Looking at a Voice
a behind-the-scenes tour of the Osho & Community Infoline
by Sw Chetan Rishi
n February '95 the Osho information line reopened in Vancouver. The objective of the new service is to inform the community about dances, parties, special events, ongoing meditations and rooms for rent. The line had been previously operated by Sw Giri. Interestingly when BC Tel issued us a random new number, it was the same as the old number, except for one digit. Later another telephone line was started by the Osho Samaroha Meditation Centre at Mandala house to provide information related specifically to Osho, centre events, meditation, sannyas and Poona.
Putting the Infoline together was a joint project. When I first got back from Poona, Osho Centre co-ordinator Abheeru felt that because our community was becoming more active again, it needed a "voice." He asked me if I would operate it but I said no. I just figured that, as I know sannyasins, they would not use the line, so why bother. However a few months later, Abheeru asked again and I started investigating how it might be done. BC Tel had just started a special telephone service and all the parts fell together. The line was born.
From the beginning the line has helped our community stay in touch with many members moving within and out of Vancouver. It informs women about women's circles and men about men's circles, meditators about meditations and everyone about parties and this by calling only one number. To keep it simple and avoid conflicts of interest, I have established a "no-profit" rule for all announcements. The monthly fee of about $40 is paid entirely by Just Dance.
To start the service off, everyone on the community telephone list was called and told about the line's inauguration. From the beginning, it was packed with good info and had a great starting month. Usage has increased from 100 calls and 230 minutes of connect time in February '95, to 210 calls and 434 minutes of connect time in February '96. Dance announcements and room searches seemed to be what the line was mostly used for. At any time there could be up to ten rooms for rent listed.
It takes time to keep this service active. I spend about 20 minutes a day retrieving messages and then two hours on Sunday to first verify which messages are still current, and then update the service by Sunday evening. I certainly like when advertisers call me to keep me updated about their message.
For me the best part of supporting this service is getting to talk to all the people who call me up to leave their messages. I get a chance to gab with them, exchange juicy gossip and keep a tab on all the rumors and chatter in the community. Sannyasins from Sedona, Arizona have called about finding a room before arriving here. On another occasion, when a man phoned to locate friends who had moved away, I ended up talking with him for an hour about his PhD research leading to the latest breakthrough in HIV treatment. At times I have been able to direct people to rooms that haven't yet been advertised.
The future of the Infoline may include a separate classified section for people to advertise their paid services. This section would allow body workers, group leaders and specialists to put a message out to the community for a very low cost. This may come into being in the fall.
Over its first year, the Infoline announcements have changed a lot. At first it was dances, parties and rooms. Now we have four ongoing weekly meditations, two Just Dance events per month and powerful special events like the Buddhafield Fair. Our community keeps growing and getting more vibrant and substantial. We are taking responsibility for creating the life we want. The Infoline is a community success story.