Read Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult by Jayanti Tamm Online


In this colorful, eye-opening memoir, Jayanti Tamm offers an unforgettable glimpse into the hidden world of growing up cult in mainstream America. Through Jayanti's fascinating story, the first book to chronicle Sri Chinmoy, she unmasks a leader who convinces thousands of disciples to follow him, scores of nations to dedicate monuments to him, and throngs of celebrities (SIn this colorful, eye-opening memoir, Jayanti Tamm offers an unforgettable glimpse into the hidden world of growing up cult in mainstream America. Through Jayanti's fascinating story, the first book to chronicle Sri Chinmoy, she unmasks a leader who convinces thousands of disciples to follow him, scores of nations to dedicate monuments to him, and throngs of celebrities (Sting, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela) to extol him.When the short, bald man in flowing robes prophesizes Jayanti to be the Chosen One, her life is forever entwined with the charismatic guru Sri Chinmoy, who declares himself a living god. A god who performs sit-ups and push-ups in front of thousands as holy ritual protects himself with a platoon of bodyguards, and bans books, TV, and sex. Jayanti's unusual and increasingly bizarre childhood is spent shuttling between the ashram in Queens, New York, and her family's outpost as Connecticut missionaries. On the path to enlightenment decreed by Guru, Jayanti scrubs animal cages in his illegal basement zoo cheerleads as he weight lifts an elephant in her front yard, and trails him around the world as he pursues celebrities such as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. But, when her need for enlightenment is derailed by her need for boys, Jayanti risks losing everything that she has ever known, including the person that she was ordained to be. With tenderness, insight, and humor, Jayanti explores the triumphs and trauma of an insider who longs to be an outsider, her hard-won decision to finally break free, and the unique challenges she confronts as she builds a new life....

Title : Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307393920
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult Reviews

  • else fine
    2019-04-17 01:13

    When I lived in San Diego, the Sri Chinmoy vegetarian restaurant was a block from my house. My roommates and I ate there all the time - that food was seriously delicious. We had one rule: no conversation about the decor, Sri Chinmoy, or any of the photos displayed in the eating area. The servers seemed to be listening at all times, and any remark at any volume, whether it be curiosity or skepticism, prompted a flood of pamphlets, photographic evidence to back up the Guru's rather improbable feats of strength, leaflets about upcoming events, and invitations to attend any of their numerous free meetings. We tried to focus on the food.It wasn't easy. TV sets in every corner showed the Guru meeting very famous people, giving speeches, or playing various instruments. The restaurant's stereo played nothing but Sri Chinmoy original compositions. Sri Chinmoy drawings shared wall space with photos of the aging Guru lifting giant weights or large animals or vehicles of various sizes. Adding to the surreal atmosphere were the servers themselves, wearing homemade cotton pjs and matching expressions of dazed weariness. They didn't look like radiantly happy followers of a fitness and health food guru. They looked like they subsisted on valium and sawdust. Sometimes I'd see one or two standing at the back door smoking cigarettes with fixed, grim stares. All this changed on brunch or event days, when the people who ran the place came out, all bright smiles, to charm the diners. But the waitstaff didn't leave us with the impression that joining up with Chinmoy was going to fill us with either enlightenment or bliss. (But the neatloaf!! So good!)Cartwheels in a Sari explains a lot of what mystified us about the whole Sri Chinmoy thing - the tired disciples, the crazy claims, the crappy music. You would be hard pressed to find a more deeply insider account than Tamm's: as the Guru's 'Chosen One', she had a unique view on the workings of the cult. Yeah. I'm going to say 'cult'. I wished there had been a little more detail about how she managed to unbrainwash herself - the ending is a little abrupt - but, on the other hand, that wasn't the point of the book. And I was glad to have so many questions answered honestly, with no need to fend off any more pamphlets.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-19 06:47

