Sometime in April of 1988, soon after Vaani and I had decided to start a Life together, we visited Muttukadu, on ECR, in Chennai. We saw an open top Maruti Gypsy parked near the bridge there. I had barely started working as a sub-Editor, on a salary of Rs.782 per month, at The (New) Indian Express. But I was ambitious. And I loved the way the Gypsy looked. So, I stood next to it, pointed to the car and told Vaani, “Someday, we will buy this car for ourselves!” And she instinctively captured this picture on a Hot Shot (remember that magic device?) camera – perhaps for me to pause and reflect on Life lesson this morning…!
He was not just an actor to me, he was a signboard that appeared suddenly saying, “This way, please…!”
Vinod Khanna passed on yesterday, at 70, claimed by, I am told, bladder cancer. Like many, many out there, I loved him too. As I told Vaani just now over coffee, “The sense of loss is deeply personal. Jaise Koi Apna Chala Gaya Ho…” I never got to meet or speak to him though. The only time I came face-to-face with him was in 1993. That chance encounter changed my Life forever.
This is how it happened.
The year was 1994. I was living in Bangalore and working with Business Today magazine. I was assigned to do a cover story on “Service Quality”. And that took me to Mumbai where I had several meetings set up with CEOs to understand how their teams were responding to the challenges of measuring and delivering customer delight. I had been trying to get a meeting with R.C.Bhargava, then Chairman & MD of Maruti Udyog (now Maruti Suzuki), in Delhi (where I was to travel next) to get his views for my story. Ramesh Krishnan, Maruti’s then PR Head, told me to come to the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, one evening as Maruti was launching its popular 1000 cc variant, the Esteem. He said I could be part of the launch and meet Bhargava. It turned out that Ratan Tata was launching the Maruti model. And so, almost everyone who was someone in Mumbai was there. I got to meet Bhargava for a brief while. And he agreed to meet me again in his office in Delhi. As I was leaving, Ramesh offered to walk down the stairs, with me, to the street. As we exited the Regal Room at the Taj, and started climbing down the stairs, in an awkward moment, when I came in their way, Vinod Khanna, flanked by sons Rahul and Akshaye, looked right into my eyes. They were coming up and we were going down. For a few seconds we all stood unsure of which way to move and who should make way for whom. After the momentary hiccup, I quickly made way for the Khannas and they went in to join the event that I was leaving.
As we continued walking down, Ramesh whispered to me, almost as if it was the most precious piece of information he was parting with, “Did you know that Vinod Khanna is Osho’s disciple?”
“Osho? Who’s Osho? I thought Vinod Khanna was part of some sex ashram in Pune led by a man called Rajneesh,” I quipped.
Ramesh laughed and clarified to me that Osho and Rajneesh were the same person. I tucked away that information.
I hadn’t heard the name Osho at all. I had known of Rajneesh though – vaguely. But something happened that day – either it was the magnetism in Osho’s name or it was the fact that it was Vinod Khanna who was his disciple. Whatever it was, I was drawn towards Osho and I started reading up on him. The internet wasn’t around then. So information was not so easy to get. Besides, there was this unnecessary, misguided, feeling of shame that I harbored in me – that acknowledging openly that I was an Osho follower meant that I was declaring my interest in his “free sex movement”. It was a ridiculous reasoning I gave myself, but that’s the way it was. So, for the longest time, I was a closet Osho follower.
I have immersed myself in Osho’s Life and teachings since 2004. I find him simple, practical and unputdownable. By then, the internet had arrived and accessing Osho’s thoughts was so easy.
Every morning, during my mouna sessions (daily silence periods), I would devor Osho’s views on Life. My personal favorite is his book – Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. Going through a tumultuous, scary, phase – our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) – I found his perspective invaluable. Courage, he said, is not the absence of fear; but it is the total presence of fear with the courage to face it. I derived great clarity reading Osho. His other point about how, when there is no relating between people, then there is no point in them being in a relationship, really helped me make peace with myself over my relationships in my dysfunctional family, particularly with regard to the one I have with my mother. And the way he taught me to let go of debilitating emotions – anger, grief, guilt, hatred, worry, anxiety, fear; not by advising that I run away from them, but learning to hold them, examine them, and understand their futility. He says, do whatever you want, but do it fully. Which is why he encouraged free sex – as a means of unbridled human expression, of love, of uniting with the Universe’s energy. He says that suppressing or resisting anything will only lead to suffering. To be sure, Osho has empowered me to live a full Life, free from suffering. If Shirdi Baba taught me Faith and Patience, if I learnt the value of living in the moment from Swami Sathya Sai Baba, it was Osho who taught me to celebrate its beauty and to train my mind so that it doesn’t run back to cling to the dead past or race forward to worry about an unborn future. I am inspired speaker and writer today only because of the first-hand experience I have of intelligent living. And that experience may have never happened hadn’t Osho really, figuratively, held my hand and my soul, and taught me that intelligent living is downright commonsensical and simple. Interestingly, the title of my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal, is inspired by a story that Osho used to tell his followers!
And, I may have well never have heard of Osho for a long, long time, unless I hadn’t come in Vinod Khanna’s way that night at the Mumbai Taj. They say everything – and everyone – happens for a reason. So, to me, Vinod Khanna, is not just an actor who I watched and adored as I was growing up. To me, Vinod Khanna was that important signboard on my journey that appeared suddenly saying: “This way, please…!” And that was the way of Osho, of living free, of living dangerously, and of living happily despite the circumstances!