telling people about your cult days
Date: May 12, 2004 12:45AM
The other day I was waiting for a train out of New York City. It was really late at night, and I sat down in a row of chairs in the waiting area alternately dozing and making small talk with a guy that sat down diagonal from me.
Eventually a couple sat down on the row of chairs connected to the guy's row of seats. The female fell asleep, but the male wanted to talk. He had heard me say something about my children, and he started in about the close bond he had with his half sister. To my surprise, he began to talk about the terrible abuses he and his sister had endured as children. Then he mentioned that he had grown up with a religious upbringing that "really messed him up."
I asked which religion.
The Hare Krishnas, he said.
He had a lot he wanted to get out, so the other guy and I let him do most of the talking. He said his mother had introduced him to the Krishnas when he was only six years old. Then he mentioned sexual abuse quite a few times, each time insisting he himself had never been sexually abused, almost as if he needed to assure himself as well as us. He was getting a bit wild-eyed and using a lot of hand gestures and arm-waves.
I asked him if he were still a member of the Hare Krishnas and he made a little back and forth motion with his hand saying "not really," but that he sometimes still visited the temple and he still hung out with his Krishna friends. Besides, he told me, Krishna consciousness wasn't so bad.
"It's a cult," I told him.
"No it's not," he said. "It's just a religion."
The other guy got up and left, leaving me alone with Krishnamaybe.
But then Krishnamaybe's female counterpart woke up. She was looking at me and I was looking at her. She wore no make-up and seemed attractive enough, were it not for the large bruise she was sporting on the side of her head. Her partner kept on talking and talking, mostly about the abuse he saw and endured--his own being physical and mental.
Then his friend did something really weird. As Krishnamaybe was talking, she grabbed a fistfull of his hair and forcefully yanked his head back. With her other fist, she began punching him in the side of the head. Even stranger, he just kept on talking as if nothing had changed.
Then he said: "Don't mind her, she's my girlfriend, and she's just jealous that I'm talking to you." He kept right on talking and she kept right on punching. I tried to make myself invisible. Finally Fistimiss stopped her battery but continued to glare at me.
And finally, my train had arrived and I was ready to go. Krishnamaybe didn't want me to leave. "Wait," he said "you have to tell me your story! I told you mine!"
Given the circumstances, I just wanted to go home.
At another time, in another place, I would have told him all about Sahaja Yoga. About how long ago I once insisted it was not a cult, but now I knew it was indeed. About the physical and sexual abuse I'd heard of, but never actually known. And about how thankful I was I'd never exposed my own children to a mindnumbing cult like the one I'd wasted so much time in.
Somehow, though, I don't think he was ready to hear such stuff.