Featured On the Go — 30 April 2014

14-16 of Subhuti’s Pune Diaries

These three excerpts were written in January 201614.
Read previous sections of The Pune Diaries

Pune Diary 14: Osho Dancing with Lady Gaga

Sophia’s eyes light up with pleasure as she sees me coming up the stairs. “At last! Now I can pay you… I’ve been waiting all this time.” She consults her ragged notebook then digs into her purse and proudly hands over 500 rupees. “It’s such a relief,” she says, “Now please give me your email address before you go.”

Sophia in her bookshop

Sophia’s bookshop is not exactly a secret, but its location – a small room, packed with books, accessed by a narrow fire escape, half-way up the back of a building – doesn’t exactly smack the Pune public in the eye, even though it’s just off busy North Main Road on Lane D.

It’s a modest establishment, but you take your shoes off at the door… this is holy ground.

Sophia is a thin, elderly woman with glasses and she looks fragile but her eyes shine with a fierce love of books. Running this store gives her as much pleasure as Steve Jobs got from Apple.

I gave Sophia five books to sell for me, 3-4 years ago, then forgot about them. Only now, when I bring five more books – my new novel – can she settle accounts.

My next stop is to see Jagdish, who runs a bookshop on German Bakery Lane devoted exclusively to Osho. Jagdish has bright, twinkling eyes, a bald head and a wispy beard that make him look remarkably like his Master, or at least a distant cousin.

He used to be a political cartoonist in New Delhi and once drew a cartoon for me of Osho dancing with Lady Gaga, which I published as a book cover. I kid you not. It was a wild, impractical and short-lived idea, inspired by Lady Gaga’s enthusiastic comments about Osho when she visited India in 2011.

Osho dancing with Lady Gaga

Ms. Gaga, as you may recall, told reporters in Delhi that her favourite Osho book was about rebellion, and later tweeted to her fans she was “thinking of an Osho tattoo.”

Thus inspired, I adapted my personal story about life with Osho and published the cloned book on Amazon, with the title Lady Gaga, This is Osho. Sanity soon prevailed, however, and I realized it was illegal to use Lady G’s name without her permission and withdrew the book. But then a difficulty arose: Amazon wouldn’t take the cover image off it’s internet website.

When Lady Gaga’s managers in Los Angeles got to hear about it, they freaked. After all, when you’re managing a $90 million-a-year pop star you don’t want other people cashing in on her fame. Overnight, I got a ‘cease and desist’ ultimatum from a firm of New York City lawyers representing Gaga called, appropriately enough, ‘Cashman’ – don’t you just love these New York names?

The letter was aggressive and intimidating, as one would expect NYC lawyers to be, and the reactions from my publisher and my internet promoter were identical: “The last thing we want is to be sued!”

But, as I pointed out to Cashman, there was no case to answer, because the book wasn’t for sale anywhere in the world. The stubborn image on Amazon was the only remaining evidence of an extinct publication. They must’ve gotten the point and turned their legal guns on Amazon, because the image promptly vanished.

I wrote a dedication to Lady Gaga in My Dance with a Madman and sent her a copy to read. At the end of the dedication, I wrote: ‘One more thing, Stefani, just for the record: it takes more than a tattoo to ride a tiger’. She has yet to reply.
By the way, I like Jagdish’s cartoon and still keep it as a souvenir. Osho dancing with Lady Gaga – that would’ve been a sight to see.

Pune Diary 15: Dance of the Rooms

I’m off to Goa for a couple of weeks, but I want to keep my room in Koregaon Park. This means I need join in the familiar ‘Dance of the Rooms’ routine that occurs regularly in Pune at this time of year, when everyone is juggling spaces and continuously changing their minds about where they want to go and what they want to do.

Sannyasins, by nature, are completely unreliable. It’s not a bad thing. I rather like it – after all, I’m one myself. We mean well and have good intentions, and sometimes we actually do what we say we’re going to do, but it all depends on our inner feeling and this can change any moment… or, indeed, every moment.

For this reason alone, I’d never employ sannyasins if I was a businessman. The stress of managing such in-the-moment employees would drive me crazy.

Subhuti packing up

When I put out the news that my space is free for two weeks, a friend from Denmark immediately says, “Yes, I want it! Can you keep it for me, darling?” And I say “sure,” but days later she cancels, because another friend has offered for her to stay in the Shamsharan apartment complex on Lane B and she likes the company there.

Not to worry. Already, another friend of mine in Russia is announcing desperately on Facebook that her best friend is coming to Pune for the first time and can someone pleeeeeese find her a space… So I say, “sure” and it’s fixed.

Then, for days, people come up to me in the resort and say, “Hey, I hear your room is free” and I say, “Sorry, it’s taken” and they say, “Oh man, if only I’d known… I have this friend coming tomorrow…”

Early January is like this, because it’s high season and people are coming and going in big numbers. By the end of the month, it’s exactly the reverse and people are asking “I’ve got this great room, does anyone want it?”

Meanwhile, another friend of mine from Sweden connects on Facebook and says, “Hey, Subhuti, I lived in that house for four years, can you find me the space?” And I say, “Sorry, no rooms” and he says, “Well, if anything changes, I have a friend in Pune who can give you the money right now!”

