Friday, January 21, 2011

Jayapal on His Father's Passing

HAROLD SHERMAN (1910—2011)

“Jay (his tongue had an easier time with jay than jayapal), I have to do things my way.” And this was his mantra until the very end. He renewed his automobile insurance the day before the fatal heart attack at age 100. Yes, he was still driving. “His way” meant no cane, no walker, no wheelchair and just maybe an occasional aspirin. He lived alone in his small apartment-cum-artist studio until the very end and antagonized every doctor in Kalamazoo where he resided for over 35 years. He thought they were all charlatans “out to make a buck.”

When he came to Pune in 1978, hauling an electric typewriter across the ghats as requested by the ashram, I took him to M.G. Road to have an orange outfit made with which he could come to discourse. When he picked it up from the tailor he wore it proudly. Unfortunately, when he took the orange “pajamas” off at the end of the day his entire body had become orange with the bleeding dye. He did not take this as a mystical sign that he was meant to take sannyas. Rather it unleashed his considerable wrath on the unlucky tailor.

In 1984 Sheela had the idea of inviting parents of sannyasins to come live and work at the Ranch. I believe Harold was the first to take up this invitation, and, at age 74, was given half a trailer for accommodations and was put to work at Dadu as a gentleman farmer. He thrived as a target for many flirtatious lovelies and enjoyed his unique status in the commune. When he was about to be transferred to the publications department to use his artistic talents (his lifelong profession was as an artist and illustrator) Sheela and her posse left the Ranch, threw things into turmoil, sending Harold scurrying back to Kalamazoo.

He was proud of the fact that, in May of 2001, he created the first non-photographic cover for the Viha Connection with his painting of Osho. He also illustrated a hilarious series of ads for Viha, promoting my investment advisory business. Any chance he got to connect in some way with the world of sannyas he jumped at.

Few people who had contact with Harold could forget him. He could be cantankerous, stubborn, loyal and loving. As his kid I dealt with all of these moods and then some. At his core was a very fragile, delicate being who had grown up in horrendous conditions of poverty and lived a life of solitude among his paints and canvasses. I write this a few days after his passing and already I miss this bittersweet, bigger-than-life character.

May he fly weightless above the clouds.