    I saw the cover of this book every time I looked at my to-read list in Goodreads, because it has been on my list since I first joined Goodreads in 2009. Then it came up as a Kindle daily deal so I downloaded it.I do like memoirs about leaving cults and fundamentalist religions. This one reminded me quite a bit of My Life in Orange. Jayanti is born to parents who are disciples of Sri Chinmoy, and even though her mother's pregnancy is against his rules, for some reason the Guru decides to use her to his advantage, claiming she is his special companion. Throughout her childhood, Jayanti is part of the Guru's inner circle, which obligates her to follow his every whim, including cleaning out his potentially illegal exotic bird cages.The book has some crazy stories from international celebrities seeking out Sri Chinmoy to his weight lifting shows to his long concerts for peace where he played instruments he was not trained on. Yikes. His demands interfere with her life until she is forced out, and I imagine writing this book was part of her process of coming to terms with her strange upbringing. Unfortunately it's the writing where this book really suffers. The stories are better than the writing, but it might be worth reading anyway, if you are interested in stories like this.Sri Chinmoy died in 2007, but there seem to still be people following his teachings. Just look for the white girls in the saris....

  • Geeta
    2019-04-22 05:04

    When I was growing up, I always wondered about the white women in saris who worked at the UN and why my mother didn't seem to know any of them (after all, she also wore a sari to work). She was able to tell me they were followers of Shri Chinmoy and worked at staff positions, i.e. they were mostly secretaries. This memoir fills in some of the gaps, including why none of them were in the professional grade. The charismatic and autocratic Shri Chinmoy wanted an in at the UN, but since he discouraged higher education among his disciples, they had to settle for secretarial jobs. And then turn over their paychecks to him.I really wanted to love this book, but by the end, I resented having to slog through sloppy writing (dangling modifiers, long passages of exposition, lack of sensory detail) just to get this little bit of information. I did not feel moved by Jayanti Tamm's account of life as her guru's Chosen One, and I'm wondering if this might have been a better book if she had found a different structure for it. Although this was told chronologically, I had a hard time keeping the sequence of events straight--she went to college, then what? And what year was that? And what was going on in the rest of the world? Yes, she was brainwashed and wasn't paying attention, but isn't that the writer's job--to go back and fill in what they missed?

  • eb
    2019-04-18 02:00

    A fascinating account of growing up, from birth, in a cult. The cult leader, Sri Chinmoy, is one manipulative son of a bitch, and it's fun reading about his insane rules: he insists on celibacy among his followers, he holds a vote to determine the ugliest girl among his sycophants, he has his followers rig up machines that create the illusion he's weightlifting people and elephants,and he orders pregnant women to get abortions.The writing won't win any prizes ("The familiar comfort of my small Jeep that had ported me in the familiar loop between the tennis court," "[I] pummeled the rocks directly at the van," "her incredulous [meaning 'incredible'] betrayal"). But the story is an unusual one told bravely.

  • Elevate Difference
    2019-04-13 23:53

    Don’t be fooled by the somewhat whimsical title of Jayanti Tamm’s memoir Cartwheels in a Sari; this account of a young woman’s life as "growing up cult" couples the childlike innocence of a cartwheel with the feeling of inertia and tumbling; she sums this up in a passage from the end of the book: "The inversion of my body, losing track of gravity and direction, was disorienting and delirious. From my vantage point, I saw Guru and all of the disciples upside-down, and no one else had... I did not know which was the correct way."Nothing in the way of goat slaughtering or the sexual abuse, as some may associate with the dark ideas of cults, Jayanti Tamm’s experience of being born into the Sri Chinmoy Center is a more subtle meditation on the struggle with spiritual meaning and the hypocrisy of being and 'enlightened' yet blind follower. Sri Chinmoy, who passed away in 2007, was a charismatic Indian "Guru" who lived in the Bronx. He gained notoriety in the late '80s through weightlifting stunts and spiritual friendships with celebrities such as Carlos Santana and Richard Gere. Sri Chinmoy, or "Guru," as he is referred throughout the book, essentially arranged the marriage of the two strangers who would become Tammi’s parents. Although they were married, sex was not allowed, but Tamm was conceived anyway. Through his ability to spin great PR, Guru blessed the embarrassing arrival of Tamm by calling her his "Chosen One."Throughout the memoir, one sees Tamm struggle with the yearning for spiritual harmony with the ideas of peace and love being spoken about around her and the everyday reality of observing the strange behaviours and hypocrisy of Guru’s followers. As her parents were too preoccupied with their own devotion—yet aware of their own hypocrisy in conceiving her—Tamm was allowed relative freedom and attended public schools. As an intelligent young woman whose heart was open to the world around her, Tamm grows up to search for something real. Her story is one with which we can all connect, even if we did not grow up with hour long meditations; having television, boys, and dancing banned; singing songs in a language we didn’t know; wearing saris to New York public schools; and being the Chosen One for a famous Guru. Tamm was a black sheep, the one who questioned her place in the world and saw things in ways the other people around her did not. More than anything, she wanted to find truth and meaning in a mixed up world. Tamm's anecdotes are moving and often funny. The memoir reads like a friend telling you crazy stories at a bar with the privilege of distance from what they felt at the time. We go up and down with her as she struggles to leave the cult, returns, is exiled to France, and is eventually expelled from the Sri Chinmoy Center in her twenties. From such a strange upbringing, Tamm seems relatively well-adjusted and is very open, thoughtful, and honest about the shaping of her ideas and personality. With a poignant ending, Cartwheels in a Sari offers a unique view of one woman's effort to find meaning, hope, and a place to belong. Review by Jyoti Roy

