In part 2 of her recollections, Bhagawati returns to Rajneeshpuram where intense times and historical events take place.
Read part 1: The Road to Twinkiehood
Adventures in Europe cont’d
I felt quite cut off from Rajneeshpuram. Whenever I called any of the other Twinkies and asked what was going on, how they were, I either didn’t get any answers or they were evasive. I couldn’t figure it out but suspected that things were happening they didn’t want to talk about. In the year before there had always been matters we didn’t want others to hear and we used to go outside and gossip sotto voce over a cigarette. It did occur to me that it was ridiculous to whisper but we had a sense better not to be heard.
Late spring, a meeting with Sheela was announced in Zurich. All commune members were sitting in a half circle, and Sheela sat together with Padma, Patipada and Yogini facing us. It was one of her usual speeches that started with some friendly gossip and then turned into a killing field. Yet when my turn came to get up and sit in front of her I felt very relaxed, knowing I had done good work.
But obviously that was not what she wanted to talk about and she started the blame game and then loudly said, “You are destroying Bhagwan’s work!” As I stared at her in disbelief, I felt an energy like lightning hitting the top of my head and going straight through my body. And I knew in that instant that I am alright as I am and I couldn’t care less what she said.
I was then dispatched to Freiburg, a lovely commune close to the borders of Switzerland and France. Patipada was also going to come as Sheela wanted to close the place, transfer the commune members to other European communes and sell the entire outfit. It was a rather upsetting experience to see this beautiful place being dismantled and having to be a part in it; most commune members were sad and Patipada was in ‘cleaning up’ mode with shirtsleeves rolled up.
By beginning of June, I was told I would be flying back to Rajneeshpuram. Saying goodbye to Anatto who I had been meeting frequently over the months with a lot of loving support from Chandrika, Kota’s commune leader, was alright; he would be coming to the Fourth Annual World Celebration that wasn’t far off. The Convair had been flown back to Rajneeshpuram months earlier, so I found myself on several commercial flights from Zurich to Portland.
Karuna picked me up at the airport and after the long drive I finally set eyes on Mirdad. It was lovely to see all the ‘girls’ of course and then get to my room, unpack and be home again. Yet the next three days turned out different than expected. It started when I saw that around Jesus Grove a barbed wire fence had gone up, which was bewildering. I noticed several other curious changes and sensed the energy of our community had changed. I asked myself, “What am I doing here? Is this the place where I want to live?” I wanted to leave! And quickly.
The next morning it was announced that starting on the first day of the festival, Osho would be speaking publicly again. This was wonderful news and I consciously put all my doubts in some inner corner and jumped straight back into commune life. I absolutely wanted to be here for this. And at Mirdad we had a new Twinkie, for the first time a man, Anshumali who managed very gracefully to be surrounded by solely female co-workers.
We also had a small snack bar for visitors which was run by Neelam. On the menu were coffee and croissants, pastries and hot dogs with make-believe sausage which were extremely popular. Neelam was charming and caring – she spoiled us, bending management rules by heating up left-over food for those of us who were working late.
Thousands of friends arrived and with them Anatto who I had been waiting for. My friend Sneha was at the way station in Antelope and phoned me in the middle of the night when she found out on which bus he was going to arrive at the Welcome Centre!
The energy was running high once more and the festival took off; Osho was there in the body, so tangible, so strong. He had not been speaking during evenings in Lao Tzu since April 2, and drive-by again had been the only possibility to get a glimpse of him.
What with visitors and tours and journalists around, Anatto and I made the most of it to see each other every free minute.
Although I did remember the layout of our commune, there obviously had been changes along the roads that I was unaware of. On a tour with a journalist to Surdas Truck Farm, I pointed out that on the left was the chicken coop and talked all about chickens and their unfertilized eggs. I suddenly realized there weren’t any chickens and the journalist pointed that out too. Nonplussed I went on and said something like, ”Ah, they all must be resting inside, it’s a hot day.” I found out later that we had gotten rid of the chickens because they had become neurotic and plucked out each other’s tail feathers; it had been a proper mess to take care of them!
