sucheta, decided to go back to Stockholm to take care of a chronic shoulder problem, so I was able to move into her room in a house behind the resort. No more hotel shared bathrooms and no crossing North Main Road!
Here, I am in sannyasin paradise, sitting in my new room on a Sunday afternoon, with the door to the balcony open, a gentle breeze rustling the bamboo leaves outside and sunshine bathing the nearby trees.
The sounds are so familiar: shrieks of fast-flying green parakeets as they zoom past the house, lazy cawing of well-fed crows and the chirping of many other birds calling to each other among the branches. There are frequent train whistles – a sound that goes back in my memory more than 30 years as Pune continues its function as one of India’s main railway junctions.
The tracks are less than half-a-mile away from Koregaon Park. Steam whistles have been replaced by electric horns but the effect is remarkably similar, especially when they sound off together, in twos and threes, like the opening notes of a yet-to-be-composed symphony.
My peace is temporarily disturbed by the noisy buzzing of a rickshaw as it races along South Main Road, but otherwise there’s very little traffic. I notice the sound of distant Hindi devotional singing, definitely a recording, with those typical high-pitched female voices that make me think of colourful Bollywood dance numbers. Most probably, it’s somebody’s birthday, or a wedding, or a holy day.
The dogs next door suddenly erupt in fierce barking like it’s a life or death issue, but as I’m about to get out of my cane chair to investigate, they abruptly stop. What was that all about?
In the old days, sannyasins lived all over Koregaon Park, some in the mansions themselves, some at the back in servants’ quarters and some in bamboo huts hidden away in corners of big, rambling gardens. One guy built a tree hut, while others camped on open roofs and balconies. Everybody wanted to live as close as possible to the back gate of the Shree Rajneesh Ashram, as it was then called.
In 1977, I had a room upstairs in an old house and was paying the princely sum of 100 rupees a month in rent. In contrast, my current rent is 20,000 a month, which says a lot about inflation, the value of the rupee and my personal earning capacity.
Enough of reverie. The sun has slipped behind the house, the shadows are lengthening and it’s time for tea in the resort. Funny, really, when I’m here, it’s like I’ve never been away.
Tomorrow is Monday and the traffic comes back….
Pune Diary 9: I’m Not Really Coughing
Nearly died in the Evening Meeting yesterday evening. It was a severe miscalculation on my part, because I thought I’d be okay, even though I was still a bit sick.
I was fine while waiting outside and when walking in with everyone else. The auditorium is big, square and cold, with a tall pyramid ceiling, a dark green marble floor and sound-proofed double-glazing on the windows. I’ve heard it referred to as ‘the big fridge’ because it seems rather stark and bare. But it’s a great place to meditate, which, when you consider the fact that it has none of the atmosphere of ancient temples and other holy places, is a remarkable achievement.
I unrolled a long, black mat to insulate me from the cold floor, then placed one of those resort-style ‘sitting meditation’ chairs on top of it – basically, a square cushion with a strong back support. I sat down, then wrapped myself inside my big, warm, white shawl, feeling very cosy, ready for a deep, relaxing meditative experience.
Then, without warning, a sudden tickle in my throat quickly escalated into a massive need to burst out coughing, and I found myself mentally pleading with the musicians: “Come on, start the music NOW before I rupture my guts holding in this cough!”
In all these years, I’ve never had to leave the Evening Meeting because of coughing, but this time I was being severely challenged. Finally, when it seemed like I’d been holding my breath forever and making strange bodily heaving movements on my seat, the music started, but, to my dismay, with one of those long, solo violin intros – way too quiet to hide a cough.
Again, I was silently screaming at the musicians: “Where’s the beat? Come ON!” Eternity passed before my eyes and then, at last… “Boom… boom…” in came the drums. Yay! Up went the noise level and from my throat emerged a muted, carefully orchestrated coughing-release session that continued all the way through the dancing phase.
Still, it seemed pretty loud to me and I was kinda surprised that nobody was tapping me on the shoulder and pointing to the exit, ordering me to leave.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the rule of silence in Osho Auditorium. After all, I didn’t travel eight thousand kilometres to listen to a ninety-minute concert of throat-clearing and coughing. The outer silence is needed to support my meditator’s longing for inner silence. So when coughers get asked to leave, it’s fine with me.
But, hey, it’s a little different when it’s my turn and on that particular evening I really didn’t want to sit in the chilly, open-air Welcome Centre with the other invalids, watching an Osho video and wheezing along with everyone else.
