Part 3 of Shantidharm’s life story: Once around the world, landing in Tuscany after some more stops in between…
Read previous parts under Shantidharm, the Life of an Ordinary Man
In November 1986, Deepa and I arrived in Switzerland. We stayed with some sannyas friends, Nirvikar and Anurodha, in a flat near Staffaucherplatz in Zurich. Deepa worked in an organic restaurant where many sannyasins we knew also worked. In fact, she replaced the main cook who had gone to Pune; that was the reason we could come to Switzerland. Deepa had a Swiss passport from her previous husband, also a sannyasin, and kept it when they had divorced a few months earlier. We decided to marry in January 1987 so that it was easier for me to stay and work. We married in the Zurich town hall with two sannyas friends as witnesses. Once done, we went to celebrate with a cappuccino and a croissant in the nearby Sprüngli café on Paradeplatz.
At the Mingus Osho Center we found a note in a book lying on the desk of the communal room. A sannyas couple, Swiss and Japanese-born, were moving to Japan for a year and were looking to rent their furnished apartment while they were gone. This was perfect for us. We met and agreed to the one-year deal. When they came back, we moved to a new flat we rented on our own in Zurich Oerlikon. We bought some furniture and household things from Nirvikar before he headed off to Pune.
I found a job at Manor department store in the Do It Yourself section. I was actually surprised as I did not speak German very well yet, but nonetheless they hired me! We managed to get a bank loan so that I could buy some music gear and set up a small recording studio.
By this time, Deepa had left the organic restaurant to work as the main chef in a sannyas restaurant, Talwiese (it used to be Zorba the Buddha restaurant during the Kota commune time). She worked there until Manik, the sannyas owner, sold the restaurant business. Then she found a job at Yamaichi Bank (a Japanese brokerage firm). By then I worked in Lloyds Bank, in the payment department. I got the job using some tricks I cannot reveal here and by stressing the bit of experience I had had in Crédit Lyonnais France after finishing accounting school in 1973.
This job experience at Lloyds turned out to be good, especially in the years to come in Switzerland. It was during this time that I started recording my own songs, arranging them all myself in my home recording studio. My first song, written on the train from Zurich to Paris when we left the Osho commune, was a love song for Deepa. (It’s in French – sorry for the poor quality.)
I saw that Osho answered one of the questions I sent by mail in 1987 in the book The Hidden Splendor. In 1988 we were inspired to go to Pune. It was the first time in India for Deepa. We stayed three weeks at the Regency Hotel and we enjoyed the daily meditations and meeting friends at the Osho commune. When we came back we decided to save money to go back to Pune for a longer period.
In 1988-1989 I created more songs and had a lot of fun producing and arranging them, melding drums, bass, synthesizer and vocals on a new digital four-track recorder. I did not try to copy anybody’s style of music. I just enjoyed the flow of creativity as it came and the joy that came with playing my own songs. I made two cassette tapes to give to friends. Soon, it was time to go to Pune, so we sold everything we could and left the rest.
When we arrived in Pune in September 1989, Osho was not speaking publicly any more. He only came out to darshan in the evening and after a period of silent meditation he left. A video of one of Osho’s discourses was then shown.
I became a member of the School of Creative Arts team, as a sound engineer and an occasional guitarist. I set up and mixed recordings sometimes for the musicians playing at a sannyas celebration or at small concerts and events happening here and there. I also worked at the French Osho Times with Paraprem and Shravakar.
The commune was full of creativity and many new schools and institutes had been created a few months before by Osho’s request: the Centre for Transformation, Mystery School, Osho School of Creative Arts, Osho School of Martial Arts. Looking back, it seems he was certainly preparing for his departure, but nobody knew it then.
The Osho Friends regularly organised great evening concerts in Buddha Hall. I remember some memorable ones with Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Zakir Hussain, Shivkumar Sharma, and others. All the musicians would sit in Osho’s presence during evening darshan in Buddha Hall before the concerts. After one concert, Ustad Usman Khan had the great idea of putting together an East-West band (see photo) and many sannyasins were invited to participate. I was one of them and it was so great to rehearse and learn the songs written by Usman Khan.
After months of severe pains, Osho left his body on January 19, 1990. That evening, before entering Buddha Hall, Deepa and I waited in Meera [the building across the main gate. Ed.]. We looked at the sun behind the bamboo. There was such a silence and beauty in the air. Everything seemed to glow. It was as if time had stopped. I turned to Deepa and said: “You see, Osho lives continuously in this beauty, in this silence.”
We then walked to Buddha Hall and a bit later Amrito announced that Osho had left his body. We all celebrated as we brought his body to the burning ghats. I have no words to express the experience of that whole night and its incredible energy. We did not sleep that night and stayed with the energy until dawn. We were so fortunate to to be there. This was a time like no other in Pune, in Osho’s commune.
