This review is an open letter to Ma Anand Sheela, the author of By My Own Rules. I had earlier read her book Don’t Kill Him way back in 2013. I loved reading it and went on to interview her over email. She was candid and honest with her answers. I feel I can have a conversation with her, even though we have interacted just once on email many years ago.
Namaste Sheela ji,
I am not sure if you remember interacting with me in 2013 after your book Don’t Kill Him was released in India. I remember it very vividly. I have interacted with hundreds of authors of all kinds, but you stand out in my memory for various reasons. You are one of the most professional among all the authors. You were prompt and honest in your replies. You did not throw tantrums and stuck to your deadline. You were kind enough to invite me to visit your community in Switzerland. I have all intentions to meet you as and when I visit Switzerland, hopefully once the pandemic is behind us.
So, when I came to know of your new book, with an intriguing title ‘By My Own Rules’ which I understand is how you have lived your life, I had to read it. I like the way you have divided the book into different life lessons you have gathered. Chapters are crisp and convey the point you want to make.
You talk about your connection with Bhagwan Rajneesh or Osho in this book, but it is primarily about your second innings in Switzerland. I assume there is more to your leaving the commune than just the drug consumption by its protagonist. If I remember correctly it was his excessive greed for luxury that you mentioned made it impossible for you to carry on.
Buy By My Own Rules By Ma Anand Sheela on Amazon
You talk extensively about setting your care homes in the country of your citizenship. What I enjoyed reading was the fact that you could leverage your learnings from setting up the Commune in America to build and scale up your community. I learned about your lovely relationship with your parents. The story of your mother wanting to look good for your father even in the hospital is heart-warming. But, you left the story of your sister Rekha midway in Mauritius. I wanted to hear about your daughter and your relationship with her before, during, and after your imprisonment. Especially, because you do share a photograph of her wedding.
Having said that, I must admit that reading about your Osho era is more interesting than reading about the stories of setting up care homes. As a lay reader who admires you based on personal interaction, I must say I wanted far more from the book. Even in the care home stories, I wanted you to speak more about death – as I am sure you see a lot of them in your care home. I wanted some more enduring stories of people living together, helping each other. I understand, there might have been a legal angle in not sharing personal details. But you could have used a bit of fiction to protect identities.
Your travails with Swiss authorities gave me some solace that governments work the same way everywhere. We always tend to think our government is the worst. At the same time, I found that part of your story not really fitting into the rest of ‘By My Own Rules’.
There was a lot of media buzz around your India visit. I was hoping to meet you but guess that would be another time. I did not know you were visiting India after decades. I wonder why India did not figure in your travel plans? Especially when it is best known as the sacred space, your own land, and the land of your Bhagwan.
You have lived an extraordinary life, full of ups and downs in the public eye, with everyone judging you through their own lenses. What I find inspiring in your story is your recreating your own life after you lost everything you had, from the community you built to people you loved to your standing in society. To resurrect a life not just for yourself but for those who need your care and love is incredible. It is bound to inspire many.
I do not know who is to be blamed and who is to be believed between you and the followers of Osho. But I have huge respect for you for having rebuilt your life with so much dignity. I would love to read your birth chart sometime to see what planets gave you such a rollercoaster ride.
Lots of Love
Read More – Open Letter to Nandan Nilekani