Author Archives: usindiamonitor
Editor’s Note: The following is a real firsthand account of unfortunate events involving someone I know, which happened in summer 2018. I have watched her grow up since she was born, and this story has filled me with anger. Even worse, she was not the only one. But her response deserves attention. She has courageously fought back against the holy priest and the management of the otherwise outwardly beautiful Mangueshi Hindu temple pictured above, visited by no less than former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter himself (!)
The story has received national media attention in India (links below).
It is high time that India sees the rise of its own powerful #MeToo movement and we are beginning to see the saplings grow as victims bravely engage the patriarchal and supposedly religious systems stacked against them. Ultimately, there is an uplifting future embodied below, if others are inspired to act.
A monumental victory was achieved yesterday, all thanks to my family for fighting tirelessly over the last month for my rights, a lot of strangers for their support, the media all over India who shone light on this issue, and the Indian legal system for ensuring that justice was served against a perpetrator who wronged me. I’m not one for sharing intimate life details with everyone on Facebook, but by my sharing this experience, I hope that others can avoid the same situation.
This past June when I was in India, my family and I made a day-trip by flight to Goa to visit our ancestral temple, as we have been doing at least once a year for as long as I can remember. Single women are not allowed in the innermost sanctum, so I have always sat and watched my parents and brother perform the rites inside. On this particular trip as I was sitting outside the sanctum, our family priest in his 50s, Dhananjay Bhave, beckoned me to the side, grabbed me, and attempted to kiss me. I turned my cheek and body away just in time to avoid him. I told my parents what had happened, and they confronted the priest who then admitted it and requested us not to escalate the matter.
Finding this to be completely repulsive and unacceptable, and yet wanting to preserve the reputation of our family temple, I sent a formal complaint to the management committee of the temple charging Bhave for his behavior, demanding he be fired, and pointing to the CCTV security footage from that area of the temple as evidence. THREE WEEKS later the committee responded saying they would not be taking any action and we were free to take up this case with the ‘relevant authorities’. During this time, we found out by chance that another 20-year old girl from Mumbai had filed a complaint against the same priest for a nearly identical incident 8 days prior to my visit, and had received the same noncommittal response from the temple management. The day after we received their response from the management, my mom filed a police report/ FIR on my behalf with the Goa Police, and a few days later the other girl also lodged another FIR.
Around this same time, the formal complaints which the both of us had written to the temple management went viral on WhatsApp to everyone in the community, and news sources picked it up. Overnight every regional news source in Goa and every national paper all over India was carrying the story. 10 days ago the matter went to court for the first time for Bhave’s bail, where his defense argued that me and the other girl must be conspiring together for publicity and to tarnish the reputation of the temple, and we had mistaken his gentlemanly affectionate behavior for something more sinister. Our public prosecutor argued that me and the other girl had never met (and have still never met) and could have no ulterior motives, and Bhave was already a HABITUAL offender and would possibly target many other girls while out on bail. Yesterday, the judge in Goa gave her verdict of DENYING Bhave’s bail. As of now, Bhave is ABSCONDING from arrest and is yet to go to jail where he now legally belongs. I don’t know where this case will go in the years to come, but for now this court ruling is a big victory for everyone who has been fighting for me and the other girl, and for all the girls who have undoubtedly faced similar experiences at his hands in silence, and the many more who would have suffered in the future if not for this ongoing case.
A few points that I want share about this entire experience for other girls who hopefully won’t, but one day may find themselves in a position similar to mine:
1. A lot of people asked why I didn’t yell or even hit him right when it happened. Or why my family didn’t file a police report in Goa the same day. In the moment, I reacted with shock because I have been raised to have utmost respect for the temple and our priests, and not question many practices associated with them. I was genuinely shocked about what was happening given that this is someone I have seen once a year while growing up. I needed time to process the incident, and my family needed time to decide on the best course of action. In hindsight while I could have reacted differently, I also believe that the actions that have taken place in the last month will have a more permanent impact on the running of the temple and putting a stop to such behavior.
2. “Is this honestly really even a big deal? These things happen all time. Why don’t you just forget about it and move on, that’ll be much easier.” This is actually what makes me the saddest, and is something I’ve heard mostly from women. The bottom line is that nobody can touch me ANYWHERE without my permission. Yes, it would have been easier for me to forget about this incident and move on, but the complacency we’ve come to have as women from facing these sorts of incidents regularly from passersby on commutes etc. is truly depressing. As a result, many women have become desensitized to being taken advantage of, and because most of the time no action is taken at all, repeat offenders continue to get away with it. In this case, Bhave’s perverted behavior stops with me, and I hope in due time, that we develop a no-tolerance policy to such behavior.
