Ghoshen reviews Devika’s recently published travel book, “Devika’s style is simple and direct … this gives her story a freshness and immediacy that brings the journey to life for the reader.”
In the summer of 1968, while an undergraduate, I had the chance to join an overland expedition to India. I signed up and made preparations for the journey but then, at almost the last moment, had to withdraw as I failed an exam and needed to stay in the U.K. for a re-sit. I never found another opportunity to travel that way and, when I did finally make it to India ten years later to see Osho, I went by plane. So, when offered the chance to read and review this book, I eagerly agreed so I could vicariously enjoy someone else’s adventurous tale of doing the trip by road.
Devika, then aged 22, left England in 1976 and made her way overland to India and Sri Lanka traveling much of the way on the Magic Bus, a service that ran in those days from Amsterdam. She had been drawn to India since childhood but did not envisage her trip as a spiritual quest although it did turn out that way. This book publishes the diary she wrote on the way almost verbatim; indeed it is subtitled “Diary of a Journey of a Lifetime”. We follow her to Athens, Istanbul, Tehran, Herat, the Swat Valley, around the subcontinent visiting Amritsar, Delhi, Varanasi, Darjeeling, Calcutta, Puri, across to Sri Lanka, then Goa and ending with a two-month stay at the ashram in Pune.
Devika’s style is simple and direct as one might expect given that her account was written as a contemporaneous diary. This gives her story a freshness and immediacy that brings the journey to life for the reader and leaves me impressed by the courage she had to make the trip as a young woman on her own, surviving on only a few rupees a day. On one hand it is distressing to read of how much sexual harassment she encountered but, on the other hand, delightful to see how she never let that, or the heat, poverty, dirt and other travails of traveling in India, get her down. I also found pleasure in her infectious account of staying in Sri Lanka which she found to be a paradise compared to India.
Her first exposure to Osho was the book My Way, The Way of the White Clouds that she came across in Amsterdam at the start of her trip. However she set out with no intention of visiting Osho or indeed any spiritual places. Nevertheless we can tell from her words that she was ripe for sannyas even though she may have had no idea herself. The account of her time in Pune takes up a fairly small section of the book, three chapters out of fourteen, but creates a vivid picture of life at the ashram in those heady days with tales of discourse, darshan, meditations, groups, dancing, hepatitis and dysentery!
I thank Devika for sharing this material. The only criticism I would make of the book is that for names, of places and people, she could have used the most widely accepted spelling versions.
Review by Ghoshen
Matador/Troubador, UK, 2017 – ISBN 978-1785898716
Read an excerpt on Osho News: Herat – what a beautiful little town!
Devika travelled overland to India and took sannyas in July 1976, when she was 22 years old. She had worked as a qualified primary school teacher for one year in UK after studying Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Education as her main subjects at college in Bristol. Since that time, in between travelling regularly to India to meditate and work in Osho Commune, she has worked as a teacher in schools, and more recently, as a carer for the elderly. She is the author of two other books: Love Song for Osho (2009) and a children’s ghost story called The Haunted Painting on the Wall (2016).