PLAYING FOR OSHO (Entries from my diaries 1989) Part 2
Exquisite singing drifted into my room this morning. Knocking on the door of the flat next door, I discover Pranati Mhatre (disciple of reputed classical singer Veena Shastrebudhe), on a visit from Bombay and doing her riyaaz. We hit it off immediately and I spent the rest of the morning rushing around the Ashram, single-handedly arranging a concert for her tonight. Plus buying maroon coloured robes, which are from now on to be worn during the day inside the Ashram.
Flat and depressed after a bad sleep, and with strained muscles from early morning Dynamic meditation, I avert my eyes from the naked female bodies in the shower before White Robe Brotherhood, filled with both fascination and repulsion from these so-different creatures.
Unaccountably unable to feel anything as Osho conducted the rest of Buddha Hall through catharsis, or do anything but daydream through the silent meditation in his presence. Afterwards I was told that tabla player Latif Ahmed Khan died in Delhi today. Sadness washed over me, remembering the connection I felt with him and his wonderful humour in UK last year when I was helping record him and Gurdev for an LP release.
Chinmaya and his sarod mentioned in our Ashram newspaper The Rajneesh Times!
It was my turn to be given a ‘front row’ seat (a privilege for full time workers and eminent visitors). Actually I was behind four rows of ‘bigwigs’, but still right in front of the podium. Osho’s huge eyes boring into us all and his clasped hands rising and falling to the beat; the wall of sound from the Oshoba band; the chaotic ascent to the repeated shouted “YA-HOO”s – after all this the sudden silences are like hammer blows to the thought processes. For one, blissful moment it is simply impossible to continue them.
New sign going up on front gate: OSHO COMMUNE INTERNATIONAL. Bye-bye Ashram then.
Shekhar shows his confidence in me by asking me to perform at his party next Saturday.
At the end of this afternoon’s kirtan practice (at which Sadhana had been confusing me by telling me to stop when I was playing, and then asking “why aren’t you playing?” whenever I stopped) a shock of black dreadlocks, a sweet smell and a curly Italian accent suddenly nestled up against me. Cute Manisa joined in the general laughter as Sadhana accused me of “not playing in the here and now”. An hour of romping and tickling later, I was on a hormone high, reconnected to a part of me that’s been sleeping for months. We made a date to connect after the theatre performance tonight (Neil Simon’s ‘Rumors’). She showed up alright, but looking distracted, and a mention of needing to spend time with her boyfriend sent me disappointed home alone.
September 4th Monday
Music Fair set up on the junctions of paths outside Krishna House, right outside our Accounts office. A chance for the Commune’s many musicians to strut their stuff more publicly. Such a beautiful tuning between Manish and me as we played, even though there’s an almost twenty-year age difference. Ecstatic feedback afterwards, I was flying around the Ashram, buzzed out – blissed in – on the energy of it. Accounts Department applauded when I showed up to work a while later.
On the coming Friday and Saturday mornings I’m invited by guitarist Vidroha Jamie to play for two live one-hour dance meditations. Kirtan group want me on the Friday night and it’s Shekhar’s party on the Saturday. Then Wednesday next week I’m booked for an evening Buddha Hall classical performance, dueting with Pradeep. The following weekend I’ll be one of the facilitators of an ‘Introduction to Indian Music’ group. As anyone while leading any meditation or group is required by Osho to wear a black robe (all these different coloured robes are getting confusing!) I’ll have to do so during the daytime while the group is on. But black robes endow the wearer with their own kind of status, associated with high-profile, overfull-of-themselves therapists, and what do I want with that kind of projection? It’s only a music group, I unsuccessfully protest.
A tentative little vision came to me today: Osho will use me to go out into the world with this music to spread his message. Hmm, I reflect. If so, I’ll do it without making a big fuss!
September 6th to 11th
(From my roof at midnight)
“I am flying high and fast
Although sometimes I look down and wobble
I feel like a meteor streaking
Across a sky full of friendly stars”
How to fall in love a dozen times in five days:
Japanese Okinawan folk/rock legend Upanishad and his band are on their yearly visit. Wednesday night they are in concert and I’m dancing away madly like everyone else when that bunch of Italian dreadlocks suddenly buries itself in my neck behind me. In a flash she launches herself up onto my shoulders and there she stays for ages, clutching my head and laughing away.
Next day at kirtan practice Sadhana has to send someone over to get Manisa to stop distracting me with her cuddles. Our group is joined by Akarasha, the band’s shamisen player. There’s an immediate ‘click’ between him and me, with each acknowledging the others exotic stringed instrument. I’m charmed by the way his typically inscrutable, expressionless face, focused rock-steady on the beat, suddenly looks up and breaks into a smile.