3. I have been very fortunate with a lot of factors in my favor: the good judgement to recognize that what was happening that day was in every way wrong, the education and support to take steps to stand up for myself, and that my family has taken this forward. I recognize that not everyone who experiences these things has these resources, but I HIGHLY encourage everyone to at least tell someone they trust. Information is power, and it is only because the secretary of the temple confused our two cases and accidentally told us about the other girl’s complaint that we were able to connect with her family and our case became twice as strong with our joint police reports. It was also by reading the Facebook post of another acquaintance a few years ago, that I remembered that perpetrators are discouraged from doing such acts not by harsh punishments, but by the fear of being caught. It is imperative to trust your gut about how a situation is going and call out such behavior.
4. “It’s a pure reformist attitude and these girls have links to America, and are broad-minded. They are not village girls. This is the new generation of girls” — If you can believe it, this was part of Bhave’s defense attorney’s statement AGAINST me in court. I never imagined these words would be used in a negative connotation, because honestly they sound like the biggest compliment anyone could have paid me. However, what he was implying was that we were too educated and too bold for our own good. Little did he expect that these are the very factors that have now determined that his client belongs in jail.
5. This point should not even bear mentioning, but since it has become a point of debate: A lot of people have questioned what I was wearing that day. Just to clarify, whether it was a prom dress or a saree, Hindu priests never, ever touch any part of a woman’s body. As it happens, the priest’s traditional dress is a simple silk cloth around his waist, and I was wearing a traditional salwar kameez and was covered from head to toe as I am when I visit any holy place, but as I said this detail is totally irrelevant to the case. On a similar note, many (including Bhave’s defense) questioned the caste of the other girl and whether she should have been allowed into the temple in the first place. I can’t even bear to get into how it doesn’t change the actions that the managing committee should have taken when they first received our formal complaints.
6. Lastly, although I took the first step of writing a formal complaint to the temple committee, every step taken in this process since then has been by my parents, my dad’s brothers, and the rest of my extended family in India who have been working round-the-clock to ensure justice. I have been back at med school for the last 3 weeks, and if it wasn’t for their indignation on my behalf and unconditional love, I would probably have given up a long time ago. Countless others have been instrumental in working towards this. Also, in every article about this incident, I have been referred to as a “victim” or the “U.S. based medical student”. Part of the reason I am sharing this whole experience is because I refuse to be the anonymous victim to someone else’s wrong doing. Instead, I will claim ownership over this incident, have ensured that the guilty party has been shamed and punished, and then move on with my own life.
Once again, I am writing this to raise awareness that unfortunately incidents like these are commonplace, even when you least expect it and from people you least expect it. Some people have reacted to my story with disbelief because the perpetrator was a holy priest in the most famous temple in Goa. Many people also expressed doubt that this case would go anywhere because of the power and money behind the temple (ironically donated by many families like ours over many decades). Unfortunately evil can lurk anywhere, but regardless of who it is, you ALWAYS have a voice, options and the rights to never let anyone take advantage of you.
photo credit: alchetron
The FBI recently tweeted about the history of its famous, or infamous, 10 Most Wanted list. Out of curiosity I went online to check out who the current fugitives from the law on the list are. I was surprised to learn one of them is Indian-born Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, a man who brutally murdered his wife by repeatedly stabbing her at the Dunkin Donuts where they worked in Maryland, and made a run for it, potentially abroad. Please see video above for more details.
I know that a lot of Indians and others around the world visit this site and don’t like these kinds of headlines giving us all a bad name. If any of you have info about Patel and are willing to call this one in, there is a reward of up to $100,000 waiting for you. I would love one of my readers to be the one to help nail this alleged monster’s ass to the wall.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the many pitfalls of our current climate in America is the severe breakdown in identifying causal links between policies and outcomes. All too predictable in a country where science and logic are being trumped by emotions such as fear.
Let’s take an example from the 2018 frame. Forget the raging immorality of separating 3,000 young children from their parents at the US border and throwing them in cages using my hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Is it at least an effective policy?
