was the personal secretary to the (late) spiritual leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In 1981, Sheela relocated their commune from Pune, India to Oregon, USA and built a substantial city, which they named “Rajneeshpuram.” Her life was devoted to Bhagwan; his teachings, his vision, his demands.
Their arrival caused much conflict with the locals and what unfolded was an unthinkable maelstrom of events including allegations of attempted murder, a bio-terror attack and espionage. Bhagwan turned on Sheela and eventually, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, of which she served 39 months.
As documented in the 2018 Netflix series, 'Wild, Wild Country', the saga was controversial to say the least. But what Sheela managed to accomplish for Bhagwan was extraordinary. Her spirit caught the attention of many and I wondered where life had taken her.
I discovered from various media sources that Sheela had moved to Switzerland after her release. She had opened two nursing homes and dedicated her life to caring for people with disabilities and mental illness, in honour of her late parents. I found a way to get in touch and after an email exchange and a Whatsapp call, Sheela invited me to visit. A week later I was there.
I learned more of her colourful history, her motivations and passions and found her to be a remarkably intelligent woman. I admired her fearless attitude and enjoyed our conversations. I found her understanding and approach to dealing with Dementia particularly interesting, as it gave me new perspective on how to accept my grandmothers condition; something I hope to share more about one day.
Here are some photos taken at one of the homes; Matrusaden (Mother's House) in the hills of Maisprach. alternative photographer