David's Reviews > Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult

Cartwheels in a Sari by Jayanti Tamm
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Nov 08, 2011

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Recounts the author's upbringing within the Sri Chinmoy cult. I'd heard of them via the 3,000 mile + "self-transcendence" race they put on in NYC, repeatedly circling a short sidewalk loop. Running is not really central to the story, though the author does put in a stint as a competitor in daily "runners are smilers" 2-mile races to please Chinmoy (aka "Guru" throughout this book).

She was born into the cult, her parents having (obviously) violated the celibacy rule. Chinmoy decided she was the chosen one, meriting special privilges, "the Supreme is your boyfriend" etc. Mostly the book recounts classic cult stuff -- shun outsiders, rat out anyone whose devotion is wavering, labor in businesses based on the cult and turn over all your pay to me, put up with various restrictions (no intimate relations; don't go to college so you can be all heart and no mind; get up early to meditate with me; spend every evening at my sermons........).

In her telling, she started to let go of the cult as she went thru adolescence and discovered boys, but the last straw was seeing all the adults in the group acting like kids (skipping, baby talk, etc.) after being told by Guru that they should have the simple heart of a 7-year old.

Poignant descriptions of how the process of leaving split her family and friendships.

Not the best writing, but a seemingly sincere account of (to me) nightmarish way to grow up.
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