Suruchi tells Punya her life story on a leisurely afternoon, fortified with tea and biscuits; “This man [Osho] was saying things that I knew really deep in my heart.”
Start of my spiritual journey with Osho
I was doing latihan with a group called Subud. That must have been between 1970 and 1977. An Indonesian master had received instructions from God to pass on the latihan. Nothing else. No teaching. No dogma. Nothing. Just to initiate people into latihan.
At times he came to England to visit but didn’t speak English. He would just sit in the group; he came about once every five years. Latihan was very powerful; it was my first real meditation. We practised it twice a week. From the same group quite a few people took sannyas later, including Farida, Vishada, Shakya, Vihara and Aseema.
My cousin, Pankaja, went to Poona in 1975 and came back very excited about Osho and the commune, the ashram. Somehow the way she described it didn’t do much for me. But the second time she came to visit us in Somerset with her children and her husband for the weekend, she left behind a book and a tape which was, I remember, from And the Flowers Showered series.
I wasn’t much interested in what she had left behind, but then one day I put on the tape and was absolutely knocked for six. This man was saying things that I knew really deep in my heart. It was just so strong. I knew I had to go to Poona.
First my husband went and came back with a new name, Devagireesh. He was quite changed. Earlier, we had been on the point of splitting up. Our original connection was our interest in spiritual teachings. This was really what we had in common. And music. But now he was so different. He was so light and happy and transformed that I thought, “Maybe we could be together again.”
Gireesh said, “You must go! I’ll take care of the children.” My youngest was six or seven. I left for Poona and stayed for three weeks. I took sannyas and was given my name, Deva Suruchi. Osho talked about the name and asked me if I had meditated before. I told him that I had been doing the latihan for several years. He was very pleased and said it was a very very good meditation and a very good preparation for sannyas.
I stayed in Poona for three weeks and then did not leave; after three weeks my husband arrived and brought all the children with him. We thought of staying ‘forever’ at that point.
A very funny thing happened. We were both doing groups. He was doing a Kio group and I was doing a group with Rajen – I forget what it was called but it was quite a cathartic group. During the group Rajen called me into the centre and started provoking me. And then I started… I was shouting at my husband and telling him all the things I hadn’t been able to say to him, all the things that had hurt me, all the things that I didn’t like about him.
Later it transpired that he had been doing his group in the same building. And at the time when I had been called into the middle, he had gone upstairs to get his towel which was hanging outside our group room. He heard everything. So amazing! He heard all this. And of course he had to go back and digest it in silence – it was a silent group. That was sort of by-the-by because Osho then told us to go back together and start a centre in England, which we did.
My husband had recently bought a big house with the money his mother had left him. So the house was there and the accommodation was there. And there was a big room suitable for groups. Hence we ran the centre together for a few months, but it didn’t work because we weren’t really together.
I moved to London to help Poonam who ran Kalptaru and lived with her for a while. Pretty soon I went back to India with my youngest child, Prem Sargam, who was seven. My other two children, Prem Samvida and Nick stayed at the centre with their father. I stayed with Osho for the rest of the time in Poona, until 1981.
After a couple of weeks in England I went on to the Ranch, because my lover at the time was considered ‘essential’ there. Osho thought that the men, who had originally gone to the Ranch first, should have their girlfriends with them. So that was my luck. I got to the Ranch that way, together with my youngest daughter. My oldest daughter, by then nineteen, and my son chose to do their own thing.
My work at the beginning was sewing overalls, then I looked after the chickens. Later I was sent to cleaning for a brief time and finally was put in charge of Raidas under Padma. Raidas was the department – or ‘temple’ – that took care of the cleaning, laundry, accommodation, festival accommodation and set-up. Even the restaurants came under Raidas.
I was shocked when I was given this job. I thought I was not capable of doing such a big job, but I found out that I was good at delegating, finding the right people to take care of different areas. I had my own pickup truck to drive around which was nice. I even had a beeper. That was good fun.
When the Ranch ended, Sargam and I left. I had no money but we were given our plane fare to wherever we needed to go. A Dutchman, called Shahid, was setting up a house for mothers and teenage children in Belgium. So Sargam and I went there. Another Englishwoman and her daughter, Anjali, came too. Mukta’s children were there as well. And we set to work; we did cleaning, we decorated houses, we cooked for a centre on weekends. We did whatever came our way; we just went for it in a way that we had learned on the Ranch. Say “yes” and be total.
Then Sargam decided that she wanted to go back to America. Her friends had a house in Marin County, near San Francisco, and she really wanted to go and join them. She didn’t like the international school in Belgium at all. I worked and worked and got her plane fare together, and she went back. She was then sixteen, seventeen.
I thought I would join her; I was a bit uneasy of her being there because I knew that people in the house were taking drugs. One day she called me and said, “Oh, mom, why don’t you go to Boulder instead of coming to Marin? There are more of your friends there.” But I was afraid she was also taking drugs. I wanted to see what was going on.
I worked and worked and worked. I had an English friend. We had such fun together. We took every job we could find. We took on decorating a whole house. Neither of us had ever put up wallpaper before – but we did it. We made money in every way we could. Because, basically, we wanted to get out of Belgium.
I went to California. In Marin one could easily find work. People were so rich that they paid you for anything you could do. I did all sorts. I cooked for a dinner party once a week in someone’s house. I made somebody a wedding dress. I cleaned in a couple of places. I even walked dogs. I had one job in an apartment where I never saw the man. He never met me. And he used to leave me an open check. Isn’t that extraordinary? I mean, Californians are very trusting in a way. They are lovely people but I found the whole society very artificial.
Basically – again – I was saving money just to get away. There was no reason for me to stay on because just days after I arrived, my other daughter, Samvida, who had been travelling around the world, came to California and whisked Sargam off to Ibiza.