Friday, Jamie bases the live dance meditation he has organized around a theme of mine that pops out at rehearsal. After lunch I meet him in the street: “I love your goofy cartoon smile, Jamie”. His reply: “You bring it out in me, man!”
Saturday, I played Raga Desh at Shekhar’s party. Nervous of course, performing in front of my teacher and an audience who knows what’s what! Lots of mistakes: failing to hit the sum (vital first beat of the rhythm cycle); fluffing the fast jhalla at the end. Shekhar was very gracious about my efforts afterwards.
So, all weekend spent hanging out with the Japanese band and its gaggle of juicy girl singers. Such heart and laughter, digging out remembered Japanese words and jokes from my time there eight years ago. Sunday night I went to join them at their Nehru Stadium gig in Pune city. Barely half an hour into their performance and just as I’m about to join them on stage, the curtain suddenly descends. Indian confusion, no explanations given, the concert is over. Leaving the venue to return to the Commune, packed into their minibus, they all shout “Chinmaya, you must squeeze in too!” Monday morning, their leaving day, Samajo and I present Akarasha with the new sarod he has bought, and which we have spent hours fixing up and restringing for him. After who knows how many hand clasps and hugs farewell, I’m in a rickshaw heading away from the Commune front gate, when he leaps after it to present me with a rose.
For the first solo part of Pradeep and my Buddha Hall performance, with a super-supportive Manish on tabla, I chose a composition in Raga Darbari Kannada I learned in London. An ambitious choice this, as it’s known as a ‘difficult’ raga, with many temptations to stray off into closely related ragas. For long moments I disappear completely into the music, so while playing there is only the sound and the sarod. I come out of it to find myself charged with energy yet at the same time drained, intensely satisfied yet somehow empty. I begin to feel the true confidence of a performer now.
Shekhar tells me: “I’m giving you all the secrets, you know?” He’s disillusioned with the Hindustani classical music scene in Pune and wants me to acknowledge how, unlike so many teachers, he’s not being stingy with sharing what he knows. Manisa has been ignoring me and has been nowhere near my bed for days, so for the past two evenings I’ve stayed home and practiced all evening so as be on top form for my next lesson with him.
Finally tonight I got to play for Osho with the Oshoba band! No rehearsal or preparation given; I just squeeze myself in next to a mike amidst the massed percussionists. Nivedano stays riveted on a tiny TV screen, which shows him a close-up of Osho’s face as we are lead through wild catharsis. He takes his every cue from that face, his arm shooting back to indicate I should play, then abruptly signalling stop, then play again…..I fall quickly into a daze. The drumming means I can anyway hardly hear a note I play; and my eyes are roaming uncontrollably from Osho’s face on the screen to his figure up front on the podium, to Nivedano’s waving arm and to my own fumbling hands on my sarod. After Osho leaves the HalI, I collapse into sleep during the video, vacant and hollowed out. Walking out before the video has finished, I bump straight into Manisa right outside the Hall, my heart skipping a beat before my mind even properly recognizes her. We do a split second dance a few yards apart before she veers away and, silent and calm inside, I too am moving on.
The flirting of the past few days with German R at Accounts, which has so much more grounded feel than all that airy nonsense with Manisa, may be turning into something deeper…….
Osho moved back to his old bedroom a couple of weeks ago leaving the new Chang Tzu bedroom and luxurious marble bathroom for the Commune to use. I’ve barely felt like playing in the ten days since that night with the Oshoba band, so I welcome the invitation to participate there with Jamie in a neo-Zen energy group (led by Avirbhava, who Osho has titled as ‘high priestess’ – which will probably turn out to be one of his jokes). Jamie and I arrive to set up our gear before anyone else and so are alone there when I find myself suddenly under urgent pressure. Thus, apart from the man himself, I may be the first and last person ever to take a dump in Osho’s toilet, for when the group does start, it is made clear that the bathroom is out of bounds and we are all to use a toilet down the hallway!
I ask Neelam to send my “The Great Day” book (a utopian story I wrote and illustrated in coloured pencil in Devon last year) to Osho to look at. She pores over it carefully in her office before agreeing. Now I nervously await his comments.
Shekhar: his laughter and jokes, the trust with which he shares his musical discoveries with me, his delight when I (occasionally!) get things just right! Sometimes I’m with him for three hours for what is supposed to be a one-hour lesson.
This evening it was his home performance, a hearty gathering mainly for extended family and students. I played more confidently this time accompanied on tabla by his uncle Shashi (who famously played with Ravi Shankar in the ‘60s), a most easy-going old fella, and sharing the stage with singer Pranati. She and I will perform together in the Commune in three weeks time. Shekhar himself plays the finale, showing off all the dazzling musical inventions he has come up with over the years.
