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The past is orange: How a boy survived Osho

SUDIPTA DATTA

Posted: Feb 20, 2004 at 0013 hrs IST

It's a postcard from the past, and one the Osho ashram here may not rave about. A former inmate who was shunted from one Rajneesh ashram to another, in Pune, Suffolk, Cologne and Oregon, four times in as many years, has written a memoir, My Life In Orange, about his lonely and difficult childhood — and its effect on his life. Published by Granta and out in the UK, the book will be released in India soon.

In 1979, when Tim Guest was four, he found his mother dyeing all clothes orange one day. She had become a Bhagwan Rajneesh believer. Two years later, he arrived at the Osho ashram in Pune with his mother, who was being trained to run a commune, Medina Rajneesh, back home in England.

He vividly remembers the colours — and the freedom. At first things were all right, but as he lost touch with his mother, life became a struggle. ‘‘There were adults everywhere who kept an eye out for us — the commune was supposed to be our family — but I wanted someone to whom I was special, and my mother was often away.’’

Most of the time, Tim was on his own, often jumping off rickshaws without paying, so he could drink orange juice or mango pulp. One morning, he woke up at his mother’s friends’ apartment (‘‘my mother was elsewhere with a man she was seeing’’).

Isolated from his mother, Tim clung to his Lego, the only thing he could call his own. He saw Rajneesh twice: ‘‘The day before we were due to go home to England from Pune, I saw Bhagwan talking with a woman. He saw me, smiled and beckoned me; I ran away.’’ And, later, at his Oregon city, ‘‘I caught his eye as he drove past and felt a kind of coldness which scared me.’’

Not long after, the worldwide Osho movement began to break apart.

So what effect did the sexual exploration around him have on Tim? ‘‘As a boy, I did not really notice most of what went on. While writing the book, I discovered some aspects of it.’’

The commune life took its toll. At 15, Tim was drinking and hooked to drugs; he was angry with his mother and Rajneesh. Tim hid behind books, and later took a psychology degree from Sussex University and a Masters in creative writing from the University of East Anglia.

Now, he has reconnected with his family, and sees Rajneesh as ‘‘a loveable rogue who got away with doing his own thing.’’ He has also reclaimed his childhood, ‘‘which was somewhere in between Peter Pan and Lord of the Flies, and ‘‘reached a point where I can be grateful for the world that made me without resenting the difficult times.’’

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