  • Ldrhc
    2019-04-17 07:57

    The author owes me my time back. Hypocrosies:Pg. 277 - One phone message, and forever after Guru and his mission repossessed everything.Huh...she still lived in her mother's house. She still communicated with her mother and father.Pg. 281 - Nothing from my past was available for me to rely on - I was on my own.Huh...she spent a year in Europe, traveling from country to country. I can barely get from state to state. I think she beats me on life skills.This book was written as if I had heard of Sri Chimnoy. I had not heard of him prior to this book. "In this colorful, eye-opening memoir..." HARDLY! I'm left feeling flat and cheated. I could go on, but I've already wasted too much of my time on this badly written book.

  • Alex Templeton
    2019-03-31 04:05

    I should admit that I have a vaguely personal connection to this book—Tamm’s mother, who is featured prominently, was my fiancé’s landlady for a couple of years. She became a follower of Sri Chinmoy, and was directed by Chinmoy to marry her husband. When they—against orders—conceived Tamm, Tamm was named as his “Chosen One”. The memoir is about Tamm’s life growing up completely in the service of another. After I was done reading this book, I looked up Chinmoy online, and was surprised to read so many glowing obituaries of him as a humanist and philanthropist. Tamm’s portrait—which she admits in an author’s note is only her own version and therefore not definitive—stands in stark contrast, portraying him as a selfish and manipulative cult leader. But then, if what Tamm says is true and Chinmoy had extensive contacts and power in the U.N., manipulating the media should have been no problem. This was a fascinating story, and I admire Tamm’s understated writing about some of the most difficult and devastating moments of her life; it brings out the tragedy of her whole situation more than overwrought melodrama ever could.

  • Sapna
    2019-04-25 07:51

    When I first came to the US in 1970, I remember seeing the Hari Krishnas around in NYC where we lived. I found it fascinating to see these " white Americans" dressed in saris..trying to look Indian! I was four then and did not understand what it was all about. My parents didn't either..because as new immigrants we went to their temple a few times..thinking it was a Hindu temple and enamored with how passionately they would sing and dance while praying to our deities. Even we didn't have that much zeal in our prayers! Eventually it must have hit home to my parents that this was a cult..because we stopped going to this temple and prayed at home.Reading this biography of a woman born into this cult culture brought back memories of what I saw,heard and read at that young age, but never understood. This book probably would not interest most people..but it reminded me about the books I read about plural marriages and other such sects/cults that use brainwashing/fear/isolation as ways to control people and their thoughts.