Osho’s response comes back on another little slip of paper. How blind could I have been! The disciple yearns for recognition and approval. The Master simply isn’t involved in such games. He sees straight to the heart of what’s missing. Unless humans learn to take responsibility, there’s going to be no instant saviour. My book goes back onto its dusty shelf!
Oct 1st to 3rd
How rich are my days!
In the past seventy-two hours I’ve: played sarod sound effects kabuki-style for a daytime butoh dance group and for their show last night; performed Raga Mishra Mand (plundered, with deepest respect, from Ali Akbar Khan’s outstanding LP recording) at the Music Fair; and done kirtan with the Indian group. I’ve also been planning future workshops, classes and programmes with Neelam and Sadhana. Plus found time for two lessons with Shekhar!
At Accounts I’m continuing my increasingly elaborate decorations on the spines of files with a series of cat pictures. I’m reminded that these files will disappear into vaults once the tax audit is done and are unlikely to be ever seen again. Somehow I don’t mind.
As I take my front seat tonight, the girl sitting next to me turns to me and asks: “You’re that magic musician, aren’t you?”
Now I can find a moment to write again. R had to leave for Germany just ten days after she and I started our love affair. Now I’m writing to tell her all about this amazing Meera show which has just opened.
It’s based on stories that Osho has told about the life of the enlightened female mystic Meera. Sadhana has composed the melodies and sings Meera’s poems, while I’m part of the band to accompany her. Thirty or so actors and dancers, a live monkey, plus the old snake charmer from the street outside the Commune, act out the stories. All of us are dressed up in traditional Rajasthani clothes of five hundred years ago. While the audience settles down before the show proper begins, Shri Hari and I are given the honour of entertaining them. It’s the event of year and will have a ten-day run. Commune bigwigs like Osho’s secretary Anando and spiritual therapist Kaveesha are all raving about it and Osho himself is sending out strong messages of support and blessing for it.
Including other events, I’m playing from four to seven hours every day now; it feels like I’m emptying into silence through music.
Photo session in black robes for facilitating music groups as part of the new Creative Arts Department.
Tonight Osho asks us to replace our ‘YA-HOO!’s with ‘OSHO!’s and explains that it is a mantra, not a name that we are shouting. Interesting because I’d noticed last night how for our ‘Ya-hoos’, he had been all softness, not pushing us to the usual craziness. I’d wept and laughed simultaneously at the simple yet touching chord progression, the beauty of our gathering in white.
“Up in the hills on the edge of Pune at Katraj Ghat, with Sri Hari and Kabir. Kabir’s flute sounding across the silent grasslands into range upon range of mountains purple against the sunset; an ancient banyan on the way to the top, grown over a crumbling watchtower that must mark the old horse and cart track over the pass into the city. Apart from the Calcutta trip, it’s the first time I’ve left Pune in almost a year. It’s now been five weeks since R left. “Believe me my friend, my nights are spent in counting the stars” (Rumi)”.
From mid-October my diary ends with that one last isolated entry in November.
I remember that R arrived back in early December and we turned into a couple. On the 17th January 1990, Osho tottered out to be with us briefly in Buddha Hall for what turned out to be the last time. Two days later, she and I were making love at home around sunset when a rickshaw driver I had become friendly with shouted my name repeatedly from the street below. “Not now, Vijay!” I bellowed back. ‘Chinmaya-ji” he called, “You don’t understand. Your Osho has died!”
I feel so lucky that I was able to rush to Buddha Hall in time to be there when they brought his body in. And to spend half that night amidst the ecstatic singing and drumming at the burning ghats. The next day in the Commune was for all of us a day of quiet, stunned reflection. Shortly afterwards R and I left to see if there might be a future for us in Byron Bay, Australia.
There wasn’t; and it was Munich, Germany where we arrived in March 1990 to begin a new life. Serendipitously this was also the city that some of my closest musical connections of the past year also chose after Pune, notably Prem Joshua, Vidroha Jamie and founders of Tao Music (later renamed New Earth Records) Bhikkhu and Waduda. That summer I would make with them ‘Terra Incognita – No Goal But the Path’, my first of the long line of CDs I would record over the following years with friends and contacts made at the Osho Commune.
We were joined in Munich by others who I had not associated so closely with in my time in Pune, including Karunesh and Anugama, already well known then as pioneers of New Age music. Many of us used to play together on a Sunday morning at the flourishing Osho center in the city. Incredibly, I can count almost a dozen of us who went on from those informal Sunday sessions to establish themselves as recording artists during the next few years on sannyasin-run record labels. Today, names like Deva Premal and Prem Joshua still lead many genres in the ‘spiritual’ music scene worldwide. Thanks to my Good Ship sarod, I have been privileged to be counted amongst them as part of the miraculous explosion of creativity unleashed around the world by Osho’s sannyasins after he left his body.