Soli: Sunny alonenesses

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Italian radio and TV screenwriter Roberta Lippi interviewed people who grew up with sannyasin parents or were sannyasins themselves. She stressed the fact that the title SOLI in Italian means ‘alone’ but also ‘suns’. By Punya

SOLI podcasts by Roberta LippiThe other day Devakrishna sent me a link to a recently released Italian podcast, saying that it had partly been recorded at his home on Lago Maggiore where I had visited him and his wife last year. The interviewees are Anugatha, whom I had also met that day, and her son Venu who had travelled from Berlin for the interview. The theme of the series, it turns out is: childhood with Osho, to be the child of a sannyasin.

Backed by a very professional production team, the interviews are introduced and sections bridged by Roberta Lippi‘s very articulate, clear and human (as opposed to journalistic), ‘off-screen’ voice. ‘Soli’ was on first place on iTunes in the category Religion & Spirituality in Italy for the first two weeks and is still dominating the list. It has also received coverage in Vanity Fair and other magazines.

The beautifully produced podcasts will no doubt be of interest to our Italian-speaking readers ( For the rest of us, here’s a synopsis:

The introduction starts with a translated piece from Tim Guest‘s rather ghastly recount of him keeping a press clipping of Nicholas Schulze’s suicide at Ko Hsuan in his pocket. I think, “Of course, that’s fodder for journalism.” But I soon relaxed listening to the interview with Anugatha and Venu. They had ample space (over two sections of the series) to speak about the times they lived in India, and the connection between mother and son in Pune 1 when Venu lived in the kids’ house. When day-offs were introduced, Anugatha dedicated all days off to her son, going for swims in the pool, etc. Venu’s sound-bite: “But I would have preferred to spend the day with my many friends….”

The second section covers the period of Rajneeshpuram, starting with an audio excerpt from a discourse by Osho where he states that children are to be taken care of by the commune (with Italian voice-over), a translation of an interview given by Dickon Kent (Bhikkhu) to Medium (and re-published by Osho News), where he talked about being very unhappy and suffering from being separate from his mother, Veetasmi.

The episode returns to Venu who during that time lived with his mother in meditation centres, first at Akshaya in Lugano that his mother had founded (I remember it well) and was later closed by Sheela. Anugatha became part of the Zurich centre, and later of the one in Berlin, while Venu was sent to the Medina commune and international boarding school that hosted more than one hundred children from the various centres. 6 per room, school, jobs in the afternoons – visits to Rajneeshpuram for the Festivals. Because of his aggressive outbursts he was asked to do the Dynamic meditation for a period of time. He hated doing it, so changed his attitude not to get sent to Dynamic again… Dynamic as punishment (I have experienced that too…).

The duo then moved to Berlin, where Venu eventually lived with a stepfather and studied at university. He is now a successful scriptwriter, still living in Berlin, having married and is father of a daughter. He concludes, “I have had a past out of the normal, crazy – I am proud of it. It’s a chapter in my life, very good for my work because I am full of experiences.”

Massimo‘s story in the third episode, that followed a beautiful, voiced-over quote by Osho about living in the moment, is totally different. He and his younger brother do not become sannyasins, but their mother (Achambo) and her partner, who were wearing orange and watching Osho’s discourses on Sundays with others (so boring for all the children present). They still felt the pressure from the nuns in their school, from their father with whom they would spend their holidays. They lived in two worlds, the ‘normal world’ of their school friends and that of the playful grown-ups and children of the orange world.

It’s hilarious to hear how the brothers would point out to their parents the typical sannyasin vocabulary; the repetitive mention of ‘energy’, the ‘inner’; their gestures and looooong hugs, and laugh at the fact that they start dancing as soon as there is music around – and Osho’s pictures everywhere. Because of his father’s intervention, Massimo never met Osho in person but he acknowledges that it was a privilege for him to have been the son of a sannyasin and be part of a crucial moment in history that has helped open the minds on broader scale. He feels sad that Rajneeshpuram closed and that Osho had not helped to save it, but maybe – as many sannyasins also think – that might have been a learning for them.

The voice in the fourth part is given to Satish, partially letting him speak in person (dubbed in Italian) and partly read by actors from translated excerpts of his book ‘Delicate Frequencies‘. He grew up in Purvodaya (remember the film ‘Sommer in Orange’?). When left behind after his mother went to Pune, he enjoyed his independence and understood that he needed to become responsible for himself. Later in Rajneeshpuram he enjoyed going to school in Antelope (in a way a conventional school but without marks, no competition with others) and worked with the firefighters, electricians, lawyers. He also experimented with drinking, smoking and learning about sex at an early age and in a natural way.