The next morning, everybody arrived at their job in the commune, doing what we all did every day, as if nothing had happened. The whole commune ran as usual. On January 21, Osho’s ashes were brought to Chuang Tzu auditorium, which had been renovated into a bedroom for him (he remained in this room only two days before moving back to his former bedroom). The room had been used briefly for groups. Now it is called the Samadhi and is used for silent meditations. The inscription over his marble bed platform, under which his ashes have been placed, reads:
Only visited this planet earth between 1931 – 1990
We are just passing through, whomever we are.
Great celebrations continued over the next few weeks. Osho had left his body but he seemed to be all over the place, in the air, in sannyasins’ spirits, with even more intensity. We stayed in Pune until April and then decided to travel to Singapore, Japan and Australia.
In Singapore we enjoyed luxury hotels and city life. In Japan we went to visit Deepa’s brother and father. We travelled down south to enjoy the natural hot springs of Beppu. We had a great time staying here and there in traditional Japanese hotels. We also stayed with a Japanese family.
Deepa’s school friend invited us to her home, where there were two kids. This is where I learned to drive on the left-hand side of the road in the occasional rented car. It was good training and it came in handy when we were in Australia. We also went to Kamakura, to visit Tamo-san, the Japanese woman enlightened master, who had visited Pune before Osho left his body and on whom he had showered rose petals during a darshan.
After a month we went back to Singapore where we bought a plane ticket to Sydney, Australia. The travel agency did not tell us that we needed a visa, so when we showed up at the airport for check-in, they asked us where our visas to Australia were. We had none, so no visa, no boarding. We had to go back to a hotel—we chose another good one for one week—the time needed to get a visa from the Australian embassy.
Finally we arrived in Sydney. We booked a hotel and for few days we looked for a small camper van to buy. There was a famous street where people sold secondhand cars and campers, so we went there but could not find any good vans. We looked in a local newspaper and found a VW camper, fully equipped. It had automatic gear shift, so that was perfect for us. The couple selling the camper lived in Bondi Beach, a famous place around Sydney. We went there, we liked the van, so we bought it for 6000 A$. (We managed to sell it back in this famous street in Sydney to three English guys for 5000 A$ few months later before we left Australia.)
We spent six months in Australia. We had such a great time driving around in our VW camper, stopping wherever we wanted. We headed up north where the weather was always warm and where we could learn diving. On the way up, we visited some sannyasin friends in the Byron Bay area.
Shravakar, with whom I had worked on the French Osho Times in Pune, was living there and we stayed with him and his girlfriend for a while. They introduced us to the sannyas scene in Mullumbimby and we had some parties at their place with music, singing and meditations. We also enjoyed life in and around Byron Bay; there were so many nice restaurants and shops.
We carried on up north to Cairns, where it is always summer, and we settled for some time in Port Douglas. We rented a holiday unit; it was more comfortable than the camper for a long stay. We trained at a local diving school and got our Diving Padi certificate. We could now go on diving trips on our own with some other friends and of course, most importantly, in the great Barrier reef.
The underwater life there was so beautiful, so wonderful. One has to dive to see it for oneself. We did some memorable dives with the Quick Silver boat. We visited some islands too, and we will always fondly remember Heron island, Hayman island and Green island. We also drove up north in the jungle in a rented 4×4 and we stayed at a resort in the middle of nowhere.
Before leaving Australia, we sold our VW camper in Sydney. Then we rented a car and drove back to Byron Bay where I did some great dives in a famous diving spot with sharks. On my first dive there, I was supposed to follow a rope to go down and meet the other divers. Somehow, I left the rope and the current took me to a totally different spot. I found myself alone and surrounded by sharks. As instructed by the head diver, I did not panic. Sharks were just swimming around, minding their own business. To them I was just another big object. They were used to seeing divers, so I went slowly back up to the surface and this is when I saw that I was far away from the boat.
They came to pick me up and I went down again. Everybody was waiting for me and then we went for the dive among the sharks. The head diver knew the place and the behaviour of the sharks. In case of danger or suspicion, he said he would give us a sign to surface. This did not happen and we enjoyed touring the reef in the company of sharks and other marine animals. Australia was a goldmine, full of beautiful experiences and nice encounters with a lot of different people.
We then returned to Switzerland. Nirvikar, a good sannyasin friend, had opened an Osho Center in Zurich and there was a room for us. But I felt the need to go back to Pune to be in the commune. Deepa accepted my need to go and she stayed in Zurich. I stayed in Pune for six months and worked in the Osho Samadhi where three meditations are done daily. At first, I was a member of the team and then later the coordinator.
It was also during this period that I had the job of cleaning the Samadhi. While cleaning the dust off the top of the marble bed platform, I realised that is the same thing we must do daily for ourselves—we must remove the dust that goes on accumulating, even when you have cleaned it well the previous day. I had my first deep experiences of meditation during this period. After three months Deepa came to visit me for three weeks and it was wonderful to be together again. At this time, we saw the rise of new pyramids and the completion of Nalla Park.
