Tim Guest’s My Life in Orange is the tale of a childhood denied. The story begins when a child, aged all of five years, sees his mother busy dyeing all their clothes orange. She has set course to become a New Age renunciate. Arriving in India, Tim is torn away from his parents and herded into a commune housing all the other children of Guru Rajneesh’s maroon acolytes.
Add to this the imperishable image of Osho, seated comfortably in a dentist’s chair, spouting his half-baked witticisms, seductively talking of free love and meditation, and of pushing back boundaries to find spiritual salvation. Of course his followers must first renounce world possessions, while the Guru himself has made quite a fortune with an impressive collection of gold watches and 93 Rolls-Royces.
A darkening stain of wistfulness, a longing for a mother’s attention paints the narrative, wherein sad sentences hint of a childhood brimming over with loneliness and confusion: “I felt I had spent my whole life on tiptoes, looking for my mother in a darkening crowd.”The author recalls the disturbing practice of sexual initiation, involving adult men and young girls. What else can a sensitive and intelligent child do but seek refuge in his imagination or in writing stories?
In the late 1980s, Osho’s extensive empire—126 centres in Europe alone—had begun to come unstuck. Dark clouds loomed large with convictions for poisoning and fraud. While dreams of a better life lay in tatters. To forget it all his mother lit a bonfire, and as the orange flames consumed Anne’s orange clothes, Tim found a modicum of normalcy. For the first time and in a simple gesture, he was happy as he was finally able to keep his toys.
But he cannot leave behind those early experiences, as he tries to adjust to life in a big city. In his mid-teens, he drinks and takes drugs. He does not fit in at school and seeks solace in science fiction and computer games. Thus far all he has known is the world of the commune and, most of all, he was angry at his mother, for never exposing him to the world outside.
My Life in Orange is an attempt at reclaiming and coming to terms with a lost childhood. It is no tale of nostalgia, no glossing over the past and turning the gig-lamps on the happy parts. This one trawls you through the depths of loneliness without actually using the word ‘lonely’ even once. This is the sad saga of neglect by people who, while looking for paradise, forgot the children of tomorrow.