Podcasts five and six are taken by Camila Raznovich, now a celebrity in Italy; a TV host who started her career as a 19-year-old in London working for MTV, and then for Italy’s national broadcasting company RAI on TV channels and radio stations. For this year’s San Remo song competition, she had been chosen to be part of the jury. She is also the author of a book entitled ‘Lo rifarei’ (I would do it again) and has co-authored ‘Loveline’, a book on sex.

Camila took sannyas as a child (she was given the name Kamala), both her parents being sannyasins; her father Argentinian, her mother Italian. In her childhood she was shifted from one place to the other, from living with her mother in Pune, to her father’s family in Argentina, and to the Vivek centre in Milan – learning to speak Spanish, Italian and English at the same time. Miasto in Tuscany and the Medina Rajneesh boarding school (only 3 or 6 months) are impressed in her memory as a time of loneliness – where is my mother? – but also a time of much freedom. To take roots in the ‘normal world’ she enrolled in the most prestigious and bourgeois grammar school of Milan, the Beccaria, but soon enough life brought her to Berlin where she started to work in discos.

She calls herself a street-smart survivor and recognises that same emotional intelligence in Syrian refugees she observes in Italy, a quality that she does not see in her daughters that have grown up in a well taken care of situation. She also recognises that her life experiences have given her an armour that hides her sensitivity. That many sannyasin children have excelled in creative jobs comes, in her understanding, from feeling quite inadequate to embark on a career that requires many years of study and on the other hand from having been exposed to mental freedom and a sense of wanting to excel.

Wild Wild Sheela by Roberta LippiAlmost as an aside I came to know that last year Roberta had published ‘Wild Wild Sheela’, answers to 100 questions she personally had after watching the Netflix documentary. The instant book, as per request from the publisher, came out as an eBook merely 6 weeks after the launch of Wild Wild Country (a miracle!), with an English translation that followed a month later. Big crunch time, white nights, for her and the translators.

Numbered questions, randomly chosen, read: The mala, The finger on the forehead, The Castle, 93 Rolls Royces, Osho’s house, AIDS, Jane Stork, Swami Devaraj, Osho’s departure from Rajneeshpuram. In this subchapter, numbered 79, she re-printed an excerpt from Shunyo’s ‘My Diamond Days’ which was beautiful for me to read again, but certainly for the Italian public a first! Beautiful also Roberta’s closing sentence of that ‘question’, an observation which maybe even some sannyasins have missed. I quote: “Whether he was going to Bermuda or to the mountains we will never know, what is sure is that his departure from the ranch, be it risky, firm, casual, planned, offhand, coward or bold, probably saved Rajneeshpuram from a true carnage.”

In WWS we find information not necessarily required for sannyasins (and would need fact-checking), other points made are definitely misunderstandings, while most of the material is very well researched and is a good reminder. The style of numbered subjects renders the book somewhat scattered, not much helped by the fact that the English version (the Italian writing style is excellent!) was translated by various hands to get it out on time.

The best part, and here I am blatantly biased, is a final interview with Devakrishna (followed by one of an Oregonian woman). The conclusion, for me, was difficult to grasp; however, the author is not much off the mark, maybe for different reasons, when she chose instead of a dedication, Osho’s quote: “My whole work is to confuse you.”

Italian readers who have seen WWC (16th March it will be the anniversary of the launch on Netflix) and would like to know more, will find additional historical information. However, missing is the portrayal of the day-today life of thousands of sannyasins and also Osho’s vision has not been covered in her book..

As much of the research has already been done it would not be far-fetched to think that WWS could become a basis for a more deeply researched book by Roberta about Osho and the sannyas movement. (It might ride on another wave of interest in Osho, e.g. when Priyanka Chopra or Bollywood come out with their planned films.)

Excerpt on Osho News: A Sannyasin’s point of view – Roberta Lippi’s interview with Devakrishna

Roberta LippiRoberta Lippi is a content curator, writer, screenwriter at Dude (an ‘unagency’) in Milan. She supervised the first online video production of media brands such as GQ and Glamour, and led the editorial coordination of Vogue Italia’s site, followed by Condé Nast Italia video factory. She teaches multi-media journalism and media education and is a writer for radio and TV shows. – Scritto a Voce is a storytelling and entertainment project – an independent podcast platform that involves writers, journalists and scientific communicators. Storielibere podcasts can be listened to on and on the main audio Apps (iTunes, Podcast, Google Podcast, Spreaker, Spotify etc.).

Article by Punya

Read our coverage of the Netflix docuseries:
WWC: Our Reviews
WWC: Media Watch
WWC: Sannyasins reply in the Media

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