The answer is of course, no. It ain’t working. We spend billions to protect our borders, billions to prevent illegal drugs from pouring in, and billions more to protect our cybersecurity. But America is a total and absolute failure at all of these aspects of protecting Americans, which is the federal government’s #1 job. American efforts in these areas are a complete joke and everyone around the world knows it. Locking up kids in cages doesn’t work, either.
Emotions are quite simply the reason why we are in the current state we are in. Americans are overall pretty uneducated, misinformed, and ruled by our lizard brains. We elect leaders who are disproportionately crooks that prey upon our emotions. The solution itself is easy: pursue policies that make logical and scientific sense.
I can end illegal immigration in 1 month. Requiring nothing more than manipulating the simple laws of supply and demand. Pass a law that any corporation, restaurant, bar, farm, cab company, family, or individual who employs illegal immigrants will immediately be thrown in jail for 10 years. Go out and arrest them en masse. Such employers are explicitly breaking the law by hiring workers under the table. Yet nobody ever goes after these criminals simply because they come out of the political donor class that fuels both parties.
But, uh, justice is supposed to be blind right? F*** the political donor class. After this swift administration of justice, let’s see if illegal immigration drops dramatically or not. Yes, the president and his family and his cronies would be even more knee-deep in trouble with the law than they already are, because among other projects Trump Tower itself was built by many- you guessed it – illegal immigrants.
Of course the policy will work. The supply and demand curves don’t lie. Illegal immigrants would be unable to find work in America again, and they’d stop coming here soon enough. But good luck keeping the child care, the factories, the farms, the armed services, the restaurants, the cabs, and the food supply running. Those are different problems for different days.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the most fascinating and strikingly bizarre aspects of the Pervert Orangutan Presidency (POP) and its Fourth Reich happens not in America, which is the least great we’ve ever been, but in rural India where poor, uneducated Hindu nationalists have latched onto this Pervert Orangutan as if he is some kind of god. As a Hindu, I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve got some issues. If you need proof, just watch this brief video by Ruptly…
I don’t blame these people, who clearly have very little in their lives; I blame the United States for creating a long con where the poorest in both America and India are the most cruelly victimized. The rest of us can only look on with horror and disgust until the nightmare mercifully ends.
The irony? These poor brown folk and Hinduism surely disgust Pervert Orangutan far more than they could ever bother you or I.
The sins of 2018 Washington are far more morally bankrupt than we can even know. Today we are witnessing what happens when America abdicates its moral responsibility not only to itself but also to the rest of the world. America is now run by a narcissistic white supremacist sex-tyrant and his two-bit goons who have turned their back on humanity in favor of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. The mantle of leadership is intentionally being handed off to a Rogue’s Gallery of other tin-pot dictators and hoods more than delighted to jump into the void that such abdication of responsibility has created, to run the agenda for the chaotic new world order. Cabals of oil-soaked Middle Eastern monarchs, racist Brexit douche bags, the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping who just crowned himself Dictator-4-Life, the democracy-cancelling Vlad the Impaler, and North Korean nut job Dear Leader Kim Jong Un are all gleefully ascendant these days, happily purging rivals and journalists without consequence left and right. Even India’s Narendra Modi, who somehow came into power without money or family (the only two things that used to matter in Indian politics) to capture the imagination of a nation and the global Indian, has proven his default factory setting is “Ruthless Strongman.” What a crying shame, all around.
A few of us versed in history already know how this ends. We are experiencing a glitch in the system, and the anti-virus software is taking care of it as we speak. I’ve written before that the last gasp of white male supremacy would go down not with a whimper, but with a prolonged fight and heavy costs. That day is upon us all. A war hero named Robert Mueller has agreed to enjoin this fight. The anti-virus is already working his magic. Mueller has quickly become the most important person in the entire US government apparatus.
Contrast if you will the ethically impeccable actions of this clean-cut boy scout with those of his screwball sewer rat opponents. Whereas a crotchety, curmudgeonly, sexually deviant, and senile old gang of Trump, Giuliani, Stone, and their minions stumble around spewing incoherent brain farts, undisciplined verbal diarrhea and desperate attacks on law enforcement to the media and social media every hour, their nemesis Mueller has not uttered a single word since he dutifully took on by far the most important and challenging job of not only his, but our lifetimes.