I barely got any sleep for about two weeks yet was flying on love, joy and adrenaline. This time Anatto was the one who went back home yet he would be coming again rather soon, for the three months exchange program. Or so we thought.
Twinkie life continued with the excitement of Osho giving interviews at Jesus Grove to journalists from all over the world in addition to daily discourses in Rajneesh Mandir. We were busy putting word out to the media, inviting them to come; the first interview was given on July 17.
Towards the end of August, an unsettling experience happened while I was accompanying a reporter from Newsday, a daily for New York City and Long Island. He got everything he had wanted to see and hear about, had interviewed Osho, and the last item on his list was an interview with Sheela.
I brought him to Jesus Grove in the early evening and as Sheela wasn’t yet available, we were asked to wait. Fred asked if he could have a coffee and when I went to pick up a cup at the hatch to the kitchen, I asked for a cup for myself too. I was given a cup for him and when I waited for mine I was told they were going to make fresh coffee and I would get it as soon as it was ready.
It took a while as we waited but I got the coffee in time before we met with Sheela.
After the interview I drove Fred to Hotel Rajneesh and continued towards home. I felt tired and not very alert and looked forward to lying down. When I approached the small bridge over the creek I felt uncertain if I could drive straight over it, my balance was off. But I did make it over, drove up to the house and parked. I reeled walking into the mudroom and started having heart palpitations. Even when I was lying down, they continued. I felt apprehensive and dizzy and not sure what was going on. I thought of calling Pythagoras for a doctor to come. Still lying there undecided, I held the locket of my mala in the hand and closed my eyes. And I clearly heard a voice saying, “Don’t call a doctor.”
I trusted this voice and didn’t call, just stayed with the sensation of the heart beating so fast. I fell asleep at some point and woke up in the morning in exactly the same position. At Mirdad I didn’t want to spread the word as to what had happened. I only told Isabel in confidence and she just looked very surprised and nothing more was said.
It was again only later that I found out about what had happened to Vivek after she had a talk with Sheela over a cup of coffee. She was feeling suddenly very unwell and developed strong heart palpitations. I realized that had I contacted Pythagoras, I would have been hospitalised and might have been ‘treated’ by Puja. I just wondered why I was targeted.
In the following few weeks we found out that a few long-time residents had left the commune but at the time didn’t really know why. I remember Siddha spending time at Mirdad for whatever reason and one day he whispered to me something about “there is much danger” and I should take good care of myself. We were interrupted and never spoke again; he and his partner Prabodhi left the commune shortly after, in the middle of the night.
Early afternoon on September 14, we were alerted that Sheela and several other people were leaving. It barely caused a reaction in me, I thought, “Fine.” A few people of her entourage, including Savita and Anugiten came into Mirdad before leaving but I can’t remember why. I only know that after they left my gold-bound address book with a large B on it had disappeared. And with it all my contacts of the media and my friends and family. I also remembered Anugiten had been hanging around my desk trying to make some conversation which was strange because I barely knew him. We searched later everywhere for the address book but it was gone.
I drove over to the airport to see the action; a small group of residents had gathered and two sannyasins were singing a song accompanied by a guitar for Sheela and her entourage, which I thought was rather bizarre. People were saying goodbye and waving and at last the plane took off.
That very evening, unperturbed, Osho gave an interview to John Dettinger, of California Magazine, who didn’t ask anything about Sheela. But the news spread quickly and from the next evening on there were lots of questions to Osho about Sheela’s departure and many other journalists followed suit, several from California, three journalists and one TV team from Germany, a Seattle TV crew and one from Australia.
And Jesus Grove was renamed to Sanai Grove.
The heat is on
The Twinkies experienced intense times while Osho was speaking about all the wrongdoings that were discovered and new revelations about Sheela’s crimes came out of the woodwork almost daily. Dozens of law enforcement officers (FBI, INS) were searching for evidence of crime. Files were rifled, departments were searched, people were interviewed, US Navy divers searched one of the lakes for guns having been dumped – it was mayhem.
