Auroville Diary

This page has been reproduced from my diary (not regularly kept) while I visited this unique township called ‘Auroville’ (find more about it here). I have intentionally left it unedited. It is a collection of some random thoughts during the trip.

23rd December 2007 – 6 p.m.

I think I knew that my first reaction to Auroville would be that of disappointment. Definitely, not because I expected it to be disappointing place. If that was the case, it would have been really stupid of me to have planned this trip in the first place, that too all alone. For at least two years I have wanted to be here, alone, to spend some time with myself. More than anything, I wanted a serene place to sit and read and write. Well, to that extent I have no complaints yet.

While I was waiting to be here, in the last one year, I also started thinking of this place as a perfect future home. A place where I could settle, live with my wife and raise my children when the futility of the mad race that the city life is, finally gets to me. However, my first reaction is that this should remain a place I visit regularly for long periods for the sole purpose of writing, and reading. I think today I have realised how inequipped I am to live away from a city life. I must say I totally agree with Alan Shore’s words of wisdom, “I like solitude with people around me.”Matrimandir

All the reasons for which I started hating the city life still exist and make sense to me. However, I think the real taste of a place like Auroville lies in eating it as a desert, and not as a main course. I am happy I came. There is a lot to learn.The reality of existence is completely overshadowed by the materialistic possibilities in the cities. If a man is lazy, he can compensate by spending money. You don’t feel like going out to eat or to cook, just order food – home delivered. Here, I know I am going to survive tonight solely on bananas and oranges. Not because I am lazy, but because this is a completely unknown place for me, I am alone, almost in the middle of a forest and the only place I know where I can possibly go for dinner is not accessible to me, no matter what.

This is probably the closest to an adventure I have ever undertaken. Today afternoon, after ages, I rode a bicycle. And thaks to my complete oblivion to the sense of direction, I cycled for almost 15 Kilometres, instead of 5 that was needed. While I was cycling and not able to locate the guest house I was staying at, I did not feel any fear. But I did feel a strange kind of helplessness I have never felt in the city life, as I have taken all steps necessary to avoid that situation.

An interesting idea has struck me. I believe in the philosophy of existentialism. To avoid confusion, at least I definitely believe that man is in a continuous process of becoming through various choices that he makes. Also, Camus’s master statement has kind of become a mantra for me – There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn. Camus’s another argument in his book The Myth of Sisyphus which I understand thus – there are certain givens in life that we cannot change. Not because of circumstances or our lack of will or ability but because in the scheme of things as they are, they are unalterable givens. Most obvious example being that man has to die and he will never know when. Now, the idea that suddenly struck me is that in the given truths of existence, should we not count certain unalterable truths of life as it is today. That is, are we permitted to count money as a necessity in lack of which a lot of things are not possible. Leisure, travel, reading, …actually the list is painfully long. Or is such a consideration only a materialistic yet thinking minds escape route?
24 December 2007 – 10.30 p.m

Today I was more at ease, probably more than I would have liked to as my day began quite late. Slept late last night after reading and watching Namesake. Last night I finally managed to have dinner. Called for a taxi, paid him 100 bucks to take me out for dinner and bring me back. Finally, managed to get out an existential dilemma by paying in currency. I have come to believe that it is a smart way out. Provided, you can manage to earn a little more in 9 months than you would spend in a year. That’s another theory in my head, won’t like to discuss now.

New Year - Dawn FireHave decided to roam around the place only when arrives. Reading seems to be a much better option while I am alone for another couple of days. Seeing a place is more fun when you have company, keeping in mind two is company, three is crowd.
Have planned to limit myself to the town hall, visitor’s centre, bharat niwas, and solar kitchen for the time being, while am alone. These places are closer to each other and easily accessible from my guest house.

I saw a good glimpse of the Matrimandir here from the town hall. I would say it’s the next thing after Taj Mahal in the country. I was amazed. I do not understand architecture, but this is definitely unique. Though I have not read much, I always saw a lot of literature on this one structure all over Auroville and used to wonder whats the big deal about it. I have no words to describe. It’s a fully round sphere with golden circular petals around it arranged symmetrically. I know am going to buy some literature s well as film on it now.

I have spent heavy amounts on this trip but have no regrets as of today. Only one, I think I am going to go short of cash. I need to find an ATM.

