“Just stay right with it!”

'My sarod and I' by Chinmaya Remembering Here&Now

From Chinmaya’s diary entries (1989) about playing for Osho in Pune. (Part 2 of 2)

Read part 1: Playing the sarod for Osho

Chinmaya in 1989

18th July 1989, Guru Purnima

On my rooftop golden light is pouring between monsoon clouds at dawn. I drag my focus away from the East and its regrets and take myself off to a disused office room in the Ashram and get drunk on playing for hours. I have definitely taken on Shekhar’s unspoken challenge. The muscles in my hands are hurting in places that I’ve never felt before.

Tonight is the first night that Osho has asked the whole Ashram to go to discourse dressed in white robes (last minute mad rush to buy these). White Robe Brotherhood, he is calling it.

19th July

Lolita (on flute) and I are the only non-Indians playing Kirtan Night in Buddha Hall. We are led by Sadhana, restrained and matronly, who organizes us all to a fine tee at rehearsal and then lets go gracefully at the actual event. She is forced to, because our group energy is so wild and tranced on the rhythms we are creating, and the mad jungle dance we are provoking in the crowd ringing us, that we are beyond any hope of control!

22nd July

There is so much richness here! Everyone seems to like me, everyone wants to play music with me. When the sarod comes out, there’s always wonder, appreciation, delight. Food for my ego, for sure, but also such a joyful way of sharing! I’ve become a sort of celebrity for the Accounts Department, proud that one of their own is creating a stir around the Ashram. I get my computer work done as quickly as possible and then idly doodle coloured pictures on the spines of the Purchases files. My co-worker Yogesh often has to spend evenings with me clearing up my numerous mistakes. Once we do this while skipping White Robe Brotherhood and video discourse (apart from Buddha Hall the whole Ashram is closed down for the period). But Accounts is in a prominent position on the main route through the campus from the front gate, and we are spotted. A shame-inducing reprimand follows and we are reminded that Osho insists that the whole Ashram meets at this time and that it is the highlight of his work with us.

26th July

I introduce the video band to Raga Jog – its bluesy scale an immediate hit. The desire to be a really good player has overtaken me, so while other guys take girls home after White Robe, I take music. Practice, trying to get up to speed on Shekhar’s material, ends at midnight with neighbours calling out to be allowed some sleep!

Kirtan band
Kirtan band

29th July

Another hearty Indian music night, joined by long-time sannyasins Anadi on dholak and Chaitanya Bharti on kanjira, as well as a wonderful teenage tabla player, Manish Vyas. It’s stunning how rapidly Sadhana has begun to defer to me, so that I’m turning into the lynchpin of all this: the one who everyone looks to at the centre, to choose the raga, taal (beat cycle) and style. Thunderous feedback from perspiration-drenched crowd at end.

3rd August

I’m invited to share my music as part of an Introduction to Raga Singing group and choose to improvise around a Raga Bhairavi melody in dadra (6-beat rhythm). It occurs to me how, in remembering this tune despite only hearing it once or twice at Gurdev’s in London, I have proved myself to be a bit sharper than I usually credit myself for being!

I don’t exactly recognize myself these days. I can dance ecstatically to Western pop in Buddha Hall on Disco Night, then weep to Celtic songs by a female singer performing the next evening, and then retire to vivid, bizarre dreams. My emotional state seems to have reverted to that of a teenager! But quite a lot of the time I find myself just walking around smiling and winking randomly at people, feeling in a peak of health and energy. A far-out place indeed!

9th August

Jagdish, one of the Indian singers in the Kirtan Group, takes me for a palm reading in a tiny hidden-away zen-style gazebo outside Mirdad that I’ve never noticed before. I’m hoping he’ll give me some solutions to my relationship issues but instead: “Dedicate yourself totally to music for three years,” he tells me. “Go to the top with it, bring meditation to it, be enlightened through it. It will be your path. And always play as if you are playing for Osho.”

