As soon as your parents mention that they want to move to an ashram in India, dip into this memoir of the spiritual life’s dark side.
Born in the early ’70s, Brown was raised in Los Angeles by parents still under the sway of master Meher Baba, though he had died in 1969. In 1980, they decided to relocate the family to his birthplace, Ahmednagar, to commune more closely with his spirit and with those who had experienced him directly. As a child, Rachel was thrust into a surreal life and experienced alienation writ large. Some members of the ashram spoke a perplexing language all their own: “Are you my mummy?” asked a 60-year-old member named Coconut of seven-year-old Brown. When she had no satisfactory response, Coconut offered that they were living in “the Kaliyuga Age” and that “anything can happen.” Now a playwright, television author and comic writer, Brown here recounts her youthful trials: She was endlessly taunted by her schoolmates, beaten by her teachers, bored by the supplications to Baba. But she remains open minded: “We all have mental magnets for obsession, waiting to encounter an idea or person or practice of the opposite charge,” she concludes. “I can understand the fascination, even if I can’t understand its object.” Along the way, she renders a well-hewed look at Ahmednagar: its free-ranging water buffalo and holy cows; its reeking sewage; its experts in removing ear wax; its vendors of “cones of powder in crimson, saffron, orange, purple, hot pink, forest green, and indigo” for women to dab on their foreheads. In short, “Ahmednagar was overwhelming and beyond analysis, like a new primary color.”
Reads like a novel and lingers in the mind.