We returned to Switzerland. The Osho Center had closed and we found an apartment in Zurich Wollishofen. I got a job in Citibank and Deepa remained working at Yamaichi Bank. The job at Citibank proved to be really challenging. They cut the number of workers to save money and all remaining workers had to work very hard.
After few months of intense work, I got sick. When I came back to work, I decided to let everybody know that this situation was intolerable. I printed a letter and gave it to all the workers. It said that I could not continue working in such inhumane conditions. Either we needed to change something or I would quit. I was called in by the directors and they said they understood but could not accept my request for changes. So, they let me go with six months salary as a bonus. I used the time off of work to make music in my recording studio. I even rented a piano for few months. What a joy to create!
When the six months of money ran out, we decided to go to Pune again. We stayed there for eight months. Deepa worked in the Welcome Center and got a room in the commune. I stayed with her and worked in the Creative Arts Department again. During that time, we went to Singapore to renew our visas and we got five-year business visas for India. We enjoyed life in the commune and lived totally until our money ran out. Then we had to go back to Switzerland. 4000 CHF was left on our Visa credit card, and with it we bought two first class tickets, Bombay to Zurich. We decided to have a taste of first class and now was the right moment. We really enjoyed the treat!
A sannyasin friend invited us to stay at her place near Zurich until we found a room in a big house where other sannyasins lived in Küsnacht near Lake Zurich. This was a small sannyas community in a big and comfortable, independent house. Deepa found a job immediately in UBS Bank, one of the biggest banks in Switzerland, in the Lending and Borrowing Department, where they needed someone who spoke Japanese.
I applied for a job through interim agencies for short term replacement jobs. I had long hair and a long beard and when I got to the interview to apply, the agency lady told me that I certainly had good references and experience for a job in a bank but also that I looked a bit too “exotic” for such a job.
Anyway, even looking “exotic,” I got a job in a Spanish bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya. Because they liked the work I did, after the interim period was finished, they offered me a fixed job contract. When we left the small sannyas community in Küsnacht, we rented a private house around Zurich, and again I bought equipment and set up a nice recording studio in the basement (see photo).
It was again a great period of music creativity and I really enjoyed doing it all by myself, just following what was coming out spontaneously. Listen to another song from this period in the attachment, Dancin’2nite:
I remained in the Spanish bank until June 1999. I became a low level coordinator and had some considerable responsibilities. I enjoyed the people. I spoke four languages daily: English with one client supervisor, German with the IT guy, French with two colleagues and Spanish with the majority of the other workers.
Things went well in this bank. The administrator was thinking about his retirement and planned to promote me to his job. However, one day it suddenly felt that the time had come to stop working for others, for banks or in any other job. It was time to create money from what I really liked to do.
So, Deepa and I decided to save as much money as possible until June 1999. We looked for new places to live. For a while we thought to join Croydon Hall, a new commune project in England with Devageet and Guptadana. After two visits and meetings, we did not feel 100% good about that so we did not join the project. Instead we decided to go to Japan and then to Pune.
Once in Pune, I joined the Web Design Team. I had taught myself how to create and design websites and I really wanted to go deeper into this area. The Web Department was in full creativity mode, making a new osho.com website. It took months and a lot of fun to finish the website.
We worked with Amrito and Jayesh to decide on designs and with Devadatta, Salam and Chandra Deva for the important web design applications, codes, and features. When we finished the osho.com website, part of the multimedia team (Chandra Deva, Salam and Shantidharm) decided to go to Tuscany and use their talents to create websites for big Italian companies. Before they left Deepa and I went with Chandra Deva to see the Taj Mahal. During this occasion I took photos for the book India My Love, published by the Osho commune.
Before meeting Salam and Chandra Deva in June 2000 in Florence, Tuscany, Italy, Deepa and I treated ourselves to an around the world business class flight (tickets were at good prices in India, and we had a good sannyas friend, Manoj, as a travel agent).
We went to Bali, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, San Francisco, New York (we visited the Osho International team in NY). When we finally met in Florence in June 2000, there were great expectations of starting a successful business, but it fell flat very quickly and we abandoned the project.
Deepa and I decided to stay in Italy and see what happened. We went to a guest house in Tuscany owned by two sannyasins, Satyo and Nishkam, who had happened to be our dentist when we were in Zurich. We stayed as paying guests for a while and decided to stay in Tuscany and give it a go. We rented a temporary apartment and continued to look for a more permanent one.
One day after dinner at a restaurant, I spoke with the restaurant’s owner who was very friendly and open to us and I told him we were looking for a flat. He said joyfully that he had something. A few days later, we went to check it out and we took it after agreeing on the monthly rent. The apartment had a private entrance, on the first floor of his house in the countryside, 1km away from the Pomarance village. The house was big, and there was a lot of land around, with many olive trees. We were in nature and we liked it. And this is where we have lived for 15 years.
We have done and created so many things in 15 years in Italy, so we will write about it in the next part of this article… coming soon… under Shantidharm, the Life of an Ordinary Man
Note: Shravakar left his body in 2014
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