Absence any words, there have been loud actions. Well-written and bulletproof indictments, subpoenas, and arrests against Russians and the American traitors who conspired with them will continue to roll out under Mueller’s able supervision of the Legal Dream Team specially assembled for the task. All evidence points straight to the top, and everyone in Washington already knows it even if they pretend not to. Somewhere in the bowels of a nondescript DC office building, a man is quietly toiling, largely unrecognized, on our behalf. That man is all that stands between us and dictatorship right now.
The GOP long ago dropped their soiled pants, bent over, and sold out the country when they selfishly nominated a wannabe dictator to lead them into authoritarian and fascist territory for their own short-term survival, long after they knew he cheated. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Congress is such a heartless, spineless, corrupt and cruel joke in 2018, nobody even pretends that it’s meant to provide a hint of a check or balance on the executive branch anymore. This Congress is the perfect kind of ruse you would love to abuse if you were a dictator masquerading as a f***ing president.
The Democrats are too weak to mount even a feeble unified resistance effort as they continue to fight their own petty internecine wars and struggle to stand for anything coherent, or coalesce around a leader or a vision. Among the options for 2020 are tired old choices such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both of them likable enough yet constant reminders of how long they have been around the forefront of a hapless and stale losing team.
Sure, #BlueWave in 2018, #Resistance, Get Out the Vote, yada, yada! I even wrote about how I will finally call myself a Democrat for the first time in 2018 out of reluctant necessity. But whatever happens in November, it won’t be good enough to guarantee that the glitch in our system will be wiped so we can finally reboot the laptop once and for all. A blue wave, if it happens, might not be good enough to get an impeachment-worthy majority in both houses, which even a group of undeveloped fetuses swimming the backstroke in a kiddie pool of amniotic fluid should be able to achieve against an avowed dictator’s political party- the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight themselves!- in the US of A in 2018.
Instead we are precariously dependent on an older white Republican man, of all people, so the party who screwed this all up so badly for us can take out their own trash.
All that’s left is our deeply flawed judicial system. Even on its good days, the courts need executive branch prosecutors to bring strong and tight cases forward, because there is zero margin for error on the brink of dictatorship. Robert Mueller is unusually well suited to the pressure and thanklessness of the role he is playing in US history. His findings will be strong enough to end the charade of legitimacy and mockery of justice we have been forced into by 2019. In the opinion of most legal scholars, that work is already done and Mueller is just poking around in search of gravy to strengthen the case further- and those spigots of gravy are spewing all over the map of treason, lies, and cheating as we speak.
The bad guys just don’t get it, and never will. Mueller by all accounts is that rare prominent civil servant driven not by power, money, favor, fame, or glory. He didn’t volunteer for the Vietnam War, or the current one, for any of those reasons. He has no other ambitions beyond this job. The man can neither be bought off, nor scared away. Those more predictable and base motivations drive his small-minded opponents who cheated their way out of war. Refreshingly, Mueller does it because it’s right, though that’s not why he is going to win.
Mueller is going to win because some people are simply better than others. Superior human beings tend to defeat inferior human beings in the long run, even when the losers cheat.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Photo Credit: theintercept.com
I have a confession to make.
For some years I have harbored a far-fetched yet beautiful fantasy about the celebrity chef and writer, Anthony Bourdain.
It was a simple, innocent fantasy: that he would somehow become the US Secretary of State, and set the the table for all of us global citizens to feast on a buffet of global peace, love, understanding, and unrestrained bacchanalia for the next 1,000 years. Who better to lead our nation’s diplomacy, at a time when United States foreign policy is utterly crumbling around us and the world order staggers on, rudderless and broken?
Indeed, who better? Bourdain is thoroughly and uniquely qualified for the job. He doesn’t simply write essays about geopolitical theory in scholarly journals that only 120 nerds read, like many in the halls of power. He was born to be the man in the arena- whether a hot and stuffy kitchen, or deep in the Amazonian rainforest. His work was simple and accessible and could be understood by the common person in any country. Tony has done far more for the American people through his forays into other countries, through teaching and bridge-building, through charity causes and exploration and adventure, than the corrupt two-bit thugs in our government charged with our diplomacy right now. Tony was a better human being and a better diplomat than these douche bags will ever be.