  • Jenny
    2019-04-09 07:04

    4 stars for the content/potential of the book, 2.5 for execution = 3 averageI can't even imagine growing up the way that Tamm did, where, as she puts it, she had no choice about her religion; her parents decided that for her the day she was born, and it took all she had to escape (view spoiler)[(literally - she was about to throw herself in front of a subway car to end her life because she was so confused and without Guru - what was there?) (hide spoiler)]. Despite the fact that he brainwashed his disciples pretty obviously, her memoir is fairly non-judgmental and tells of her 25 years living under the influence of Guru, a man who proclaimed himself a prophet and seemed to have a very ill-disguised need for fame and fortune, more so than living a life of honesty and goodness (he even at one point thought that Mother Theresa was a charlatan! Pot, meet kettle!). It's unbelievable the stunts he was able to get away with (like anyone believed he could lift 7,000 pounds with ONE ARM?! C'mon!)Her writing is okay, although I found her to be sometime too descriptive to the point that sentences stopped making sense and at other times, her sentences weren't complete (another reviewer commented on this too).(view spoiler)[It's SO obvious that her best friend Chahna is the one who ultimately gives away Jayanti's secret boyfriend, Oscar... why it took her years to figure this out is beyond me, but she had no other friends to call on, so perhaps she didn't want to believe that might happen? I do think it's ironic that Chahna eventually leaves the Center before Jayanti because of a man. (hide spoiler)]I did a quick Google search and apparently Jayanti's older brother, Ketan, died not long ago from AIDS. He was likely gay, and perhaps a religion that dissuades marriage and the mixing of sexes appealed to him. (Side note - how does a religion that advocates celibacy, not to mention advises against marriage, hope to prosper? Seriously!)I'm glad she wrote this, and it's sad that cults like this still exist. Free will matters.

  • Rod
    2019-04-06 01:06

    I think i've read enough cult member books for awhile now. Totally disturbing. Sometimes i think i'm the only one that grew up being skeptical of everyone and everything. I'm still a dedicated Christian but i don't easily trust people or organizations. God on the other hand: I give the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. But back to the book...Good writing, very enjoyable read. Funny too. But an entire story about a girl growing up surrounded by lemming like morons Is hard on the heart. She doesn't appear to have ever studied world religions or any theology of any kind. I wonder if that would of made a difference? Even Jesus allowed the disciple Thomas to challenge him about important things. If God is really god...then he can handle it. This guru of Jayanti obviously could not.I found her story almost to weird to be true. But after some basic research it seems it is factual in most areas. Who would be retarded enough to follow some annoying old Guru with a weightlifting fetish? I'm proud of all the people from New York that can recognise a con-artist when they see one.

  • SoManyBooks SoLittleTime (Aven Shore)
    2019-04-12 02:59

    J. Tamm performs that most exceptional of magic acts- taking the reader along for the trip from the inside.  Her writing recreates the experience from the interior experience of cult brainwashing and carries the reader along the path of  unfolding awareness as she surfaces.   It's cringeworthy, painful, and unflinchingly honest.  The hovering reader has the advantage of seeing behind the curtain, through the hypocrisies, long before she does, cheering her on as she scratches towards identity and despairing at her relapses into the cocooning familiar.  An exemplary memoir of the struggle to escape from the mental and emotional cage that a religious cult can be.

  • Emily
    2019-04-09 23:55

    This girl grew up in a cult that believed she was a special, divine child. They had an all powerful leader who told them exactly what to do.I grew up in a similar cult: my family. My mother always told me exactly what to do and think. She also told me that I was not allowed to do things (ie ride a bike or watch Kirk Cameron in "Growing Pains") because I was special and she protecting me.

  • Wellington
    2019-04-10 04:46

    A strange tale of a girl born the "Chosen One" in a cult. Strangely, I found it light reading missing the depths of madness and brainwashing that I expected. I didn't find the "guru", the cult leader named Sri Chinmoy, all that sinister or crazy. He just loved attention. Perhaps, the bar for insanity has raised in modern times (Michael Jackson any one?). Unless you have some prior (and preferably negative) knowledge of Sri Chinmoy, it just doesn't hit the heart.

  • Annette
    2019-04-24 03:58

    I didn't dislike this book, but I had higher hopes for it. Tamm's time in the cult was fascinating, although presented in an overly dispassionate voice. However, removing herself from Guru's influence was almost a postscript. I was disappointed, since I find the rebuilding at least as interesting as the dysfunction.

