From barren to blooming

Remembering Here&Now

Rashid remembers the beginnings of the Nalla Park / Osho Teerth Park project, now one of the places-to-visit in Pune.

Rashid and Dr Barucha
Thirty years later, just before lockdown, Dr Bharucha and Rashid looking at the nest of the Spotted Owlet.

The value of this project is that it stemmed from meditation. We did not attempt the ‘old’ mind that inevitably destroys; rather we were working with the new awareness that arises out of meditation.

It was a delight, an honour and a challenge. I had been called into the office (a dread phrase in the Ranch days but not so in Poona ll) and charged with turning the barren, shit-spattered wasteland behind the ashram into a place of beauty, a reserve for humans, fauna and flora. It was January of 1989.

The first endeavours must be exploration and research of the contours and scale, shape, climate, access and, importantly, the quality (or lack of quality) of soil and water.

The few plants and trees that already existed on the 18-acre, 8-hectare site were in survival mode, a few Neem trees predated by man and various bushes by goats. The soil was overgrazed and compacted by hooves. The stream or nalla itself, constrained by concrete walls, was in reality a sewer from the adjacent upstream slums and an oil dump from the railway marshalling yard.

At this early stage we referred to it as The Nalla Park although later, in all it’s splendour, it was named Osho Teerth in honour of Osho’s father. As many readers will remember, it was a long narrow strip of land perhaps 70 m wide by 900 m long with the stream zig-zagging through the middle. To the east and west it is bounded by the backs and gardens of elegant Koregaon Park mansions and to the north the main Koregaon Park road with its small bridge and to the south the railway lines and shunting yards, the sounds from which can be heard as background to most of Osho’s discourses.

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Over the weeks of walking its bounds, ideas began to form; the two most important of which must be the exclusion of livestock by fencing each end and the second the clean-up of the nalla.

I researched available literature and came up with the plans for building a set of toilets in the upstream slum and then, at the nalla’s entry to our site, built 3 ‘reception’ pools. The first would slow down the flow of water, allowing faecal matter to sink and also allow a few graded grills to trap the rafts of plastic waste. This pool would be pump-dredged on a regular basis.

The next pool would skim off the oil and by the use of certain plants (for example those that trap heavy metals and chemical toxins) begin the purification process. The third pool would use sand and gravel beds, fountains and oxygenating plants to so clarify the water that it would be drinkable. Well that was the ambition…

Now sketches and drawings began to emerge. The macro plan laid out avenues of Gulmohar and Jacaranda trees, occasional long vistas, dense belts of forest and bamboo clumps with secret glades. Within that framework smaller features would appear with rock formations and gardens; a rose garden, an Islamic garden, an Italian garden, a Japanese garden, an English garden, a water garden and a garden in the air (orchids hanging from a high steel archway).

Always it was planned that all plants would be endemic to the area so that the ecology should not be disturbed by non-native species.

During that whole year of planning I never thought about high or low maintenance, I assumed our commune would endure for ever.

Towards the end of the year, word came to me that Osho had asked about dolphins, fresh-water dolphins . This escalated a whole new envisioning of the scheme – to make all of Koregaon Park a nature reserve against the already pervasive air pollution.

With Osho everything is possible. A great mile wide dome was envisaged that would span the whole of Koregaon Park, the streets would be turned into waterways teeming with aquatic life and transport would be underground in vacuum powered shuttles. If only…

Sometime in December of 1989 an unfortunate delay occurred. Early one morning Australian Sw Sarvo and I were surveying with poles and theodolite the fall of the land to determine the placing of pools, check dams and a natural course for the stream. We were hailed by a resident from his contiguous garden. What are you doing? Surveying. Why? To turn this wasteland into a park. What are your names? Rashid and Sarvo. Are you Muslims? No. You are Muslim and we’ll put a stop to your business!

Our inquisitor, it turned out, was a retired Indian Air Force general who had enough clout and contacts to delay the project for a few months. Our response was to print and circulate to all the neighbours a colourful map of the intended work. After all, one of the reasons for this project was to build bridges between the ashram and our wider neighbourhood.

Osho left his body on 19th January.

The project was still being reviewed by the municipal authorities. We had a nursery full of sapling trees and shrubs, folders full of plans and botanical research yet I felt to remain no longer. I handed everything to Sw Neehar currently providing the ashram with organic vegetables through the participation of a few local farmers.

My impulse had always been to always be with Osho. Now that he had left the body I could be with him intangibly in the rural island of Mallorca.

This series on the Osho Teerth Park will be continued…

Rashid

Rashid is a painter and poet, keeps bees, designs buildings and landscapes for sacred use. He is the author of The Only Life: Osho, Laxmi and a Journey of the Heartrashidmaxwell.com

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