And what an interesting guy. Anthony Bourdain would go anywhere, eat and drink anything, meet anyone, and “risk everything” in his own words to satiate his hunger and thirst for MORE knowledge and human connection through food, history and culture, no matter how unfamiliar, hard, gelatinous, raw, strong, smelly, dangerous, or difficult. He strove to challenge his beliefs about the world, and ours. He encouraged us to eat offal. On the flip side, in Kerala he marveled at how good vegetarian food could be- and that if he lived in India, he could even BE vegetarian, that eater of intestines, tripes, and sweetbreads. Tony destroyed accepted narratives about nations and people, and eviscerated those celebrity chefs and politicians who promoted vanilla and small-minded fear of the other. He floated in and out of friendly and hostile countries alike, the common thread being that he ALWAYS made new friends along the way, eating their food or graciously making them his own.
At achieving the goals of unity and love, Tony was the best among all of us. He bucked the stereotypes. He was the opposite of the “Ugly American” most of us who have been fortunate to travel the world often encounter, eating at a T.G.I. Friday’s and drinking a Budweiser during a trip to India of all places (or a F***ING T.G.I. F***ING F***DAY’S as Tony would have said, with extreme prejudice).
Tony’s work was also personal for me. In 2001, I read his first book Kitchen Confidential, a wonderful spinoff of his seminal 1999 essay about NYC resto secrets in the New Yorker magazine. During this time, much was going on in my life. I had just moved to New York City to begin my full-time local government career, and also worked in a West Village restaurant at night, harboring earnest dreams of running my own restaurant one day soon. I was fresh-faced out of college. 9/11 went down and shook the ground all around me- and became the main topic of conversation at the restaurant bar I tended for the next few months, walking distance from Ground Zero. I served people who lost their best friends and family members, or cops who were finding flattened and bloody dead bodies in the rubble. I poured them badly needed drinks. It was here that I learned what New York was made of and why it would forever endear itself to me. Tony was the quintessential New Yorker and restauranteur. And from Tony’s eloquent words I learned everything I would ever need or want to know about the restaurant business, the most important lesson being that I would never own one after all, a decision reinforced through my real-life view of restaurant hardships and challenges.
On the other hand, it wasn’t just back-breaking work and sweat. I experienced so much of what was positive about restaurants too: busy shifts flying by with a room full of dinner guests enjoying the food, wine, and music. Wild birthday parties late at night with the rest of the staff after closing down a long and hard shift, new friendships with people from around the world, overhearing weird and inappropriate dinnertime conversations (“the best way to stop the terrorists is to bomb the shit out of Mecca in retaliation for the Twin Towers…”), big tips from flirty gay men, gorgeous girls writing down their phone numbers for me on napkins, taking orders from a number of celebrities, and the team’s constant experimentation with new food and drink recipes. The chefs constantly attempted to bribe me with my favorite food in exchange for more whiskey than they were supposed to get for their shift drink. All of the good, the bad, and the ugly about restaurant life was happening right in front of me, and Tony reinforced it all by writing every single thing I experienced, such as the universal “barter system” between chefs and bartenders, better than I ever could. He nailed the life for millions of us who were in and out of it.
Around that time Tony hung up his chef’s hat, renewed his passport, and became America’s premier jet-setting ambassador for the last 17 years of his life. Even casual fans knew there was something dark and painful inside Tony. He went through crippling addictions and bouts of depressions and terror. Despite the laughs and the joys, the darkness was always there just below the surface if you peered closely at the man’s facial expressions, his weather-beaten features, his self-deprecating jokes about death, his near perpetual state of mental and physical hangover, and even his ambling gait. Tony had quite obviously been through the wringer and back a few times. Just like so many other rock stars who shone brightly and flamed out too soon, Tony’s pain and battles with his inner demons, which he openly spoke about to the public, made him the talented firebrand that he was, larger than life but still relatable to anyone from President Obama to a tribal warrior living a lifestyle unchanged since the 17th century.
