The long distance call was from Osho’s commune in Pune. On the line was the Editor of Osho Times, Amrit Sadhana. From the voice I could not tell if she was Indian or a foreigner. The name could belong to any nationality, as when they became disciples of Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho) he gave them new names. She was coming to Delhi the next day to present me with their latest publication Body Mind Balancing: A Guide to Making Friends with Your Body. I told her she would be welcome if she arrived punctually at 4 p.m.
She did on the dot of time, accompanied by a handsome young man with a camera. She was also easy on the eye but I was not sure whether she was Indian or foreign: she could have been Italian or Latin American. "Where are you from?" I asked her.
"So you are a Maharashtrian"
She nodded her head. Like most Osho’s women disciples, she was well-turned out with a necklace and earstuds sparkling with diamonds.
"What made you join Osho’s commune? Were you unhappy? Are you married? Any children?"
Osho’s disciples do not like to be questioned about their past. She dodged my questions by replying: "I didn’t marry; I was given away in marriage; I have two grown-up children; they are on their own."
I realised she was reluctant to be quizzed. "What is Osho’s new book about?"
She took it out of her handbag and waived it before me. "Before I give it to you, I will tell you what it says. The mind and body are closely related and not antagonistic towards each other as other religions depict them. They tell you to deprive the body of its needs by fasting and torture it to enrich the soul. Osho says exactly the opposite. Love your body, talk to it, share your problems with it and it will respond."
She proceeded to explain the words of Osho. "If I have a headache I ask my head: ‘Why are you angry with me that you are causing me pain?’ The pain may leave your head and go down to your shoulder. Then speak to your shoulder and ask it what has upset it. The pain will go down to your legs, to your feet and then disappear." She had a look of triumph on her face.
"Why not simply take an aspirin pill?" I asked.
"No good," she replied with a beaming smile. "Aspirin only makes pain subside for a while. It will come back again because the real cause of pain remains."
I did not buy that because with me aspirin works and my headaches do not come back for many days. However, I read Osho’s latest offering. Like everything else compiled from his sermons, it is very readable combining profound wisdom with naughty anecdotes.
You get the feeling that though he has been gone for some years, he is talking to you. I quote a few lines from an early sermon:
"The right time never comes".
"It is not a story only about one poor man. It is the story of millions of people, of almost all. They are all waiting for the right moment, the right constellation of stars... They are delving into astrology, going to the palmist, inquiring in different ways about what is going to happen tomorrow.
"Tomorrow does not happen — it never has happened. It is simply a stupid strategy of postponement.
"What happens is always today."
Kundan Lal Saigal died on January 18, 1947, i.e. 58 years ago. However, his voice lives to this day because no one before or after him had so rich a tone as his. I, who never was one for the cinema, saw Tansen in my college days in Lahore 14 times — not because of the story but to hear Saigal sing. He was no great actor; he was passably handsome; his talent for acting was limited, but his rendering of ghazals more than made up for his other shortcomings. I never got to meet him but heard a lot about him from my cousin Balwant who met him often and shared his passion for Scotch. Saigal was a hard drinker.
Without ever having met him, I got to know a lot about him through his daughter Neena. We were for many years next-door neighbours in Colaba, Bombay. She was then married to a Muslim tailor-master named Merchant and lived with her family in a block of flats barely five yards away and on the same level as mine. She was a powerfully built attractive Punjaban. I fell for her when I saw her grab a fellow who had made a pass at her by his hair, slap him on the face and shower him with choicest Punjabi abuses. We became friends.
I looked forward to her dropping in on me when I was relaxing with my evening drink (She did not touch alcohol) and regale me with her exploits. She often talked about her family, her relationship with her parents and siblings.
She was not very comfortable with English so we always talked in Punjabi. Her portrayal of her father was vivid. He spent many hours of the day doing riyaaz (practice) going over every line of the ghazal he was singing may times till he got it absolutely right. And, of course, his returning home from the film studio dead drunk. She talked of him with great affection.
Neena did not make a happy marriage. Her husband took up a job in Hyderabad. She divorced him and stayed on in Bombay. She took on another husband, again a Muslim much younger than her. She come to see me in Delhi once. She was looking radiantly happy. Then she disappeared from my life. Somebody had to do a comprehensive biography of K.L. Saigal. Pran Nevile has done it at an enormous cost to himself. K.L. Saigal: Immortal Singer and Superstar is a massive-sized coffee tabler with rare photographs (one of Neena aged five). It has listed all the films in which he starred and the songs he made famous by his golden voice.
One thing that has baffled me about the disclosures following the arrest of the Seer of Kanchipuram is the huge mutt controlling scores of smaller temples with incomes running into hundreds of crores every year.
Surely this is not what Adi Sankaracharya, the greatest of Hindu thinkers, had in mind when he set up the four mutts to propagate his teachings. He was also the founding-father of the Bhakti Movement of which Sikhism is an offshoot. I quoted his immortal lines in my two volume History & Religion of the Sikhs (OUP) to prove the futility of institutionalising religion. They read as follows:
"O Lord! Pardon my three sins. I have in contemplation clothed thee in form, Thee that art formless; I have in praise described Thee who art ineffable; and in visiting temples I have often ignored Thy Omnipresence."
PM not AM
Santa asked his friend Banta: "Do you know why Dr Manmohan Singh goes to his office only in the afternoon? Why doesn’t he go to work in the morning like everyone else?"
Banta: "It is so simple. Because Manmohan is P.M., not A.M."
(Courtesy: Rakesh Kumar Sharma,