With Gopal an Lolita
With Gopal an Lolita

15th August

To faraway Dhankawadi, a very traditional area, to the home of Shri Hari, a Marathi tabla player I met at Shekhar’s. He and I play to a group of moustachio-ed Marathi men, who take in my short performance with serious-looking expressions. I choose Raga Zilla Kafi in deepchandi (14-beat cycle), which I taught myself in London by copying a cassette recording of Amjad Ali Khan, and then a Raga Desh in kerwa, folk style, that I’m currently learning from Shekhar.

As I finish, they break into staccato conversation with Shri Hari, most of which sounds like an argument is taking place. Must be just how Marathi sounds to our foreign ears though, because then afterwards they offer me smiles and nods of appreciation and their own traditional devotional songs. The utterly unpredictable melodic swoops of classical Indian vocals: would I ever be able to catch them? Like its population, the musical culture of this subcontinent is so vast, that one would need lifetimes to explore it comprehensively.

18th August

Home, exhilarated immediately after the White Robe Brotherhood phenomenon (one of the rare days Osho has come out recently): cheers, wild wailing, arms flailing, crescendoes of noise brought to abrupt halts. Returning like an addict to the intricate patterns, the closeness of the sound my sarod is producing to the silence he brings us to in Buddha Hall. I begin to experience how it’s the gaps between the notes that really matter, just as he emphasizes concerning the gaps between our thoughts and even the gaps between his words.

20th August

A get-together with Indian sitar player Pradeep, just arrived from Delhi. Although he is senior to me, both in age and in years as a player, he meticulously copies every detail of my playing of Amjad’s Zilla Kafi. The penny is starting to drop: much of the musical material I gathered over the past four years is pure gold dust. But what to make of this feeling inside me – like when I’m diving deep into Raga Desh at my lessons with Shekhar, playing alongside him now, tricky gamuks and all – that I’m simply rediscovering things that I once knew? Past lives? I feel SO blessed!

21st August

Pradeep has asked me to help him host a series of three parties at his home. At tonight’s, the first, he introduces me to his guru, noted local sitarist Usmaan Khan, who plays us a sweet simple Raga Yaman. Inner Circle members Neelam and Tathagat are amongst his (all Indian) guests. They have seen me around, they tell me, and praise my playing.

A desire to make my mark on prominent people like these bubbles up into my awareness. It is not a comfortable thought. I remind myself of Gurdev’s habitual gesture as he ends his concerts, lifting his sarod up before his face as the audience applauds, so that it is the instrument that receives the acclaim. All this is happening to me because my sarod has turned out to be a kind of key. Thus I put my concern aside and return to joking, laughing, serving drinks and chatting confidently about music in the company of this group of people I’ve never met before. And walk home late rather proud of myself.

23rd August

Darshan. Osho’s car stops unexpectedly in the rain outside Buddha Hall, as he is driven back from his time with us at White Robe Brotherhood. It stops just a few yards from where I am watching with many others, pressed up against the Hall’s mosquito netting. As the window winds down, chiselled in clarity through the evening raindrops, his face appears. I am overwhelmed by the sensation of a vast emptiness there in the place of personality. He is looking straight at me (although I acknowledge everyone around me probably felt this too). And as his presence burns me into the here and now, I hear a voice saying: “You are doing fine, just stay right with it.” The love I feel for him in that moment is so cool and grateful, it’s like no other love I’ve ever known. As the window winds up and the car moves on again, I awake to find my hand on my heart.

Coming home his message rings and rings: You are doing fine, just stay right with it! And I want to shout it from the rooftops: “I love him. I’ve seen him! He’s seen me!” Except, I understand, it’s not I and me, just seeing has happened. Seeing, recognition, love, reassurance – whatever it was that passed from a face in a Rolls Royce, chiselled out raindrops, to a man pressed against a mosquito net, hand on heart.

Chinmaya DunsterChinmaya was born in 1954 in England and started playing the classical guitar at 15. After taking sannyas in 1982 he took up playing the sarod. The Osho Commune in Pune provided him with the ground for musical experiments and, until today, he has 13 CDs released on New Earth Records and a further 4 on Malimba Records. www.chinmaya-dunster.com – more about and by Chinmaya Dunster on Osho News.

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