  • Satkirpal Khalsa
    2019-04-05 05:08

    Great insight into being raised in a cult. For both outsiders and insiders.

  • Jennie
    2019-04-27 05:01

    I ripped through this book. The first page page or two, I was felling kind of ho-hum about it and then, before I knew it, I was on the 90th page. Fascinating story, well told.

  • Lisa Louie
    2019-04-12 04:57

    Cartwheels in a Sari is a well-written memoir about one woman's long journey of faith and questioning within the cult surrounding Sri Chinmoy, or “Guru” as she calls him throughout the book. Born of two devotees who copulated against Guru's wishes, Jayanti enters the world as the “Chosen One,” the soul specially chosen by Guru to be reincarnated in service to him. She tells the story of how every aspect of her family life was dominated by Guru; they spent most of their time and resources in devotion to Guru, giving over the most intimate aspects of their lives to his control, and refusing to make any decisions for themselves without first consulting him. She convincingly conveys the psychological bent of a religious mind, particularly when she was a child, always seeking ways to please Guru and forcing herself to suppress her own doubts as they arose. In pursuit of Guru's pleasure, she sacrifices fitting in with her classmates at school, extracurricular activities, and boyfriends. She submits herself to Guru-brokered contests for “best smile,” “prettiest girl,” and “longest hair.” She quells the wranglings of conscience when disciples who dare to question Guru are silenced, ejected, and then coldly disowned by the whole group.This is a spellbinding book that I read within a matter of days. This is truth-telling at its rawest while still managing to be eloquent. Tamm is excellent at portraying the grotesque contortions that the faithful heart requires of the reasoning mind; she is just as good at illustrating the bliss of momentary certainty and spiritual connection that religious seekers experience in small flashes, the carrot at the end of the stick that keeps them going. That said, after reading her memoir, I can't say that I understand very much about Sri Chinmoy's appeal or his general philosophy, and I would have appreciated more insider forays in that direction.For a few weeks many years ago, I attended a free meditation workshop in my neighborhood in Seattle sponsored by Sri Chinmoy devotees. I found the meditation refreshing even though I was no good at it. After seeing Chinmoy's rather plain art work venerated as though they were the work of a master and then watching the videos of Chinmoy greeting various celebrities and lifting them on his souped-up platform, I thought of him as a quirky, harmless , and very human spiritual guide of the Eastern variety. There are plenty of Western varieties whom I see as a kind of necessary evil; why shouldn't there be Eastern ones as well? Sri Chinmoy wasn't for me, but I did not see the harm of other people following him if they felt that his was their path. After reading Tamm's memoir, I still hold this opinion, but feel deeply cautioned by her case. She was born into his discipleship, and her choice to walk away from it was a profoundly courageous act of soul preservation, especially since she had to sacrifice so much to do it. Acts of courage seem rare these days. Tamm's is one worth celebrating.

  • Jaylia3
    2019-04-13 02:51

    When Jayanti Tamm was born she was the Chosen One. She was brought up in Connecticut and New York City surrounded by adults, including her parents, who believed she had descended from the highest heaven to be a devoted and model disciple of their divine Guru, Sri Chinmoy. Like Peter to Jesus, her destiny was to serve her master selflessly, tirelessly and unconditionally. Unlike Peter, this was not a role she chose. Until she created a stir by showing up in a blue sari for her first day of kindergarten she had no inkling that there was any other way of living. Born into the insulated religion or “cult” chosen by her parents, this memoir of how she gradually found her way out left me breathless. Though the particulars of Jayanti Tamm’s story are unusual it is made universal by her strong desire to do the right thing, her struggle to discover who she is and what she believes, and her unquenchable longing for love and companionship. Because Jayanti Tamm was raised as Sri Chimnoy’s Chosen One, and because her parents were part of his inner circle, her memoir also chronicles the very human side of a man who is considered divine by his followers. It’s a portrait of ego, ambition and hubris, of both engaging sweetness and casual cruelty—Chimnoy told Jayanti’s mother to have an abortion when it didn’t suit him to have her pregnant again. Celebrities were courted and fawned over; followers were encouraged to break the law if following the law meant displeasing their Guru; monuments and accolades celebrating Sri Chimnoy’s perceived greatness were doggedly pursued, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Jayanti Tamm’s story is a cautionary tale of how tricky it is to accept anything on faith. For most people the world view of Jayanti’s parents will seem convoluted and distorted, but their beliefs followed logically and were internally consistent based on their faith, which accepted as a first principle that Sri Chimnoy was an incarnation of God. Jayanti’s parents eventually separated themselves from the cult of Sri Chimnoy, helped along by its ostracism of their daughter, but it was still a long, difficult process. This is not just a problem for members of fringe religions. The histories of science, economics, politics and the main stream religions are full of examples that prove it’s easier to rationalize away what seem like minor discrepancies than to overturn an ingrained belief. More than anything I’ve read Cartwheels in a Sari has started me on a deeper examination my own unquestioned convictions.

