(Rahul Chandawarkar)

Times of India: Pune Times (September 6, 2000)

If there is anyone in this country who has known Osho closely it is his former secretary Ma Neelam and former actor and present member of Parliament (MP), Vinod Khanna. It was this common source of inspiration that brought these two amazing individuals together, as friends. Friends, who in their own words, “that can rely on each other through thick and thin”. So, whenever Vinod Khanna is in town, like he was on Monday for the opening of the Ganesh festival, he stays with Ma Neelam and it’s the same with Ma Neelam everytime she is visiting the metropolis.
Pune times caught up with the duo at Ma Neelam’s elegant Koregaon Park residence and let the articulate ‘friends’ hold forth on a variety of issues.
Vinod’s earliest memories of Neelam go back to their days at the Oregon Ashram, where he says Neelam was the most devoted of Osho’s followers. “The relationship between Neelam and Osho was quite like that of Mirabai and Krishna”. Vinod says that he took an instant liking for Neelam, as he could trust her easily. She was a very good listener and we would spend hours discussing our respective meetings with Osho. There was an instant mental connection with us,” he adds.
Neelam remembers meeting Vinod first at the Pune commune in 1976 and says that she was impressed by his simplicity. “What touched me most was the manner in which he communicated so lovingly. I am basically a heart person and felt instantly connected.” Their friendship is so strong today, that Neelam says, “He is real yaara da yaar for me (the most beloved of friend’s in Punjabi).”
Having interacted closely with Osho for many years, the two have some interesting anecdotes to narrate. Neelam remembers an incident which took place at Manali, when Osho suddenly expressed his desire to travel to Nepal at 10.30 pm. The best transport that Neelam could arrange to reach the nearest airport was a rickety old taxi. To make matters worse, the driver was rash and driving badly, keeping Neelam on tenterhooks. However, she remembers Osho not being affected by this at all. ‘The man who owned so many Rolls Royces seemed perfectly at ease in this rickety taxi and instead told me, ‘Neelam just relax and go within.’ I was instantly at peace. When I opened my eyes, I realised how pretty the landscape was: there was a lovely river flowing, the sun shining and the snow capped mountain in the distance made a pretty picture. The best part was, that Osho was sitting erect in the back seat and looking out of the window like an Emperor. The dirty old taxi made no difference to his elegance,” says Neelam.
Vinod gives us an insight into Osho’s sense of humour, when he recollects how a sannyasin on meeting Osho for the first time said, “Master I want to stay here forever, forever and forever. Osho just smiled and said, ‘Stay a little longer the next time’.”
The two friends are obviously pained about the copyright problem that has plagued the commune recently. Vinod is upset that the copyrights were smuggled out of the country in a mischievious manner. “They should have made the world-wide announcement. Not even Neelam, who was an inner circle member knew of the movement of the copyrights. The whole magic in the commune is missing today”, he says.
Neelam was also upset at the manner in which Swami Jayesh and his team slapped a legal notice on the meditation center at Delhi, for opening the website. However she is happy that the National Arbitration Center in USA upheld the argument made by the Delhi team. “It’s a very big victory for us. The judgement means that all the 500 meditation centers in the world can continue using Osho’s name without a legal sword hanging on their heads,” says Neelam.
The next big battle brewing up against Swami Jayesh and team is when 80 individual Oshoites in the USA file applications in the next ten days to challenge a patent application made by Jayesh’s camp to copyright all of Osho’s meditation techniques.
Vinod, who is a special Oshoite, given a fact that he is a MP, does not discount the possibility of acting mediator in the ongoing tussle. “I am ready to mediate, but the Jayesh camp is not ready to talk. Our goal is to resolve all this, in as loving a manner as possible.” he adds.
A loving manner, that’s the bottom line when it comes to Vinod Khanna and Ma Neelam.

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