Connections ~ Diane Esguerra’s Junkie Buddha

Diane has an air of serenity about her that is contagious… when I first met her twenty six years ago and through all this while that I have known her, her core essence exudes a flawless sense of calm. Recently I met her at the launch of her first book, a travel memoir called Junkie Buddha. She read through a passage from the book. The room danced and began to melt as tears welled up silently.

Years ago she introduced me to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo when I met her through my ex-partner and long time collaborator Keith Khan. Together Keith and Diane had created and performed in Purdah. And then in 1993 all three of us worked on Britain’s first Bollywood musical Moti Roti Puttli Chunni, which went on to win a TimeOut award. It was great fun to closely collaborate in writing the script with Diane. It was so amazing that one night, I found a few women in the audience laughing, hissing and booing in all the right places as the script flowed effortlessly in and out between english, hindi, urdu and punjabi. When I met them at the bar wanting to ask how they understood the text so well, they had to call in help from their interpreter. Turned out they only spoke spanish!! However the universality of melodrama bridged all differences!

Without further digression, I will focus on this Connections which is about Diane and her gorgeous son Sacha. I photographed them both for Never Judge a Book by its Covers. My MA thesis installation was comprised of a large photographic album on a lectern and two silent video monitors showing photographs of couples. The only thing one could read under the photos was what people wrote about the other. I started initially by asking friends to be photographed with a man and a woman of their choice in their homes. They could pose as they wished, the only obligation was to keep an eye contact with the lens. Soon I was entering homes of strangers who came into this chain via my friends.  It was wonderful that Diane chose Sacha to be the man in her photograph. After the photography session they had to reflect on what each meant to the other. They wrote the following

Diane: Difficult to discipline, difficult to live with and difficult not to love.

Sacha: She is alright but gets irritating at times.

In 2003 Keith and I went separate ways after fourteen years of being together. As a consequence a lot of common friendships suffered. The ‘divorce’ was amicable. We were getting on with rediscovering our selves and would talk if we found ourselves in social gatherings. However early one cold morning Keith called, asking me to join him for a funeral he could not face by himself.

“I never thought it would happen to me. But in 2005 it did. I discovered my child Sacha, a man now, a man who had never practised yoga, slumped over in a child-pose on a beer stained rug; his alabaster back cold to my touch; half-empty syringe at his side,; daytime television drowned out by the weeping of his dogs and the howling of police sirens.”

Funerals are not the easiest of occasions to be at as life with the departed flashes past. The fear, of loosing our loved ones, surfaces as empathy antennae reach out to other grieving hearts. Sacha’s funeral was beautiful. Sally, Diane’s younger sister and my ex-flat-mate, took centre stage and bravely read out Diane’s address.

She’s going to read my tribute now. David squeezes my hand. Was I going to chicken out? Yes.

“Sacha was no angel… He could be a right stubborn little bugger sometimes… Sacha was a free spirit, with a generous heart and a great capacity to love… He was happiest when travelling in Europe and South America…”

The crematorium door slams shut. I jump up and look around. Someone whispers in my ear that an old school friend of Sacha’s has run outside in a flood of tears.

Having known Diane and Sacha both, made her travelogue of life absolutely impossible to put down from the time I opened the first page. Just when you think you know someone and then you read the book… it illuminates relationships like you have never known. Its one of those profound reads that make you understand ‘yourself’ better.

Dianne’s observations of her travel across the Inca trail up to the sacred citadel of Machu Picchu to spread ashes of young Sacha, is at once poignant, picturesque, funny as well as drenched in deep sadness of having lost Sacha to heroin. Guided by love, you experience her past and present in a blurred non-judgemental state that is ultimately forgiving and powerfully healing.

Having worked last year, as a lead artist, on the project I AM… memoirs of addiction recovery, I understood more clearly the pain of being an addict and being in recovery: a journey and an experience where art became an agent of change. Thank you, Diane, for penning down Junkie Buddha as it brought me a step closer to understanding what you went through as a mother, a carer and a friend of Sacha.

Highly recommended… a must read to synthesise your being!

BBC Radio:’This book will help millions.’

Diane is a guest speaker on Saturday 3rd October at DrugFAM’s Annual Bereaved by Addiction Conference 2015

Follow Junkie Buddha FB page.

Related links

ADDICTION UK, Drug and Alcohol charity.  BACP, British Association for Counselling and Psychotheraphy.  CARE FOR THE FAMILY, bereaved parents support. CHILDLINE, support for young people under 19 yrs of age. THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS, supporting bereaved parents and their families. DRUGFAM, support of families bereaved by, or having to cope with addiction. THE FORGIVENESS PROJECT, encourages people to consider alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge in relation to traumas.  FUTUROS VALORES,  charitable refuge of street children in Barranquilla, Colombia.  HEARING VOICES NETWORK, for people who hear voices, see visions or have other unusual perceptions.  MIND, mental health charity.  MOSAC - Mothers of Sexually Abused Children, support for non-abusing parents of abused children.  NAPAC - National Association for People Abused in Childhood, support and signposting for adult survivors.  NSPCC - National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, report any concerns about a child. PORe - Portraits of Recovery, supports people and communities affected by and in recovery through use of contemporary visual arts. SURVIVORS UK, support for sexually abused male adult survivors. UKNA - Narcotics Anonymous in the UK, a non-profit-making organisation for anyone with drug problem.


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