Anna from Russia shows up and she’s really nice and loves the room, but she needs to change roubles, so I take her in a rickshaw to Shankar – I’ve dealt with him for ages – but he just smiles and shakes his head and says, “Sorry, nobody takes roubles.” I don’t ask why.

So, off we go to the ATM in Sadhu Vaswani Hospital, next to the resort, and three of us cram into the little booth because somebody needs to explain to Anna what to do with her card… and yes! Out come the rupees and the deal is sealed.

Now, we just need to meet tomorrow morning, outside the resort’s main gate, when I’ll give her the key on my way to the airport. And hey, on my last evening in Pune I bump into my landlady who asks me, “Do you know anyone who wants a room? Someone just cancelled her booking.”

It’s the room next to mine, so I send a quick message to the guy in Sweden that he can live here after all. Man, is he ecstatic!

By now, we’ve all been through a very familiar sannyasin tango, or maybe it’s a quickstep, called ‘Dance of the Rooms’ which nicely mirrors our seemingly chaotic go-with-the-flow lifestyle. It all turns out okay, as we knew it would… and I’ve just got time to pack. Don’t forget the bathers and the sunblock.

Pune Diary 16: Sunset in Goa

Goa break. I flew down with Air India, having sworn on my father’s grave never to take the overnight bus again. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve had good bus rides, bad bus rides, freezing bus rides, bumpy bus rides – well, the rides are always bumpy, so that’s no surprise.

The journey back is worse. I’ve had rides from Goa that end in pre-dawn darkness somewhere outside Pune, so you have to argue endlessly with ruthless rickshaw bandits who want to charge you five times the price of your bus ticket just to get you home.

In years gone by, a couple of friends of mine have been in serious Goa bus accidents and one of them, a dancer, had her legs mangled so badly that the fragments had to be literally screwed back together in a series of operations. Fortunately, she lived to dance again.

bus accident  PTI photo Hindustan Times

PTI photo – Hindustan Times – Panaji, February 18, 2012

But it’s not danger that turns me off. It just plain old discomfort. I’ve also taken a taxi, a train and even – in the old days – a boat from Panjim to Mumbai, which was, of course, a slow and roundabout route but great fun. Now, though, at the tender age of 68, I opt for convenience and comfort. I fly.

As usual, I arrive in Goa full of intentions to check out new places. For example, I’ve never been to Agonda, in South Goa, which I’m told is lovely – ‘like Goa used to be’ before the arrival of several million tourists, including myself, who changed this place forever.

But, as usual, I find myself sharing a taxi from the airport and heading for Candolim, where I’ve been a dozen times before. The route is familiar: down the hill from the airport to the ocean, past the huge barges that carry iron ore from the mines, onto the main highway, by-passing Panjim and crossing two wide river estuaries before turning off through little fishing villages and narrow winding roads towards our destination.

Downtown Candolim is a tourist horror show, full of restaurants showing English football matches on cable TV and offering menus in Russian. But, as many sannyasins know, just beyond the town is a little dirt road – turn left at Julia Bar – which takes you down to the sea.

The great blessing of this track is that it stops short, so cars can’t get to the beach. You have to walk half the distance and this creates a bubble of serenity and relative isolation which sannyasins have come to love. And don’t worry, the taxi drivers are accustomed to carrying your suitcase – for a handsome tip, naturally.

Passing through a grove of coconut palms, the track brings us to our sacred guest houses: Donna Florina, D’Mello’s, Shanu, Sea Pearl and Villa Felix. Since I didn’t book ahead of time, I won’t get in any of them, but there are a few lesser-known ones, further back from the beach, and here I find a nice, clean room, complete with large bed and mosquito net. Good enough and relatively cheap. I’ll take it, thanks.

By the time I’ve unpacked, it’s around 4:00 pm and time to slip into a t-shirt and pair of shorts and walk down to the beach. The short hike takes me past Shanu and down a narrow, sandy path surrounded by bushes filled with chattering birds, opening out at the bottom onto the beach at Pete’s Shack, where the Nepali waiters greet me like an old friend, shaking hands and laughing.

Subhuti at the beach in Goa

First, a dip in the ocean, which looks blue and welcoming even though – as all Goa enthusiasts know – it’s not the cleanest sea in the world. But still, very refreshing on a hot day after a long trip.

Then, after towelling off, I return to Pete’s and order a fresh-squeezed pineapple juice and a Nutella-coconut pancake to celebrate my arrival.

I’m in no hurry to hit the sunbeds. My skin needs to be fed sunshine in small, homeopathic doses or it freaks out badly, bubbling up in white spots and red pimples. It takes me about a month to get a decent suntan. I’ll start on the beds tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, sunset brings many sannyasins down to the shoreline and it’s time for ‘hello’ hugs and meetings with people who I never usually see in Pune. The sun doesn’t make it to the horizon, disappearing instead behind a purple haze, but I’ve made it to Goa and it feels good.

These three diaries were written in January 2014.
Read previous sections of ‘The Pune Diaries’

 

SubhutiAnand 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.

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