Italy and Mexico
What I really wanted was to go to Italy and do a two-month Rebalancing course with Satyarthi and Anubuddha. A few of my friends were on the staff there. Vishada and Sajila had participated in the course before. I rescued Sargam from Ibiza and she joined me in Italy. Deesha was there and other friends of hers, and she was allowed to join the staff.
Towards the end of the Rebalancing course, Sajila, who was very psychic, had a vision of a place in Mexico that was waiting for us. Anyway, we had nothing planned for after the course finished. We thought, “Well, we don’t know what to do next,” so we went to Mexico. We got a flat in Cancun. There were six of us; there was me, Sargam, Vishada, Sajila, and Hamido and Govindas who then left quite early on.
Vishada and Sajila rented a car and every day drove down the Caribbean coast and looked at all the little resorts. Then one day they drove into a place and she said, “This is it. This is the place of my vision. This is where we are meant to be.”
It so happened that the owner of the place, who was an American living in Costa Rica, was looking for a new manager, because her manager had just left and the high season was coming up. When she heard that we were sannyasins – we had wondered whether to conceal that or not because Mexico is so close to America… But, as it turned out, she and her husband had flown into Rajneeshpuram in their private jet for a visit and had been terribly impressed by the way things were run. So when she heard that we were sannyasins she offered us the job.
The resort consisted of twenty round stone cabañas – very very simple, with thatched roofs, stone floors and wooden bed frames hanging with thick ropes from the ceiling – and two large round ones for kitchen and restaurant.
We ran the place for nearly two years and had a lot of adventures. It was quite primitive. A Mexican, a sort of mafia type who owned a couple of places down the beach, wanted to take over our resort and thought he could easily frighten these English people off. He used to come with his gang in the night with machetes. But Sajila, who was Mexican and could talk his language, stood up to him. She was a strong lady. They backed off because her uncle was placed very high up in Mexico’s government.
It was all great fun. And then my other daughter, Samvida, came from Australia to join us. Samvida, Sargam and I were the cooks. Sajila was the official manager, Vishada looked after the generator and all the handyman jobs like shutters falling off, etc. There was always something to repair. Later on, Mexican Marcus joined us with his German girlfriend, Rani. His brother, Teerth, also came sometimes to help.
As soon as Osho went back to Poona we all left. Only just in time because after we left, there was a hurricane which destroyed nearly everything.
When I applied for work in Poona, I was given a strange job at the gate of Osho’s house. I was to supervise the guards. Basically, there was nothing to do. These guys didn’t need any supervision. They were very old hands. Then I worked in Bodhidharma café for a bit and then stopped working. I wanted to spend more time alone, being quiet.
After Osho died, I went to the Himalayas, near Manali, where I stayed until 2012. I rented a little house at first, and then designed one and had it built. I was meditating, walking, smoking dope. I had a little pipe and used to just pick marijuana which was growing everywhere. I went trekking quite a bit, often with Nirved who also had a small cottage for a number of years. She then went back to Scotland to take care of her father. During that time I visited Papaji in Lucknow and Ramesh in Bombay.
I left the Himalayas because it was getting harder for me physically. I was living way off the road up a steep rocky path. In the village I had lovely friends who were very happy to take care of me; do my shopping, bring me wood, but then I had to leave every six months to get a new visa and the journey was difficult. My family used to visit me until the grandchildren came. They were growing up and I wanted to spend time with them. So I thought it was time to go back, although I was very sad to leave.
When I returned to England I first stayed with Sargam in Hastings. She had quite a big house with a guest room. I also thought it would be nice to live near my son, Nick, because all these years I had seen very little of him. He lives in Forest Row which is an hour and a half from Hastings. He moved there in order to send his children to the Steiner School and commutes to London four days a week.
I was searching for a small place in Hastings and also looking in Forest Row. I thought, “The first suitable place that comes up, I’ll take it.” And it happened to be in Forest Row! In fact, Nick found it. It was a little furnished annexe on somebody’s house with a nice little garden. I brought bedding, a few pictures and a few books from India – but that was all. So I moved there. I was seventy-seven by then.
Nick persuaded me to put my name down for council accommodation. I thought, “I don’t need sheltered accommodation.” But I put my name down. And very soon – I was in that little house only for a year – I was offered a flat. Usually people wait for years…
When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe how nice it was. In a block of fourteen flats on two floors. A corner flat with French windows looking out onto a little terrace. Flowerbeds and quite a big lawn on the other side. The rooms were of good size.
Nick said, “Mum, take it. It’s a gift.” I didn’t realize what a gift it was. I took it. It’s a very nice little flat and I am very happy there.
I’ve helped create a garden because the council only mow the grass and cut the hedges. Two other old ladies and I planted trees…. Each of us has a section. We cooperate with each other and combine tools. I love gardens; it is really nice to be able to work there and walk out into the garden. It’s perfect.
Ten minutes’ walk down to the shops. Even when I had a bad ankle, I could just go out the back to the main road – a three-minute walk through the housing estate – catch the bus down to the village, do my shopping and then come back on the next bus. And lovely walks up on Ashdown Forest.
How Osho has influenced my life
I don’t listen to Osho very much. I have quite a lot of books and always have one near my bed. Osho for me is not so much the words. It’s what he awakened in me right at the beginning when I first heard him. So of course he influences me all the time, really. I feel his guidance.
Where I live there are very nice people, and I have some friends, but sannyasins are my tribe. I still feel that living in society is playing a part. A lot of the people in the village live there because of the Steiner connection and Anthroposophy which doesn’t interest me at all. I am not interested in self-improvement.
I am living now and I am lucky to be as healthy as I am. And when I die I die.
That’s basically my story.
Interview with Punya