“Help my people there…”

Remembering Here&Now

Veena remembers an incident involving Arvind – and Osho!

Back in the days of Poona 1, when people returned to their own countries – often to start a small meditation centre − they used to have what was called a ‘leaving darshan’. They would come to darshan to say their farewells to Osho. He would chat with them for a while, give them his blessings and a beautiful little hand-carved box filled symbolically with his nail and hair clippings, and end the precious communication with the words: “Help my people there.”

I was always touched by his repetition of that loving phrase; it was as if he understood that, as our life paths would now diverge from our previous ones, there would be difficulties, both physical and emotional, which often only a fellow sannyasin could understand, sympathise and help with. I think that his urging us to help and support each other was part of the deep connection that was being forged amongst us as we spread out across the world.

departure box darshan

Recently a beloved sannyasin friend left his body – Arvind from Denmark. My little story about my meeting with him reveals so perfectly Osho’s love for each one of his sannyasins and also his trust in us that we would help each other when the need arose. In this way, I think, he hoped that the connection we all had with him and with each other would be maintained and grow.

In January 1972, in Mumbai, I had only recently taken sannyas and was still living as a bit of a hippie in the famous (or infamous!) Rex/Stiffles Hotel, known and loved by many of the hippies wandering around India at that time. (It was in Colaba, behind the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Gateway to India monument.) One day Osho called me into his room and told me he wanted me to go and live with an Indian sannyasin family in their flat in Colaba, actually not too far from the Rex. He said that the Indian man and his wife were devoted sannyasins and did a lot of work for Laxmi and that the place would be cheaper and more friendly for me to live in. I was a bit surprised but agreed to do as he suggested, and Laxmi wrote out the address for me to give to a taxi driver. Having checked out of my little room at the Rex, I hailed a taxi and showed him the address.

Rex Stiffles Hotel, Mumbai

When I arrived at the place I was quite horrified! It looked like I was going into some kind of army barracks with obviously unattended toilets because the usual Mumbai toilet smell was greatly intensified. A very sweet Indian woman came to greet me and indicated that I come inside with her. I was obviously expected but, as she didn’t speak English, I wasn’t quite sure what the whole situation was about. The dwelling was meagre: a small bare room with a concrete floor and a dirty ragged curtain hanging across one side of it. When the woman pulled aside the curtain I saw a wooden bench about two feet wide which, I gathered, would be my bed and on the other side of this partition was a pile of what looked like some old bedding.

I was now seriously dismayed – did Osho honestly think this was a good place for me to live in? The woman withdrew and I sat down on the bench to think this through. I was totally shocked when after a few minutes the bedding moved! And a weak male voice whispered, “Have you come to help me?” The bedding moved some more and a heavily bearded face surrounded by long matted hair peered out at me. For a few moments I was stunned speechless and then I asked him who he was and what the problem was. He told me his name was Arvind and that he was seriously ill, probably had TB, and he thought that if he couldn’t get back to Denmark soon, he would die. Apparently he had been in India for some years with another guru but had found Osho a few weeks previously and taken sannyas.

I naturally hadn’t got a clue what I could do but he told me that he had an open air-ticket which expired the following week and if I could get to a travel agency and book him a seat on a plane, he could go home and get appropriate treatment. This was easy enough so, of course, I said yes. It was, however, nearly evening by now, so we decided I should do it the following morning. My next thought was some food for him because he said that the food the Indian woman gave him was far too hot for him to eat. I could see that he was painfully thin so I left the place and returned to my hippie haunts near the Rex where I knew I could get some fried eggs and toast, some wonderful Indian curd (yogurt) and fruit juice at Dipti’s. Also bought some Indian sweets as I figured sugar might give him some energy and anyway, I chose the ones made from milk. Arvind wolfed the lot down like the starving man he actually was!

Colaba, Mumbai map

That night was a nightmare! The room was one of about fifteen in a large long hall and the walls only went up about 10 feet so you could hear everything from fifteen families in the same building. The toilets were disgusting and the rats the size of cats. By 5am I was firmly resolved to get Arvind and myself out of there!

By 8.30am, clutching Arvind’s ticket and passport, I was on my way back to the Taj where I had remembered seeing a travel agent. Fortune smiled in the guise of a young Indian woman who was delighted at her unusual customer with such an unusual story and she efficiently managed to book Arvind on a flight leaving the following week. Much relieved, I bought a whole lot more food and made my way back to the ghastly barracks.

But on the way I started to have some doubts. Could this guy get himself onto a plane in the weak state he was in? I didn’t think so. So what else could I do? After pondering the problem, I suddenly remembered some advice someone had given me before I embarked on my Indian adventures. He or she had said: if you are ill or in trouble, contact your Embassy because it is their duty to help you. Could I find the Danish Embassy in Mumbai? Would they help this very frail and very dirty hippie? I knew that the Embassies were all in one area, and not too far away, so I immediately got into a taxi. Naturally the taxi driver didn’t know ‘Danish Embassy’ but he did know ‘British Embassy’, so I told him to go there hoping to find the Danish Embassy in the vicinity. It was actually not too far away so in I went, somewhat nervous as I was a pretty scruffy hippie myself. Fortunately I had Arvind’s passport and air ticket with me. The people there were amazing and told me they would take care of everything. We arranged that they would pick him up the following day.

This meant we would have to spend one more night at that place but this could be managed as help was now very close at hand. The next morning, after another nightmare night, a big shiny car arrived at our barracks and I thankfully watched Arvind being carefully installed in the back seat by two solicitous Embassy staff members. Once he had departed, I quickly packed my rucksack and took myself back to the Rex where the hot water was fortuitously working at that given moment and I could have a very long shower.

At that time, I didn’t think that this incident might have had something to do with Osho so I never said anything about it to him. Later, when I started to understand how he worked with people, I started to think that possibly he had sent me there to help Arvind but didn’t tell me – maybe he wanted to see if I could solve the problem myself. I knew that the Indian man in the family was a devoted sannyasin and helped out at Woodlands with the publication of the books etc, so I am sure that, in the Indian way, the whole incident had been very much known about and discussed.

Two weeks later Laxmi took Nirvano (then Vivek) and me to a very luxurious little apartment nearby − with a bathroom attached to each of our rooms, marble floors, air-conditioning and a lovely ayah − where we lived for many months!

When I was running the Nirvana Meditation Centre in London the following year, Arvind, now fully recovered, came over from Denmark to visit me. He told me that the people at the Danish Embassy had put him in hospital for three weeks as he was too weak to travel and then sent him back to Denmark where he spent eight months in a special hospital to cure his TB. He thanked me for – as he put it – saving his life, but as far as I was concerned I was simply an instrument in a plot orchestrated by our most beloved Osho to whom every one of his sannyasins was a precious being worthy of being helped in any way possible.

There is a touching PS to this story: Varta, Arvind’s lifelong partner, wrote to say, “Actually, as Arvind finally flew back to Denmark, Laxmi came to the airport to see him off. She brought a present from Osho, a beautiful black and golden box, which he had with him till the end. I also recall that Laxmi also brought a message; she said, “Happiness you can find everywhere, bliss only here,” touching her heart.” How beautiful!

Prema VeenaVeena is a regular contributor – 3books.co.uk

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