Lalita was raised in a group that developed in the 1970s called the Science of Identity Foundation. The mysterious organization, which has similarities to the Hare Krishna movement, made Lalita and her childhood friends feel special, like they were growing up in a secret society.
But as a teenager, Lalita became depressed. She thought people were treated unfairly and lived in constant fear of disapproval by the leader, her family and her entire community in Australia. Both children and adults worked hard to serve the leader of the group at all times.
“It got to a point where I felt like this happiness that I was supposed to have that they were telling me I would get … wasn’t happening and I didn’t understand why,” she said.
Boys and girls were kept separate from a young age and weren’t allowed to speak to each other without permission. Arranged marriages were common.
Lalita feared her only future would be spent in the kitchen serving a husband. She hadn’t been allowed to attend school since she was 11.
At age 19, with the equivalent of a fifth-grade education, she left the community and struck out on her own. She said she didn’t understand how the outside world worked and had to hide her lack of education. She got herself back into school in her 20s.
“It was almost traumatic in a way, being in a classroom,” she said. “I hadn’t been in one since I was 11. So, at 27, that was a terrifying prospect. I remember having nightmares for weeks before I even walked into the classroom.”
What were the details of Lalita’s childhood experiences and how was her life once she left her parent’s community? Did she get the education she desired?