An excerpt from Punya’s just published book, On the Edge.
The Third Annual World Celebration in which we expected over 20,000 people to participate was so well organised that we even had loudspeakers on each lamppost broadcasting celebration songs during the line-up for Osho’s drive-by. It felt very phony and it was no wonder that my Swiss friend, Krishna, and some other daring musicians turned up the next day with flute and guitar and played a Sicilian song. One would have expected some repercussion from the peace keepers or guards but, lo and behold, Osho stopped the car and gestured to keep playing and did not move from the spot for an eternity.
If this was the way to get attention then I was going to try my best as well! I immediately went to the garage and, exploiting my Italian connections, convinced one of the mechanics to help me turn an empty spray can into a colourful shaker. As there were no music shops around for miles, one had to be resourceful even if it meant stealing some tiny screws and washers to fill the instrument. During the next day’s line-up I asked Maniko, who had brought along her guitar, to show me how to hold and play the shaker. I was now playing music for my master, even if it was ‘only’ with a shaker. Rattly and noisy things must have been my kind of instruments because I vividly remember the fascination that I had as a teenager, for some blue maracas played in the dance club during my beach holidays in Sestri Levante. […]
At the entrance to Lao Tzu, opposite the pond where I had seen my first and only raccoon, Taru was intoning an Indian chant. Her energy and enthusiasm were as big as her body. When someone (probably a woman) asked why there were eleven men and only ten women on the enlightened list, Osho replied: “Taru counts for two.” Not far from her was Nivedano. He walked up to me and hung a snare drum over my shoulders and gave me two sticks. It felt awkward as my left hand was totally out of sync with my right and my brain could not keep up with the complicated riff I was meant to follow. Milarepa, a handsome Mac truck driver and singer of songs, was next to me. He did not have a much easier time either, judging from the expression on his face.
The instruments were stored in a small shed behind Mataji’s house close by. One day Nivedano produced a gourd the size of a big head with bead netting around it. He handed it over to me with a glint in his eyes and I was thus relieved of the drum. I soon figured out different ways of shaking and rotating the gourd to create certain sound effects and came to know that they call it ‘shekere’. Nivedano must have been satisfied with my playing as, together with Rupesh, a Mexican drummer, we left Taru’s group to form a separate trio farther down the road. It was definitely a strange trio: an Italian/Swiss shapely secretary; a young, wild, short-limbed and balding Mexican; and a dark-skinned, lean Brazilian with a nose like an Arab.
Everyone wanted to be next to the musicians to see Osho as long as possible and there was always a great shuffling, so much so that in the end there was no space to move the arms and do the playing. Rupesh came up with a trick whereby we warmed up in one place and, just before the car came around the bend, we ran up the road and placed ourselves comfortably at the very end of the queue.
Our line-up was always the same: first there was me with the shekere, then Rupesh with the doumbek, a small drum made of clay, and lastly Nivedano with the surdo, the big, deep Brazilian drum. Osho always stopped in front of Rupesh and, waving his arms for us to play faster and faster, looked deeply into his eyes. Rupesh was asked to keep his eyes open, but always ended up closing them tightly. A glance from the master might have been welcome but a one minute stare is a frightening affair!
With lovers I had experienced beautiful moments and while dancing I had felt exhilarated and weightless, but what was happening during the drive-by could not be compared to any experiences of the past. It was as if high current electricity streamed from Osho via Rupesh into me, dissolving everything into a white-out. After Osho had driven on I had to wait for a few minutes on the side of the road until I could see the world around me in its proper colour scale again.
Excerpt from Punya’s newly released book, ‘On the Edge’
The illustration shows another group of musicians (Hamido, Anuprabha, Gyaneshwar, Aldo, Swagato)
Read Madhuri’s review: On the Edge by Punya