Tantric sex with Swamiglee did take me to another level: Anu Aggarwal
She splashed on the showbiz shoreline Aphrodite like triggering a testosterone tsunami. Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui made Anu Aggarwal 1990’s hottest dream – tall, dark, bohemian. For Anu too, it was an overnight induction into a fantastical reality. But before the stardust could settle and before the caviar could intoxicate… she fled the revelry to lose herself in the anonymity of an ashram along the tranquil Ganga. It was 1997. There she was given a new name – Anandpriya. Under the starlit skies she exorcised her stardom. In the expanse she experienced the power of yoga.
And explored tantric sex to reach new dimensions… till the female inmates, covetous of her sway, bundled her on a truck and slammed the gates forever. 1999. One treacherous night, her hi-end vehicle turned turtle and plunged Anu into a 29-day long coma. Battered bones, a palsy-ridden face and an erased memory… Anu was stripped of every resemblance of the diva she once was. Three years of excruciating rehabilitation, botched up surgeries and near-death experiences later… Anu understood the fragility between life and death, the chasm between the real and the surreal. She absolved herself of her possessions – her luscious locks, her indulgent apartment and other tangibles. She went beyond herself – to serve and teach slum kids AnuFun Yoga, a healing module she developed. And then she wrote the book Anusual: Memoir Of A Girl Who Came Back From The Dead to share her story of destruction and resurrection. In losing it all – her ego, her facade, her fame… Anu Aggarwal discovered the spunk of her soul.
It all began early for me. The family I’m born into is extremely spiritual. My maternal grandmother’s name is Krishna. Her father accepted the guru mantra from the same guru who gave it to Swami Prabhupada, a leading proponent of the Krishna consciousness. After Swami Prabhupada moved to the US we’d keep getting the Hare Rama Hare Krishna booklets. They were printed on excellent paper and had beautiful paintings. That was the first reading literature I was exposed to. As a teenager, I happened to read the Autobiography Of A Yogi. It left me inspired. My paternal grandmother had begun doing social service since the age of 30. She’d regularly read out the Bhagvad Gita to me. As a young girl, I wanted to do much. In the ’80s I left Delhi and began living alone in Mumbai. My father said, “If you want to live your life, then you’ll have to be responsible for everything.”
In Mumbai, I featured on the cover of Society magazine as India’s first supermodel. If there were compliments, there was also bitching. When you bring in something new, a new thought… a lot of people don’t like it. I was to go to Paris for modelling when Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui happened. Those days I was living as a paying guest opposite Prithvi Theatre in Juhu. I liked to sleep on the floor. The morning after Aashiqui released (1990), I woke up to a surprise party waiting for me. People had gathered in every window, every balcony and on the roofs of the overlooking buildings. They were looking into my house and screaming ‘Anu, Anu!’ Overnight my life changed.
In Aashiqui, I didn’t have much dialogue. I had to express through my eyes. But there was one dialogue, which spoke of women empowerment – “Main apne pairon pe khada rehna chahti hoon.” That summed up my unconventional stance though I played a Hindi film heroine. Male attention was never a problem for me. But after Aashiqui it only increased. Nevertheless, it was respectful because of the gritty character I had played.
And no, I didn’t get involved with Bollywood people or any other Indian. My relationship with Rick (an Anglo-Indian jazz musician) went into the doldrums after Aashiqui. We were about to get married when rumours of alleged link-ups affected our relationship. We are in touch today though. I went on to do an ad advocating condoms to spread awareness. It was considered bold then. As a youngster I used to do social work in a government hospital in Delhi. There hundreds of women queued up for abortions. They would be put on slim beds. The attitude was ‘abortion karo, bahar karo’. I was training to counsel these women. Some women would break down with trauma. Some would get epileptic fits. I’d wonder what I could do for them. As an actress, where millions would be watching and listening to me, I wanted to spread awareness because we’re so repressed about sex issues.
My stay in Bollywood was short (1990-96) but it was full on (her films include Ghazab Tamasha, Mani Ratnam’s Thiruda Thiruda, King Uncle, Khalnayika and Return Of Jewel Thief). I definitely did enjoy my stint. It’s so easy to believe you’re the big thing. Everywhere you go people are bowing down to touch your feet, begging for autographs… Stardom drove me insane. Like I said in my book excessive fame is ‘a mother f@#%*#r’. What kept me grounded was my social work and spiritual background. I was aware I was not the doer… or else you can get sucked into it easily. Then, finally in 1997, I enrolled in a yoga ashram in Uttarakhand to hold on to my sanity.
