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Badassery, thy name is Ma Anand Sheela! (A No spoilers post)

When Netflix’s recommendation displayed the docu-series “Wild,Wild Country”, I was uninterested. One of my friends had enlightened me about Osho Rajneesh’s teachings when we were still teenagers. The bits and pieces of the cult, she had gathered from one of the neighbour uncles, who at the time I think had no filter as to what to be shared with teenagers and what not, didn’t sound sound to me. According to her information, Osho was a spiritual guru who encouraged people to find happiness via physical means! At the time, I wasn’t sure she even knew what she was talking about! But anyways, that was the picture I had in mind of Osho. As a grown up, I am no longer a prude but the image of Osho hadn’t changed until recently.

I started watching the series because it had tons of hippie culture shades. I have been fascinated with hippies and their liberated way of living ever since I watched Woodstock documentary. So, the summary as was on Netflix, got me a bit curious and so I started. And in a matter of 3 days, I had finished binging on the entire season. What however caught my attention was not Osho, but Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneeshi cult’s chief. I sided with her from the 3rd episode and I started questioning my morals and principles by doing so. But then I checked twitter. Everyone was so in awe of Ma Anand Sheela, my fangirling which would otherwise be deemed creepy, was hence normalized.

So, it got me thinking. Do we like Sheela because we are all hungry for a feminist idol? A badass woman who lived by her own rules? The person who took over an entire city by just the virtue of her individual strength? I still cannot answer it without being biased. I would give it a try anyways, I love her because she embodies this flawless flawed, brave character who has no limits when it comes to protecting what she loves the most. Now if the extremities of her actions were right, is still up for a debate.

The best part I think about the series is how natural her management skills look. She spear-heads building of an entire city!! What now? 70s and 80s were such strange times. I can understand people worshipping Osho. I think the fact that he blurred the lines between morality and immorality and encouraged people to explore each other, was why his followers loved him. He was an INDIAN guru! Apparently, we have more knowledge of spirituality than the rest of the world and in a way, he was a yogi. But building a city for HIM, how often do you see that happen?

And Sheela taking over the supervisory role and then managing Osho’s money, makes her an amazing case study for management text books. The woman just got things done (In the words of the great Olivia Pope, “it is handled”). People looked up to her. Osho’s paved a way for Sheela to be the head of decision-making when he decided to go mute. When he did attend the congregations, all he did was shake his shoulders and bring his arms higher with each shake! And everything else was solely managed by Sheela. If I had to rely on Sheela for branding and management, I would gladly limit myself to shaking my shoulders and smiling creepily too! Am I right?

I do not approve of her using unlawful methods to gather more votes for the Rajaneeshis or getting the cult to learn handling guns to protect the loyal members of the group. But what I do approve of is the commitment and the passion at which she executed all her plans. The way she smiled at people mockingly, or the display of nonchalance at the times of distress. That is amusing in a strange way, isn’t it? It is a sign of a person who is confident of their actions. At peak Sheela, the cult also witnessed its progress.

From the entire docu-series, all that mesmerized people was Sheela. How the directors got hold of such lengthy footage, is still such a riddle but I am glad they did. I am glad even at her old age, Sheela’s still such a badass, the intensity with which she narrates her side of the story still gets people to vouch for her to win in the end. I loved how it ended. Sheela at peace. Oh and also, Osho’s doctor deserved to be stabbed in the butt! 


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