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Kids in Orange

Some seventeen years ago now I was a sort of do-it-all kid's worker in the English Medina commune. At different times playing the role of teacher, houseparent, organiser and, sometimes, one-day Headmaster, at least for Her Majesty's Visiting Inspectors! In the course of around two years I got to know about thirty children rather well. However the truth was that some (but not all) disliked being in the commune, and pined for their Kibbutznik parents. Some of course were more than happy to 'escape' their parents! Others however were not, and adopted various strategems to psychologically survive. So the real picture was far from the glossy brochure image in which the commune seemed full of radiantly happy kids. Some of them wern't so happy.
The commune myth, (not only spread in sannyas communes) that it's much better to have two hundred mums and dads than a nuclear family can look foolish when no one is taking responsibility for cutting a child's fingernails!

One little chap called Yogesh (Tim Guest) fitted those who seemed ill at ease in commune life. He spent most of his time curled up in various places in the commune or kid's house with a book or comic, seeming to miss his parents, though he never said, and with one close sort of intellectual friend. The most animated I saw him or his friend was when I tried to give them a lesson on cosmology, and their enthusiam was a sheer pleasure (at least to me as the teacher!). The second most animation I saw in Yogesh was when I took them "out of the commune" to a caravan where his friend's father and girlfriend used to live down the road. I think they both felt, oddly enough, more real there.

"Medina Children at Play, 1983"

So it was with some curiosity that I hear that this "little chap" has now written a book, about to be published by Granta (in January, 04) called "My Life in Orange". An extract can be read on the web at the Granta site http://www.granta.com/extracts/1878 and an even more interesting extract at Tim's own site

http://www.timguest.net/heaven/heavenexcerpt.htm. From the evidence of these extracts it looks like a good read, especially for anyone interested in the history of the communes under Osho, and also for those who dont shirk an honest account of a then disempowered child.

What was most riveting for me about the second extract is his account of the Medina children's "meeting" with Osho's then Secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, in July, 1984, a meeting which I was also called to attend, as were all the English kid's workers. As Sheela in my view basically betrayed Osho and the whole movement it is pertinent to recall the whole autocracy of the so-called event. At first a groundless attack on one teenage child for taking drugs — even when she herself was taking all sorts of drugs as it has emerged later, and the draconian punishment of the English commune.... Medina (which she apparently saw as a threat), she robbed of one source of its joy... all the children were to remain on the Ranch indefinitely, as they were not good sannyasins and had to be "re-schooled'! Well it also robbed me a job I sort of loved, but then I told myself at the time that's attachment!!

What was more heartrending was the fact that the children then seemed so lost. I saw them wandering around the Ranch, which was so big to what they were used to, trying to find their friends, and unable to find their feet with some of the Ranch kids, who on the whole they found elitist.

Tim Guest does good justice to his experience of life as a commune child in an autocratic, but also loving society. Tim all the best of luck for your career as a writer, and with this book.

Parmartha (Ed. sannyasnews.com)