  • Tracy
    2019-03-29 07:04

    Wonderful book that answers many of the questions I had about cults. I'm about the same age as the author, and as a kid I wondered about children living in the cults that I sometimes saw on TV. The life she describes is really heartbreaking.The book's descriptions of those on the inside versus the unenlightened outside are similar to what I read in Kyria Abrahams' book I'm Perfect, You're Doomed, which detailed growing up Jehovah's Witness. The outside world is demonized, making followers afraid of anything not officially approved. To some degree, the social pressure and groupthink shown in these books can also be seen in some religions and even political movements. Any group that cuts off dissent and questioning breeds further unhealthy behaviors.In discussions about this book, some readers say that all organized religions are cults. I disagree. I got anti-cult training in my Catholic high school, which might sound ironic to some, but that training still rings true. As we saw in Ms. Tamm's book, cults exert enormous control over adherents, isolating them from the outside world and insisting on loyalty to a person[s:] with a unique connection to a higher power. There was pressure on me to follow Church teachings, but I never had to fear losing my family or being sanctioned at school for not being a "good Catholic." That's a key difference. And while my parents and grandparents remember tremendous pressure to conform to Church teachings years ago, my Jesuit university's religious studies program taught Freud "The Future of an Illusion" and Tillich's reflections on doubt's important role in faith. I am no longer a practicing Catholic, but I have worked with many religious organizations on social justice campaigns, and there's clearly a spectrum of practice, even within religions. So I hope readers remember the traits of a cult that Ms. Tamm depicts instead of reflexively dismissing all organized faith communities.

  • Ron
    2019-04-13 04:08

    Jayanti Tamm's parents met under the auspices of Sri Chinmoy, when the Indian guru was still running his cult out of a run-down Manhattan apartment building; they were ordered to get married for their mutual spiritual benefit, but not to have sex, so when Tamm's mother became pregnant, Sri Chinmoy only allowed them to go through with the pregnancy after he had declared that their child was destined to become his greatest disciple. You can imagine the pressure that put on the girl growing up.This is an unflinching insider's account of the way cult leaders emotionally manipulate their followers, by somebody who has learned to recognize the guilt and shame she was forced to internalize. Tamm ends her story before she gets to the redemptive parts, so the light at the end of the tunnel is largely implied. There are a few glimpses of the celebrities who paid varying degrees of respect to Sri Chinmoy's reputation, but this is a strictly personal account of the emotional damage he inflicted on his followers, using one family to stand in for all.

  • Elliot Ratzman
    2019-04-23 05:15

    Here is a cult for you: Sri Chinmoy, a Bangledeshi charlatan whose childhood dream was to be a guru, arrives in America recruiting followers, including author Jayanti Tamm’s parents. They are “married” the first night they meet and subsequently, and against Chinmoy’s insistence on abstinence, conceive our author. Jayanti becomes Chinmoy’s mascot, and grows up within this guru-cult surrounded by a bizarre cast of characters. Chinmoy encouraged his followers to get jobs at the UN-where he’s feted, become fitness buffs like himself, and stage huge concerts where-without musical skill-he plays instruments and recites bad poetry. Oh, and Guru performs public feats of weightlifting: elephants, planes, dignitaries (a pulley system). How could anyone fall for this? Carlos Santana did for a decade, and many thousands of others around the world. This is a portrait of Guru-as-egomaniacal-dictator, and the conflicted author’s struggle to break free, usually with the help of boys she wants to date.