The best lesson he gave must also go down in history as a foreign policy North Star, if those of us who live on care to listen. Imagine a world where critical political negotiations only started after a few hours of delicious food and drink, accompanied by talk of more food, friends, families, pets, songs, jokes, and holidays. Treaties and peace and love would flow down like a waterfall. The best way to warm up to a people, a tribe, a country, and a culture is through putting stuff, no matter how strange, into our mouths together. Tony was the perfect vessel for this message, completely giving up his ego and his personal safety to deliver it. Tony’s gift to us lives on, because he has painstakingly climbed that mountain in the darkest night and pointed out the North Star for all of us to follow. He is still enough here to be made our Secretary of State after all.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
With Memorial Day upon us, it is worth sharing a little-known fact about the deeply revered and beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Memorial will be forever tied to the hills of South India.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a unique and unmistakable design by Maya Lin, with a centerpiece consisting of two walls of solid polished black granite, each one 246 feet and 9 inches long. These walls list the names of 58,307 American men and women who were killed or MIA due to the Vietnam War, etched into stone. The gigantic blocks of black granite were imported all the way from Karnataka, India, the home state of my family and one of the few places in the world where shiny black granite is to be found. It helps make the Memorial reflective- in more ways than one- with a spirit that extends to other monuments…
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Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Growing up in the 80s as Indian-American kids with parents from India, many of us often heard rumblings about the mysterious Indian figure Rajneesh, also known as Osho or Bhagwan (God). At dinner parties and picnics, Indian parents and other adults would talk animatedly about this cult of personality and his myriad followers who forcibly parked themselves on an exceedingly white and conservative part of Oregon in the late 70s and early 80s to form a weird religious cult commune.
The hushed tones and liberal use of the language Hindi by adults in those gatherings, which most of us kids didn’t know very well, always denoted to me that there was something deeply sinister going on in conversation about the Rajneeshis. My parents thought that they were being discrete, but using Hindi as a covert device was the biggest dead giveaway that the talk was of nefarious things, and probably involved something called sex, and it had gone awfully wrong. And it sure did make us Indian people look bad throughout that decade on the global stage.
This was an exceedingly unique American story and a touchpoint of its time: mostly white hippy American types by the hundreds falling over themselves to drop everything, move to Oregon, and unconditionally worship the (admittedly interesting) teachings of a brown man from India who presented himself as no less than a God floating around in flowing colorful robes in a fleet of expensive Rolls Royce cars and private jets. Rajneesh was the ultimate figurehead of an American Mega Church movement, if that person was not only considered a God but also a rock star. His core message was promoting the guilt-free enjoyment of materialism, pleasure, and spirituality side by side.
Once I was old enough to know a bit more, the Rajneesh story bored me. It seemed like a typical trope about cultural appropriation of Indian traditions, fueled by Americans and Europeans flocking to ashrams in India to “find themselves” and engage in large sex orgies and liberal drug use in Indian clothes in a misplaced quest for spirituality and personal growth. When the predictable downfall of the highly suspect cult/commune arrived, it all came crashing down with an avalanche of financial embezzlement, illegal surveillance, threats of violence, and the long arm of the law coming down hard in the form of FBI raids and prison sentences. Everything about this just seemed so cliche to me, that I never cared to research too much into it below the surface knowledge I had as described above.
As it turns out I was completely wrong, at least in terms of how interesting and intricate the narrative actually was. Until this spring when I started watching Wild, Wild Country, Whatever little I had picked up about the Rajneeshi cult was more than I cared to know. I had been dismissive of it all. But that changed in one fell swoop, further evidence that a lot of what I think I know, I really don’t after all. It was easy to dismiss these failing sannyasins as a bunch of gullible nutjobs and posers trying to build their own obviously unattainable utopia right here in the United States.
But then a flip switched. Until I recently watched the Wild, Wild Country documentary series on Netflix out of vague curiosity, I learned there was much I didn’t know about the Rajneeshis. I had no idea how big they became, with thousands of members at their peak in numerous outposts around the world. I was especially unfamiliar with the tiny young Indian woman named Ma Anand Sheela, the hand-picked deputy of Rajneesh who effectively launched and then ran the massive communal enterprise of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon with an iron fist. I mean this chick was feisty, fearless, smart, tough as nails, camera-ready, and a formidable manager and leader by any objective measure. She was for some reason empowered by Rajneesh to lead the vast religious, political, and sociological experiment, and managed to accomplish large things within a few short and eventful years.
Wild, Wild Country is absolutely fascinating and so is its subject. It has certainly earned its 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Built upon many hours of original archival footage, it shows not just a commune but an entire city government being built from the ground up in rural Oregon, surrounded by communities who downright despised the Rajneeshis to pieces. Suddenly an airport, roads, farms, homes, buildings, police force, defense force, city hall, and city council rose from empty land through the sheer will of the Rajneeshis, their collective sweat equity and organizational acumen. This intrigued the city government official in me. They built something special. The cult even began to perpetuate their own laws and justice proceedings, somewhat akin to a Native American tribal reservation, within the United States but somewhat separated from it. They sure had balls.