Ashram & Abuse
At the ashram, the first thing you face is ‘abuse’ – that is they thrash the ego – but with the right intent. My model kind of walk was laughed upon. I was told, ‘You’re not the body, get away from it. You’re nothing. Come on, get off. Start from scratch’. You are made to forget your identity. Your name is taken away. You are given a new name. I was given the name Anandpriya by Swamiglee (the head swami of the ashram) – maybe because he sensed something blissful about me.
What made me hang on in the ashram, despite all the physical and mental hardships, was the fact that we were studying the nature of the human mind. Our minds are full of junk. The good and the bad memories – the angst, the low self-confidence, all are interrelated. We were told there are four levels of the brain. The first is the scatter brain where too many thoughts are going on together. The second is the brain that swings like a pendulum – from one thought to another. It’s a slighter higher level. The third level’s when you try to focus on something. The last stage is where there’s no thought at all. The process was interesting with the purification practices – like no smoking, no telephone and no interaction with the outside world. The Ganges was flowing outside and gradually peace began coming within me. However hard it was, I wanted to delve into the third and fourth level.
Swamiglee is not my guru. I didn’t receive any mantra from him. When I was four, my father gave me the Gayatri mantra saying the guru was inside me. After that, I lived with this feeling that someone is watching me always. However, according to Tantra, the oldest philosophy, sex can be used as a major propellant to reach high dimensions. Yes, Tantric sex with Swamiglee did take me to another level. My whole life changed after that. Your consciousness changes, the breathing changes.
Jealousy is an inherent tendency in a woman and I experienced it in the ashram from the other female inmates. It would sadden me. But I’ve always felt warmly towards women. Even when the inmates at the ashram threw me in the truck (overcome by jealousy as she had grown close to Swamiglee) and sent me away, I wished them well. There was so much purity in me. Then I met with a devastating car crash in 1999… the near fatal experience led to an awakening… 29 days later.
The near-fatal experience
After the coma, I began as a child again. I didn’t know language, I didn’t know people, or the sun, moon or stars… There was no memory left (she developed post-traumatic amnesia). There were multiple fractures all over the body. My mouth has stopped creating saliva since then. Later, the Near Death Experience (NDE, during the surgery and three-year long recovery period) brought about self-contemplation. It made me understand that the material and the spiritual are two sides of existence. When you opt for the middle path you achieve a balance. The biggest thing is coming back from death. My entire recovery is a miracle.
sanyas – A State of mind
The near fatal experience and then the near-death experience intensified my spiritual journey. Sometime later, I took sanyas and shaved off my head as a symbol of awakening. It was a purification process. Then I sold off my possessions, my apartment… in a bid to not own anything. Our conditioning is such that we are pressured to win. My house, my car, my bank account… Surrender/submission is what we need.
Also, destruction is important for new creation. GOD stands for generation, organisation and destruction. In sanyas, you have to step out and lose the ‘I’, the ego. You have to understand that you can’t control anything in life. We have to work out around the weather. The weather doesn’t work around us. My vulnerability, my submission has been my strength. Even as a star I was vulnerable. When you’re vulnerable, ego doesn’t creep in. The more you surrender, the more accepting you become. You become aligned with the forces of the nature. You don’t resist it. I was led to write this book (website for the book is www.anusual.org) to tell people that they are beyond the physical and mental limitations they imagine. That they’re all part of divinity.
I enjoy meditation, I enjoy music, I enjoy a Sufi way of life. I love research, study, exploring… And I enjoy yoga. I can still have a child. In fact, I could have a child right now. But the world’s children are my children. AnuFun Yoga – a model I teach slum children, began five years ago. I visit Dharavi to teach this. I go around the world as well. Yoga can be used for therapy in children with low self-confidence. We work on outside poverty when we should be working on inner poverty. The deepest poverty is the inner poverty, which comes with low self-worth. I’m working with NGOs for women empowerment too. Now I have broadened it to human empowerment. Today, my life is all about what I can do for people.