Journalists from all over were crowding Hotel Rajneesh and after we had heard rumours that the National Guard (about 4,000 of them) had been placed on alert and were ready to march into Rajneeshpuram, we asked the journalists, many of whom we knew well, to stay around – to help protect us. The word Jonestown came up more often than felt comfortable.
Osho continued to speak mornings and evenings. Sitting in Rajneesh Mandir, he was flanked by two guards holding machine guns; they looked expressionless at the sannyasins sitting in the audience.
By end of September rumours were going around that Osho might be arrested. It sounded ludicrous and when a sannyasin asked a question in discourse about this rumour and for a comment by Osho, he answered,
“Aha! That’s really groovy. That’s the only experience I have missed in my life. And knowing that this is my last life, I would certainly want to be arrested. Make sure that I am handcuffed, because whenever I do anything, I do it totally.”
Little did we anticipate this could ever happen as our lives and work now evolved with new management, and Hasya as Osho’s secretary at the helm.
On October 27, Osho ended the morning discourse by answering the following question:
Beloved Master, Would you talk about Sheela and her gang?
My God! Such an old story. And you must be real lazy and late to ask such a question. I can talk about Adam and Eve – that is far more fresh. But I do not want to waste my time and your time about Sheela and her gang. It is finished.
In the late afternoon on that day I was at the office when suddenly a journalist from the Chicago Tribune came running in, shouting he needed a phone line. I pointed him in the right direction and listened incredulously to what he was yelling into the phone, “The Bhagwan is leaving!”
He told me that two Lear jets were standing at the airport and soon after I heard one of them take off and then shortly after the second with Osho inside.
I heard late in the night that Osho had landed in Charlotte and been arrested; I was shocked yet I had a job to do. I went down to our communal living room with lists of journalists’ names and phone numbers and began making phone calls, starting with “Bhagwan has been arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina.” We hoped that a huge media presence in Charlotte would make a difference and protect him. I think some other Twinkies must have been doing the same in their houses but cannot remember.
The next day, at Mirdad, we saw the footage on what had gone down in Charlotte on TV. It seemed too absurd, just like a movie, yet inexplicably real. It was so very painful to see Osho in this situation and us not being able to do anything about it. For the next 12 days I was deeply concerned he could be killed by the authorities, in particular when we lost track of him and not even his lawyers could find out where he was being held.
The media went wild again. We had so many press clippings coming in! Every day was so intense and I cannot remember many details.
When Osho finally was brought to Portland, he was released on bail and returned to Rajneeshpuram on November 8. It was dark, when he was driven home and, at the roadside, I saw him smiling, looking incredibly frail and almost transparent. It hurt to see how his body must have suffered.
Five days later D-day arrived. Osho left Rajneeshpuram for the last time and was flown to Portland where he was sentenced while maintaining his innocence. The next day we huddled in front of the TV and saw Osho walk up the steps to the plane that would take him to India. As a background theme the station had chosen the music from ‘I’m leaving on a jet plane’, which made us smile and cry at the same time. At the entrance he turned – a strong breeze stirred his long beard, he smiled, lifted his right hand in a last greeting and then stepped inside.
It was stunning. For a long time, nobody talked.
And then it was all about winding down the Ranch. Visitors were still coming, we did tours, answered their questions while nobody could answer ours. We heard Osho was in Kulu Manali and I was glad he was back in India. While an exodus began of so many friends leaving I was still undecided.
One morning though I woke up and said to myself, you are going to Zurich to be with Anatto – in spite of not being eager to live in Europe, in spite of not knowing how it would be to live with him and where, because he was a member of the Zurich commune; but my heart knew.
I left beginning of December, immensely grateful to Osho, for the incredible time I had spent in Rajneeshpuram, for all the learning and experiences, for all the joy, for all the friends I knew.