It has been over a week here in India, and somehow I still can’t get used to the heat. We started off in Chennai where the temperatures were supposedly more bearable at thirty eight degrees as compared to the high forties that Delhi has reached in the past couple of days. This country is currently facing its worst-ever heat wave and we’re in the middle of it. Yet, it is in this devastating heat that I’m reminded of the spirit and eco-friendly way of life in Auroville.
Before embarking on this travel fellowship, Auroville had remained a mystery to me. With little media coverage and limited written articles on this queer town, it seemed that only their official website (www.auroville.org) proved to be the most informative source. I can’t say much for my travel partners, but I surely had my doubts on the idealism that Auroville takes pride in. After all, a place where equality and human harmony are prioritized and worshiped seemed too good to be true. Perhaps, this town is riding on some new religion or spiritual lifestyle that mandates its residents to live in a particular utopian-like manner, or so I thought.
It was only after visiting Auroville myself that my perspective of this little town started to change. What was most apparent to me there was never the religiosity of the place (despite the fact that the portrait of their founder, the mother, was hung everywhere we went), but it was the heart and passion of the people that spoke the loudest. From conversations with residents who grew up there, to meeting with volunteers and interns who were drawn to that place because of their ideals and work, Auroville was much more than what the mother envisioned it to be. Their emphasis on reforestation and sustainable living led Auroville to become the training ground and the prime example of successful efforts to combat climate change through ecological transformation and even veganism. The wide array of tasty vegetarian food choices is definitely something to be mentioned here, as vegan options were always available in the menus. Although it was a pity that we didn’t manage to visit the Sadhana Forest to understand a bit more about their transformation work to revive the wasteland on the outskirts of Auroville, staying in the heart of Auroville was already more than sufficient to see how every resident tried to lead a sustainable lifestyle and was appreciative of the conscious cooperative spirit that each Aurovillians had.
It seemed almost unfair that the world puts India in a box when there is so much diversity and creativity looming around in her cities. I was undeniably awed by Auroville and their way of living (albeit still a little skeptical about their spiritual beliefs and teachings of their founder – the mother and her spiritual partner, Sri Aurobindo), and I’m sure that India has much more to offer than this small town in the outskirts of Puducherry. As we move on to the next part of our travel fellowship and into the city of Chandigarh, I’m praying for strength to continue on in India’s crazy summer, along with a heart excited to see what the next city has to offer.