  • Ronnie Barnes
    2019-04-07 04:54

    The author's father was a high school classmate of mine! it's hard to comprehend that he dedicated over 30 years of his life to this person who claimed to be the representative of God on Earth. Sri Chinmoy must have been a very charismatic entity to pull in so many followers. This memoir provides an insider's slant on the goings on in a major "cult". I thank my lucky stars that I was not born into it, as she was.

  • Randy
    2019-03-31 04:51

    Books by former cult members are a genre I've enjoyed reading. As a result I've read exposes by former followers of Jim Jones, Scientology, Hare Krishna, polygamist Mormons and others. Cartwheels is okay but there's something missing. Sri Chinmoy was her guru and the author, who was deemed a "chosen one" at birth, seems hesitant to go all in exposing his fakery. So, the book was kind of flat as Jayanti Tamm takes quite a long time to find the strength to break away.

  • Dipti
    2019-04-27 04:06

    This was a good read. I grew up with a guru, but nothing like Sri Chinmoy. It's these type of "gurus" that give authentic gurus a bad name. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Josephine Burks
    2019-04-06 00:58

    Interesting book about the life of a girl born into a cult. Whilst the title of the book captured my interest, reading the book itself was difficult at times. I found it hard to follow the story, and felt parts were lacking description and more details about what year it was, what she did when she went to college etc. I also found it hard to comprehend that during her elementary, middle and high school years, teachers weren't more concerned about her well being as she rarely completed homework tasks, was socially awkward and lacked direction for life after high school. The book felt rushed at the end, like the author was trying to tie up too many loose ends. I feel like the book could have had more depth had it been 100pages longer and the author describing what her life is like post cult.It would be interesting to read about her parents thoughts during their time in the cult and other ex members. I'm hopeful that enough time has passed and she has re connected with her brother.

  • Sheldon
    2019-04-14 03:05

    Note: A copy of this book was provided to this reviewer for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars, although I’m giving “Cartwheels in a Sari” the benefit of the doubt and giving it 4 stars since we can’t give half stars on Goodreads.As an outsider and understanding some of the background of various cults and their mind-controlling methods, the first thing I felt while reading this book was immense frustration, which may be where many readers could stumble in reading this and could be its biggest weakness. How do the people involved not see how they’re being manipulated? How can Jayanti Tamm (the author of this memoir) not understand the control being exerted by the obvious charlatan Sri Chinmoy?This is where “Cartwheels in a Sari” also has its greatest strength. The book is bluntly honest as it is mostly told through the perspective of a child who literally knew nothing else, being born and raised in this cult and indoctrinated from birth. I had to remind myself that this was the perspective and knowledge of the writer at the time these events occurred in her life, and that she did not have the benefit of outside influence until much later. This will likely be the biggest area of frustration for most readers, but it’s also the most honest part of it, and the author seems to have taken great pains to regress her own perspective to the one she had as a child witnessing these events with very little hindsight added. At the same time, some more commentary of the events from her adult self using would likely have been appreciated, and the reader will need to wait until the end of the book to get more of this hindsight. I understand the author’s reasoning in wanting to ensure the reader stays enmeshed in her perspective as the events of her life without the benefit of hindsight, but it still adds to the frustration.An insider perspective on cult life that is wholly unique, this book provides the reader with an interesting view on how cults control their members and how some ultimately break free, including the author. Even in moments of great despair, the author provides hope that even one born into and knowing nothing outside of a cult can create an independent life after breaking free. While not a spectacular book, it is solid enough to recommend and an interesting sociological case study on cults with a convenient reader’s guide with questions provided at the end for those who wish to use the book as a teaching tool.