After ages, I finished a book in a day. It is a very short novel by Kundera, Identity. Definitely not better than his masterpiece, The Unbearable Lightness of Being but marvellous and brilliant nevertheless. Nobody has ever understood a man-woman relationship better than Kundera. He strips the relationship naked, but aesthetically.

I also spent over a couple of hours starting a story I intend to write. I know there is a good chance that this will also end up unfinished like many other. However, I am satisfied. A day full of reading and attempted writing – I am having a field day here.

30th December 2007 – 6.30 p.m.

Finally, got the opportunity to see the Matrimandir from the inside. I was astounded to say the least. It was, by far, the most aesthetic conceptualization and architecture I have ever seen. I don’t trust my abilities of expression to be able to describe it in any way. What I can only say is that this visit would have been worth it just for one glimpse of the interiors of the Matrimandir.

Yesterday I borrowed a few books from the Auroville Library. The library has a brilliant collection and extraordinary categorization, one of the most extensive categorization I have ever seen. English fiction itself is categorized into a number of categories including translations (in turn separated by different languages from which the book has been translated), American English, Indian English etc. Biographies are categorized as heads of state, scientists, art, etc. I picked up three boos to glance through in the short time that I had – Existentialism and Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre, Dear Theo: An autobiography in letters of Vincent Van Gough, and The Portable Nietzsche.

Existentialism and Humanism being a very small book, I finished in a couple of hours. It is basically a record of some lecture by Sartre where he tried to defend his idea against attacks from philosophers and pundits. For some time now, I have been looking for an authoritative article / research paper which attempts at clarifying the misconceptions about existentialism that seem quite obvious on a prima facie understanding. For that purpose at least, this is a gem, the propounder explaining his own theory against several attacks.

My friend had a very interesting chit chat with the care taker of this guest house. My doubts were confirmed when my friend narrated the crux of the conversation. Auroville was a concept put forth by the Mother (a spiritual disciple of Shri Aurobindo). In brief, it aims to construct a township open to men of any ethnic group or nationality. The basic aim to build a place where man can realize his pull potential from within. It has very solid conceptual base that the mother gave it. It also has a history worth reading about, which I find impossible to narrate here.

In the first couple of days within Auroville, I could sense that the concept and the reality where not going parallel to each other. Bureaucratic attitude amongst people who run the place, though nowhere close to the disgusting realities of normal government culture, is still plainy visible. After the Mother’s demise, it looks like this place is desperately waiting for a couple of true leaders who are committed to the concept that Auroville is as well as command tremendous citizen trust. It seems like hoping for a miracle, but in absence of that this place might become a tourist village and nothing more. Let’ hope that this experiment succeeds.

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5 responses to “Auroville Diary

  1. Can you explain more about the “Bureaucratic attitude amongst people who run the place”?

  2. A lack of hospitality, I would say. Or to be precise, lack of a hospitable attitude. Every one not connected with the ‘administrative’ parts are extraordinarily helpful and would go out of their way in case you need them. However, people at the Solar Kitchen, the administrative wing, official cyber cafe etc. are a little less than expectation when it comes to helping you. More than anything it’s the attitude. Warmth is a constant expectation when you visit Auroville. That’s definitely lacking with many (though not all) of these people.

    Having said that, if you compare it with your normal experiences elsewhere, this is paradise in comparison. It’s only that the theoretical expectations one is bound to form from a unique place like this was not met. At least, that was my experience.

  3. I have been to auroville a couple of times.. and i am really curious to see if they will succeed in creating what they initially wanted to.. it a beatutiful awe-inspiring place, no doubt.. but to make that happen, every single person working there has to go out of their way to be nice and helpful..and that’s a tough goal to acheive!

  4. Thanx for the explanatory and wonderful bog. Have been looking forward to go to auroville since a long time. Have some questions – Are the living conditions difficult, for instance, the heat, facilities, food etc. Do they allow activities like photography and access to the beach and Is the beach clean?
    Will it be suitable to visit auroville in the months of May or June? I was also curious about the tarriff of food and accomodation but couldn’t find it anywhere.

  5. The place is brilliant and you must visit. You may check the weather in and around pondichery for the heat factor, otherwise it should be fine.

    For all information on accomodation, travel, etc. you may visit auroville.org or auroville.com.

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