And the problems started right there. Predictably, a minor war ensued between the suspicious locals and the passionate Rajneeshi cult members who were performing all manner of rituals in their little city, and rubbing their newfound wealth, power, and peculiar culture in your face. Copious amounts of interviews were filmed in the modern day with some of the people involved from opposing angles, including conservative local retirees who hated the foreign influences they were seeing around them, law enforcement personnel who were eventually called upon to investigate the cult, and several key Rajneeshi members including Ma Anand Sheela herself calmly explaining the history of the downright bizarre events that permanently shaped all of their lives during that period some four decades ago. This stuff is stranger than fiction.
The documentary series spends far more airtime on Ma Anand Sheela, her tight inner circle, and her wheelings and dealings than the overall leader Rajneesh. After all it was she who ran the nuts and bolts of the movement, while Rajneesh seemed to just float through the scenery sort of above and outside of it all, saying and doing little of consequence. The filmmakers were wise to do this. Though I wish I could have seen more about Rajneesh and where the hell he came from, and what the hell it was this fraudulent Indian con man did all day, Sheela is a far more complex, interesting and intriguing character in this play. She was no doubt a true believer.
Even if you know how the story ends, the journey holds many plot twists, escalating conflicts, outright danger, and thrilling moments leading up to climax. There is plenty of well-timed suspense. During some parts of the 6 episodes, it almost felt like I was actually there immersed in the city of Rajneeshpuram during that time in history. The townspeople splinter amongst themselves. The Rajneeshis also suffered epic meltdowns and schisms within their ranks, some self-inflicted and others by force of outside influence. Although many of the key figures come across as batshit crazy at times, on both sides of the war, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for both perspectives as much of the conflict falls into the gray fog between what was right and who was wrong.
As for Ma Anand Sheela, she goes through a long and most wonderful metamorphosis worthy of comparison to a butterfly, and the series documents this arc well. It is in fact near impossible to reconcile what she was, to what she later in life became. And this may be the best part of all for those who believe self-improvement is possible. It is a phenomenon within the Rajneeshi phenomenon that I came to learn more about them despite my own chauvinistic blinders.
I encourage all of you to drop everything else in your queue and enjoy Wild, Wild Country.
usindiamonitor true to its name has been monitoring in fascination the wild growth of fast food franchises, many of them American, in Indian cities. When I was a kid visiting or living in India in the 80s and 90s, American fast food was one of the things I missed the most about America. It was so vastly different from what was being served in Indian households and restaurants- of course, that food was healthy and delicious in its own right but something would be missing.
But fast food has gone gangbusters in India since that more isolated, innocent, idyllic time in India. McDonald’s India was perhaps the canary in the coal mine, even though the corporation has of late been mired in massive legal troubles with its local business partners. In the past we wrote a business case study about McDonald’s India on these pages. Now we also have Pizza Hut, Domino’s, KFC, Subway, and many other brands making deep inroads with Indian consumers. And this was to be expected. As we repeat every single day, American corporations MUST have an India strategy to survive. The market is too huge, and the economic growth is on too high a trajectory to be ignored.
One the one hand, it’s great to have access to quick, cheap, and admittedly tasty food for working Indian families. As with fast food in America and around the world, things have taken a decidedly darker turn though. India’s obesity epidemic is crushing the nation’s youth, with much of the responsibility falling on America’s food and soft drinks. And now, we have news that fast food companies are dumping saltier, fattier, and more calorific food on the Indian market as compared to the US market, with at times, MULTIPLES of the sodium and fat content of the exact equivalent food item in America.
