A short bio from Mahakal (who changed his name but preferred to use his previous Sikh name):
My sisters and I grew up in Ashrams in London, D.C., Espanola, and LA. They were sent to GNFC in ’81 and I went over in ’83. We were in Mussorie until ’87. I am pretty sure one of my sisters was child swapped as there are 2 unexplained years when she was in K.C.
I am in the second picture on the main page of this site. I am in front in the grey sweater.
Here’s Mahakal’s Story
“I was born in ’76 at the D.C. ashram. A few weeks later we moved to Espanola where my mom ran the dairy. My first memories are of cows and goats. We lived in a yellow mobile home near everyone else then had a house built near the women’s camp. When I was about 4 we moved to Pruess rd. in L.A. I remember being in the ashram a lot and getting slapped around by yogi Bhajan a couple times. How do you forget that? Went to Montessori school with a bunch of Sikh kids then went to Canfield elementary school where I got called diaper head a lot.
“Most of that L.A. time I was an only child as my sisters were in India already. I went over in ’83 at the age of 6. When I look at 6yo kids today I am amazed at how young that actually is. We went first to Amritsar and stayed in a big place not too far from the Golden Temple. I found that my sisters had been there only a few weeks before and had left an embroidered pillow for me. I think we also spent some time at a gurdwara near the Beas river.
“We finally went up to GNFC and I got to see my sisters for the first time in years. I have to say that having two big sisters there already really helped. I can’t imagine how lonely some kids must have felt there.
“So, Shangri-La: My first year there I was housed in the “lower” dorm building (not sure what it was called. Boys dorm?) The matron there was this big woman with a red cane with writing on it. We used to know we had been hit hard when that writing was imprinted on our skin. It seems like it was the first night there and we were being too loud so she made us all line up and get hit us all on the hands with that famous stick. I remember the long tables in the dining hall where teachers would walk up and down the lines popping kids on the head for misbehaving. I saw some kid puke in their porridge and think of that every time I see a bowl of runny porridge. Once I really needed to poop and wasn’t allowed to leave the dining hall until it was too late. I ran to the dorm and one of the Ayahs stopped me on the steps and I shit myself. I remember the color of my white pajamas changing as it ran down my legs. I got slapped for that too. I remember long lines of naked boys down in the basement bathrooms waiting for their turn to get washed by an ayah. Once as I was running upstairs after a bath I slipped and went through a window. I protected my face with my left arm and got a huge cut on my elbow and hand. In the US I would have gotten 20 or so stiches and been put on antibiotics. I was taken to the dispensary by friends and got a couple of stitches and a bandage. Eventually the chunk of flesh on my elbow rotted and fell out leaving a huge hole in my arm. I still have big scars. Another time we were playing on the steep hill above the athletic field and my friend (Guru Simran? I forgot a lot of names) fell off a tree and broke his leg. I had to help him limp around the school to get him to the dispensary for treatment. Overall, My time at Shangri-La was less painful because of my sisters and their care for me.
“Vincent Hill: This was probably the worst time for me. There is just no way to house boys together like that with such an age range and not have a Lord of the Flies scenario play out. I am sure my memory is worse than the actuality of it but it feels like I spent my whole time there fighting or avoiding fights. There were fun times skateboarding, but of course some older boys stole my board and I never saw it again. Once, in the dining hall some boys pretended to be playing a game of “telephone”. ” Sada Anand is a fag,” pass it on. So I turned to the guy next to me and repeated it. Suddenly everyone is telling Sada Anand that I called him a fag. He told me he was going to kill me. Later in the day I was sitting at the top of a staircase with a friend when he came up behind me and kicked me really hard in the kidney. The wind was knocked out of me and as I struggled for breath I tried to get away from him. I was in so much pain and couldn’t breathe. I hung from a fence trying to recover as he shouted abuse at me. I am surprised I didn’t have serious kidney damage. As a smaller kid I felt like a constant target of other boys. I did pass some of it on too. I remember backing an Indian student up against a wall and punching him in the stomach. Unfortunately I got caught doing this and had to kneel in the gravel for an hour. I feel like I could go on and on, but we all have many stories like this.
“My parents did come to visit once and I got to go home for Christmas once so in that regard I was luckier than some. We left after the ’87 school year and came home to find out our parents were no longer Sikhs. So there were in Texas wearing turbans, with weird names, and had to figure out how to adjust to a new reality. But that is a whole other story…”