  • Rebecca
    2019-04-08 07:14

    This memoir is a riveting look into the cruelty, pettiness, and politics of cult life. But it is also an extremely limited work, offering only a flimsy portrayal of the psychology of cultists and a cartoonish portrait of family disfunction.Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Sri Chinmoy cult revolves around a world-class narcissist and master manipulator. But Tamm is equally critical of this guru's disciples, damaged people seeking compassion and wisdom, who instead find themselves under Soviet-style surveillance, forced to compete for the guru's spiritual favor.Writing about being in a cult presents challenges that Tamm is ill-equipped to handle. She rightly skewers the guru, who embarks on increasingly absurd feats of strength and showmanship, lures celebrities and politicians into photo-ops, and demands free labor, cash and abject servility from his followers. But she is unable to explain why any of his disciples join in the first place, or what retains them. Perhaps this is because her experience was so singular; she was born into the cult and hailed as its "chosen one." But even this is explained in a rote way, its larger meaning obscure to reader.Tamm comes off as angry - and rightly so - about her experience, but as a result, she lacks curiosity about the people willing to give themselves and their families over to a charlatan and sociopath. Her resentment, while valid, prevents her from exploring the nature of the false bargain being struck between the guru and his adherents. Even worse, her alienation from her own family leaves her with little sympathy for her parents' growing despair or insight into her brother's drive for validation at the expense of his humanity.But perhaps these are not Tamm's fault. The memoir is terribly edited, with redundancies, excessive floridness, and lots of flat exposition (not to mention ungrammatical passages and awkward phrasing) that a more capable editor might have trimmed or enlivened.In the end, the memoir is unable to describe anything beyond the mechanics of the cult, its relentless schedule of devotional activities, its thuggish enforcers, its cafeteria-style cliques. These are indeed fascinating and valuable observations, but for an understanding of the mental and emotional dynamics of cult life - the humanity behind the outlandishness - look elsewhere.

  • Ledayne Polaski
    2019-04-22 23:58

    I wanted to like this book. Memoir is one of my favorite genres - and memoirs about faith and religion are among my favorites. I'm especially drawn to stories of faith and religions completely unlike my own, so I expected that this story of young girl born into what she describes as a cult gathered around the guru Sri Chinmoy would be fascinating. I read the first half and then the book sat on my shelf for months until I finally realized that I would never be motivated to finish it. In fact, every time I contemplated picking it up, I'd decide that I "didn't feel like reading right now" and go do something else. I finally flipped through the book just to see how Tamm ended up exiting the community. Even that wasn't particularly interesting. For me, the book is nothing more than a series of mildly interesting, disconnected stories told without much insight. Almost all of the stories are far longer than they need to be, a good editing would make this book 1/3 or 1/2 of what it is. I would have been interested to hear more about how Tamm recreated a life outside the only community she had ever known, but she makes no mention of that, simply sharing a final image of the birth of her daughter without sharing about how she found her way to becoming wife and mother after having both images so damaged in her growing up. There's something interesting and compelling in here somewhere, but Tamm hasn't told it.

  • David
    2019-04-15 01:56

    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.

  • Rachel
    2019-04-10 01:56

    Oh WOW. I had no idea that this cult was actually real and in America. It seems to still have some followers today. I am sure that their fervor and popularity isn't what it used to be since their Guru has died, but it is still practiced.After reading Cartwheels in a Sari, I did a little research on Sri Chinmoy. Everything I could find on him was just as this book described and I found the novel and information quite intriguing. I could not beleive some of the things this cult practiced though. Man, talk about a LOT of dedication. I honestly would not have been able to do it. I would have thought all of those meditations and hours spent "worshiping" Guru a little comical and overdone. I am glad that Jayanti realized that there was some thing outside of the cult. Even though she was unsure may times about leaving, Guru helped her in a way he never thought he did. He rejected her and this enabled Jayanti to break free. This book was definitely not some thing i am used to reading, but I found it compelling and well written. I am not much for religion, no matter if it is a cult or not, then again... I thinkg all religion is a cult in one way or another. I did not feel preached at or belittled at all like I do with some novels dealing with religion. I found it interesting how one man can have the influence to brainwash thousands. He should have been an actor...