Half-way through my ‘I’m-not-really-coughing’ meditation I turned around to check who was near me and… oh no! A senior resort guy was standing right behind me and it seemed impossible he hadn’t heard my throat-clearing gymnastics, but he was busy operating the Wi-Fi pad that controls the auditorium’s sound-mixer, so either he didn’t notice, or didn’t care.
The music climaxed in three shouts of “Osho!” and we all sat down in… well… yes… silence. Gently, I peeled open a Strepsil packet – cough sweet unwrapping noises are usually tolerated, although I did see one guy admonished for it – and sucked eagerly and lengthily on a lozenge.
Apart from having to wipe my nose frequently on my white shawl – forgot to bring the tissues – and mop tears from my eyes with the sleeve of my robe, everything went smoothly from then onwards. I wouldn’t call it my best meditation exactly, but it certainly brought me into the present moment.
Pune Diary 10: Bajaj and Other Mansions
All the dogs in the universe gathered in Koregaon Park at 1:30 am last night to have an urgent and extremely noisy discussion, presumably about who was the alpha male. I have no idea what they decided, but the high-pitched yelps and squeals of the losers woke me up.
It’s odd, their howls are so dramatic you’d think murder was being committed, but in the morning there are no mutilated bodies lying in the street. Just the usual, local, four-legged inhabitants, curled up and basking in the sunshine by the roadside.
Earlier last night, around 11:00 pm, I left the resort’s Saturday night disco, walked out the back gate and noticed a big garden party in the Bajaj mansion located next door. Their property backs onto Lao Tzu House, where Osho used to live, and is also right behind the Basho swimming pool.
Bajaj is an Indian business family that’s famous for making scooters, motorbikes, rickshaws and other cheap methods of transport. Clearly, their industrious endeavours have paid off, because it was Audis, BMWs and Mercedes that lined the road outside – not a rickshaw in sight.
Rather than waiting in their cars, the drivers were sitting together on the road for company, using sheets of newspaper to insulate their buttocks from the cold ground; a neat idea, although probably unsuitable for the Osho Auditorium.
The Bajaj mansion is typical of Koregaon Park’s new look. The old bungalows from the days of the Raj had big sprawling gardens separated by low, crumbling walls and half-open gates with no watchman on duty. Nobody cared about security.
In marked contrast, the new ones have high walls topped with razor wire, monitored with CCTV and manned with 24-hour security. It’s a new and unfriendly age, my friend.
Many of the old buildings have gone, which may seem odd because they were officially protected by the Pune Corporation for their historical and architectural value. But, well, you know how it goes: money changes hands, a big wall of metal sheets suddenly surrounds a property, large holes mysteriously appear in the old building to show it’s no longer in a liveable condition, a row of temporary huts appears to house construction workers imported from Rajasthan… and off we go.
Still, there are a few classics left. One is a big white mansion on Lane 2, which looks like the White House in Washington DC, sitting in the luxurious splendour of a double-wide property with an amazingly beautiful garden. Legend has it the old man who owned it was so passionately against Osho that on his death bed he made his son swear never to sell the property to a sannyasin.
Another, funnily enough, is the Meera bungalow inside the Osho Resort, where the Galleria sells robes, which has a typical Raj-style open veranda surrounding the building on three sides, although I don’t think any servant of the British Empire would have considered painting his bungalow black.
Maybe I should have mentioned it before: all buildings in the resort are black. It was one of Osho’s little things… “Paint it black,” he said. So we did. I’m not sure why he wanted it that way, but maybe it was for the soothing, overall visual effect of maroon-robed people, green vegetation and black buildings… a very aesthetic combination.
Meanwhile, my coughing control in the Evening Meeting continues to improve, although I dare not lay down in the ‘let go’ phase of the final meditation for fear that my throat and lungs will do exactly that….
These three excerpts were written in December 2013
Read the previous section of ‘The Pune Diaries’ and how the story goes on…
Photo of hut by Madhav Krishna
Anand Subhuti has been a disciple of Osho for 38 years. He first came to Pune in 1976 and has been a regular visitor to India ever since. In the 70s, he worked in Osho’s Press Office and in 1981 travelled with the mystic to Oregon, where he founded and edited The Rajneesh Times newspaper. Subhuti has written a book about his life with Osho, titled ‘My Dance with a Madman’, and recently authored a romantic novel set in Koregaon Park titled ‘The Last White Man’. Both are available on Amazon.