This is just not right at all. It’s actually evil, and my bet is that the joints are trying to addict a new market of people with this salty behavior. WE CALL ON ALL US FOOD CORPORATIONS TO STOP OVERLOADING INDIAN CONSUMERS WITH TOO MUCH JUNK IN THE JUNK FOOD. Sure, we all know it’s junk food and we make the choice to eat it freely. But this targeted overload is an outrage and the Indian government and people should not stand for this highly unethical behavior. All that we ask is that you don’t make the Indians eat junk that’s junkier than the Americans do. You don’t have to trust me- just watch this video here. It should make you sick to your stomach.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
*Writer’s note: Credit Bill Maher and his guest, historian John Meachem, for briefly discussing on Friday what the founding fathers may have thought of the current nightmare American government has morphed into. Meachem cleverly insinuated that the fathers might have actually been surprised that it took THIS long to get a tyrant into power. This got me thinking, and writing.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
GW = George Washington;
TJ = Thomas Jefferson;
BF = Benjamin Franklin
The three men are seated in a bar on M Street, Georgetown, in Washington, DC, May 2018, sipping ale
GW: Want me to be frank? Honestly I feel energized… Oh glorious day! Finally, Americans will have the chance once again to fight a tyrant who endeavors to rule over them and once again, prove their mettle to the world! What luck for the citizens of 2018 to be born into an era on the razor’s edge between democracy and dictatorship not seen for so long, not since 1776. 242 years of laziness and complacency have not the Republic served well.
TJ: George, as per usual proving much the indefatigable and overconfident jock…always relishing, nay, spoiling for the next fight. Your masculinity and raging hormones at times cloud your judgment, methinks. And the Yoda thing, you’ve been watching too much Star Wars lately, Sir.
BF: Speaking of. My labs are quite close to reverse engineering a portable light saber, which may one day yet prove fruitful to my secret Jedi contacts at the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM).
TJ: But you do digress, Benjamin.
BF: Indeed, but I do digress from your very own digression. Digressions and transgressions are those aspects of our personalities which make us human, Thomas. Embrace them like the polymath you are.
TJ: Benjamin, ever the philosopher. Coming back to this tyrant, this Pervert Orangutan of sorts.
GW: This tyrant who lies in bed eating cheeseburgers two miles away from us will be defeated by the institutions and systems we put into place to check and balance just such a vile figure. We were brilliant in our framings and ruminations in the late 18th century.
TJ: You are quite upbeat, old chap. But what if the tyrant beats the patriots this time and our little experiment goes to shit within just 242 years? What if he succeeds in cancelling democracy?
GW: Did I sit around crying in the freezing winter cold of Valley Forge, my men dying of hypothermia and lacking even food rations or shoes, obsessed by the specter of defeat, allowing my troops to witnesseth my mourning in my own depression well before anti-depressant pills were even invented?
BF: Bravo, George. But let us not underestimate the lengths I went to in Paris, wining and dining my way across town and wooing all manner of ladies to gain the trust of the Versaille court and bring France to our cause.
GW: Such hardships you had to overcome, Benjamin. Without exploring the cracks, one will not find the Liberty Bell that today does yet ring so sweet and true, eh?
BF: We aren’t so different, you and I. George, you are a born pugilist and I, a natural diplomat. One hand washes the other.
GW: We also happen to agree that light sabers are fabulous, and of the highest order of importance is their speedy production without delay for our soldiers at arms.
TJ: We seem to have a political party, the Repugnicans, that is somehow fallen in line 100% behind the tyrant and his dictatorial tendencies. Those within the party ranks who speak out are raked over the coals most cruelly and unusually.
GW: Didn’t we ban such punishing behaviors in the outset?
TJ: Tell that to the boys of Abu-Grab!
BF: In seriousness, perhaps the threat of gravest import is the number of our American descendents who are so willing to support the tyrant no matter what he does. He could shoot a person on 5th Avenue, but the sheep would still follow. Some citizens seem to have forgotten the value of democracy, voting rights, human dignity, a free press, and facts. Without these, our little experiment could be dead in the water.
TJ: These fools stand at 40% of the adult population only, and not enough to maintain the corrupt tyranny for long.
GW: Let us be honest with ourselves, Sirs. WE too, miss our slaves.
BF: Of course. But most people moved on long ago, while some others did not, especially in those pesky former southern colonies built on cotton, tobacco, and loathing.
GW: The institutions led by patriotic Americans will always win against the wannabe tyrants. We baked it into the system. We will see victorious patriots winning the elections, marching in the streets, gaining the upper hand in courts, and in general waking up the country to the potential for possibility and progress.
TJ: What will become of those supporters of the tyrant who witness their pipe dreams of white male supremacy and retrograde social rules cruelly dragged along and dashed to the ground once and for all?
BF: Who cares about what happened to the loyal deputies of King George who wanted to see US lose? Their time on the wrong side of history too shall soon come to pass in front of the world.